Free Comic Book Day should be an actual programming notation on library calendars, similar to the start of summer reading, International Gaming Day, and Dia de los Ninos / Dia de los Libros. Always held the first Saturday in May, this is the day when comic lovers and newbies alike come together and bond over their love of everything comic related. The comic industry has created special comics and pieces that vendors hand out, the movie industry has tailored its blockbuster releases in recent years to launch a comic-related movie over this weekend (this year it’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2), and more and more libraries are coming on board and celebrating FCBD at their locations as well.
But if it’s in May, why are we talking about it now? Because like all good programs, FCBD takes a certain amount of planning and coordination, and if you don’t start working on it now, you may be too late to do all the things you want to do for it. For example:
COMIC BOOKS: Yes, your library may have an excellent collection of comics, graphic novels, anime, and manga that you want to highlight for FCBD, but do you have a backlog of comics that you can giveaway to hook readers? NOW (mid-January) is the time to go to your local comic store and start a relationship (if you don’t already have one) and get in on their order for the special FCBD issues.
Contrary to popular belief, the comics that the stores hand out are not freely given by the publishers; typically they’re $.25-.50 per issue depending on what level (gold or silver) of comic you’re looking for, what level the comic book store is in the ordering hierarchy, and how many issues they’re ordering. And that doesn’t include shipping. If you go your local store in March-April asking for comics for FCBD, either they’re giving you some of the supply they’ve laid in for their own program, or they’re giving you backstock that they haven’t been able to sell.
Instead, start things off right by going in with a healthy budget, knowing what you want, and offering to pay. This list of this year’s comics is already up on the FCBD website along with descriptions so you can tell which titles would be right for your audience. By starting this relationship, you can expand it into a number of different directions. With my local shop, I have been able to get discounts on board games we purchased for our teen and tween programs, buy one get one gift certificates for teen prizes, and experts to teach strategy and card games on program nights for teens and adults. Other librarians I know that have different purchasing agreements are able to make standing order agreements to purchase single issues and hardback comics straight from their local stores.
COSTUMED PERFORMERS: With the popularity of costumed performers going hand in hand with comic books, search around and see if you can find a reputable troupe in your area. Our comic shops always had recommendations for those whom they would use for events, and we could have our pick of characters if we booked early enough. Being close enough to Star Wars holidays (May the Fourth Be With You; Revenge of the Fifth), if you request early enough you might even get lucky to get a squadron of the 501st or the Rebel Legion to appear.
EASY PROGRAMMING: Being on a Saturday during prom and graduation season is not an easy program to pull off. Sometimes the best programs are the ones with the least amount of legwork. Take the basics of the programs and run with them to fit your needs:
- Movies: run comic based movies that fit within the theme, your audience, and your movie license. Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers, Despicable Me, Superman vs. Batman, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid all have sequels coming out in May and June that can kick off your FCBD and fit in with the Collaborative Summer Reading Program theme of “Build a Better World” if you stretch a bit. Or Rogue One has an estimated DVD/BluRay release date of late April.
- Performers: look around for local animators, sketch artists, or illustrators in your area and book a teaching class for tweens and teens on how to draw a comic. Purchase plenty of pencils and paper to encourage artistic ability.
- Crafts: have a craft corner set up for the day where tweens and/or teens can create their own comic creations. I’ve done posts on this over on my personal blog from last year
Need more ideas? Head on over to my Pinterest or check out others by searching FCBD for more.