Odd Job: Taking advantage of Free Comic Book Day
Pay: 26 comic books
For most guys, May 5th means Cinco De Mayo. A day we’re all pretty sure is Mexican independence day, though nobody seems positive. A day full of tequila, sombreros, and girls so drunk that everybody has a shot at getting laid. But this year, May 5th was also free comic book day. A day where shops gave away free issues to reward loyal customers and introduce casual fans to the exciting world of comic book stores. A day set apart from the rest even though nobody did tequila shots, nobody wore sombreros and nobody had any chance of getting laid.
“Over here, you have your choice of any two from the national list of Free Comic Book Day Comics.” Explained the Asian store worker at the New England Comics—our first stop of the day. Standing next to him was his pale, white friend with square glasses. It was like they were trying to be stereotypes. “You can also have any two comics from those boxes.” He pointed at two crates of presumably overstocked issues they were trying to unload.
My friend, Ethan, and I visited the boxes first, where the best find was easily all four issues of the Archie Meets Kiss crossover series, which I assume became an overstock problem the moment the first copy arrived. I took this one and was not disappointed.
The issue starts with Sabrina the teenage witch trapped in jail! This is a pretty weak conflict to build a plot around since I’d imagine she could break out of jail pretty easily. Seeing as how, you know, she’s a witch. But whatever.
From there, it gets better. A Frankenstein, a werewolf, avampire and a mummy want to drain the fun out of Archie’s town, which would be bad news, except they came through a portal which was also utilized by… KISS!!
KISS sets off to hunt down the monsters. In costume. Because apparently they dress like that all the time. There’s some fighting and poorly written dialogue, then it all culminates with Archie becoming a Zombie. Which is an admittedly pretty badass way to end an otherwise lame comic.
I also grabbed a copy of a Witchblade-Wolverine crossover. If you’ve never heard of Witchblade, her superpower appears to be having an amazing body and not needing clothes to keep warm. The issue opens with her in this wedding dress:
At that point, who are you fooling wearing white?
Only a few blocks up the street was another New England Comics. There are three branches of New England Comics within about a mile of each other, which seems like a terrible business move but worked out great for our free comic book day plan of hitting up as many stores as possible. Their selection was similar though not identical. Perhaps the best find there was Graphic Elvis.
The comic starts after Elvis’ death with the King in line at the Pearly Gates. An overhead voice calls off numbers assigned to each person in line, telling them it’s their turn to be judged. Because apparently heaven runs like a Shaws Deli.
When Elvis’ number is called, St. Peter asks, “What didst thou do when Earth was they home?” Because, by rule, all biblical figures must speak like a poorly written Shakespeare play. Here’s the thing, obviously not everyone who dies speaks English, so I assume St. Peter changes languages based on who he’s talking to, right? So why can’t he pick up a form of English dialect post-16th century?
Elvis doesn’t make much of an argument for himself, saying something like, “I dunno, music? Maybe I should take off.” St. Peter then tells him that because his timeless music made people happy, he gets into heaven. The fact that he was a rampant adulterer who carried a gun with him at all times because he realized some of the husbands of girls he slept with might come after him and rather than stop sleeping with married women, he decided it was better to be prepared to shoot these husbands? That never came up.
When we got to the third New England Comics, we were sad to discover an empty building with a For Rent sign in the window. Apparently putting three branches of the exact same store that caters to a very small audience in a starving industry within a mile of each other is a bad strategy. Who knew?
Next, was Newbury Comics in Harvard Square. Newbury Comics is maybe the only local comic book store that has found a way to appeal to an audience bigger than just comic book nerds and, consequently, become a successful business. Their secret? They changed into a DVD, CD, poster and magazine store, with comic books stuck somewhere in the back. Calling Newbury Comics a comic store is like calling Radio Shack a radio store.
Fittingly, their free comics section looked like someone just dumped a bunch of random issues on a wobbly folding table, then said, “Fuck it, I’m getting lunch.” Half of them weren’t even free. They were “Buy one, get one for a dollar,” which is the least free version of the buy one, get one deal.
At the next comic book shop, I was scouring what was now becoming a familiar set of comics when I heard a woman ask, “Do you want me to autograph that for you?”
“What?” I said, turning to face her.
“Oh, I wrote one of the stories in that comic anthology.” She used the word “that” like it was that issue I was reading. But she was referring to a book on the table I hadn’t even touched.
“That would be great.” I lied.
At every store we visited (except Newbury Comics since they hate comic books), there was a table set up where local artists autographed comics they created. They reminded me of myself with my blog. People working other jobs but pursuing this passion project on the side they hoped to turn into something more. Consequently, I had really enjoyed talking to them. But this woman just felt a bit weird.
She had no table. She was just hanging out. I’m not even sure the store knew she was there.
“Hey Jon,” I heard Ethan excitedly call me over. He had found the porn section. There’s something odd about comic-book porn. The girls are undeniably hot, but they’re still drawings. They had series with titles like Amerotica (which is, I guess, patriotic porn? I have no idea), Hot Moms (fulfilling everyone’s fantasy in which moms get it on?) and my favorite, Girls and Corpses (no paranthetical joke needed).
On free comic book day, I also got my share of mainstream Superman and Spiderman comics. But at heart, comic porn is what these places are all about. Well, not porn specifically, but more generally, about genres that go well beyond the mega-star superheroes we now think of when someone mentions comic books. There’s poorly written Elvis fan fiction and struggling independent local artists and even one book I found called Jew Gangster.
Comic book stores are about telling stories. In many cases, stories in genres other people aren’t really touching. Free comic book day celebrates that, which to me is way more exciting than celebrating national tequila shot day. Or whatever the hell May 5th is. .
-  You may notice from the cover that Sabrina was guest starring in this issue, which is a pretty generous interpretation of the word guest star. Really? You got Sabrina to break away from her other celebrity engagements to make an appearance as a drawing in your comic book? The only less impressive guest star appearance I can imagine is if Melissa Joan Hart showed up as a real-life guest star. Ay-ohhh! ↩
-  Why you ask? No explanation given. ↩
-  Except they also had talent and a publisher. ↩
-  I only skimmed it but I feel pretty safe saying that, yeah, it’s offensive. ↩
-  According to Wikipedia, Cinco de Mayo is neither a celebration of Mexico winning its independence nor of tequila’s proliferation throughout America. Rather it marks Mexico’s historic victory at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862 over the French. The French retook the capital a year later. Thus finally answering the trivia question: Have the French ever beaten anybody in a war? Happy Cinco de Mayo guys! ↩
In some but not all articles, names or identifying characteristics or individual lines of dialogue have been changed to protect identities or because remembering exactly how things happened is hard. But in every case, an effort was made to maintain the integrity of these events that did indeed actually happen.
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