If Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year, then Free Comic Book Day has got to be a close second, right? For the past 11 years, comic book stores across the country have been giving away special promotional issues with hopes of gaining new readers and bringing back those who have moved away from the pleasures of pull lists and variant covers. This year’s event will be held on this Saturday, May 5th, and with it comes the usual assortment of high-profile releases from major companies and indie outfits alike. There will be a total of 42 titles available this year, which is pretty much definitive proof that life, the universe and everything revolves around comics.
With some shops limiting visitors to 3-4 comics each, it’s important to select your freebies wisely. That’s where today’s Daily List comes in handy. Here is your (admittedly subjective) guide to the five best and five worst 2012 Free Comic Book Day offerings. Let the mad rush for free crap commence!
5) Peanuts/Adventure Time Flipbook
Are Finn and Jake the 21st century equivalent of Charlie Brown and Snoopy? Apparently Kaboom! Entertainment thinks so. For their sole 2012 Free Comic Book Day entry the indie comics label has offered up a flipbook that is thematically linked by stories about boys and the dogs they love. It’s a brilliant idea to pair up Peanuts and Adventure Time, because although they are each clearly products of two very different times they each share an odd sweetness. Especially noteworthy here is Vicki Scott and Ryan North’s writing on the Peanuts half of the book, which captures the essence of Charles Schulz’s melancholic whimsy without seeming derivative. That’s a fairly miraculous accomplishment that should please even the Lucy in your life.
4) Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace: The Greatest Horror Comics of All Time!
Part of the reason that The Walking Dead was such a game changer is that it achieved a level of mainstream success unmatched by any previous horror comic. So it makes a certain amount of sense for the industry to revisit the genre’s other notable entries. Which brings us to this celebration of terror titles from Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace that includes a rundown of the history of horror comics, profiles of memorable releases ranging from Tomb of Dracula to Swamp Thing, a look at the ten most valuable horror comics, and much more. Admittedly, this isn’t a comic book and as such is a bit of a cheat to give away on Free Comic Book Day. It’s forgivable though thanks to the sheer amount of great info here.
3) Star Wars/Serenity
No, it’s not slash fic in which Chewie gets it on with River Tam, but rather a two-sided flipbook featuring Star Wars and Serenity stories both written by Zack Whedon. Set prior to Star Wars, “The Art of the Deal” has Han and everybody’s favorite walking carpet meeting another of the smuggler’s disreputable associates while the Serenity tale “It’s Never Easy” features stunning art from F?bio Moon that will have you longing for a similarly animated series based on the saga. I’m not sure what the physical manifestation of a fanwank would be, but I’m guessing this comic is pretty close. Just wait until you get home with it before the fapping commences. Free Comic Book Day is a family event after all.
2) Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Family Comics
The ultimate mission statement of Free Comic Book Day is to introduce kids to the magic of comics. Frankly, I can think of no better way to do so than with this collection of two Donald Duck stories from Carl Barks that have been re-released by Fantagraphics. There has never been a smarter or more fun creator of “kids comics” than Barks, and his Disney work rightfully remains the most cited example of the genre at its best )although Bob Bolling’s 1960s Little Archie output comes pretty damn close). The annual giveaway shouldn’t be about promoting company-wide events or high-profile new releases, but instilling a love of illustrated adventures in the young. The Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge tales included here (“Lost and the Andes” and “Only a Poor Man” respectively) will enchant any tyke who has the good fortune to land themselves a copy of this. In turn, they’ll be inspired to check out other comics, and with any luck this curiosity will turn into a lifelong appreciation of the artform. And isn’t that the whole goal of this exercise in the first place?
1) Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories
Perhaps best known for their Jim Henson-inspired comics — including the ongoing Fraggle Rock and the graphic novel Tale of Sand, which visualized an unproduced screenplay from the Muppet maestro — Archaia Entertainment seeks to dramatically up their public awareness with this free 48-page hardcover book. The comic equivalent of tapas, this sampler aims to show off the company’s most appealing offerings, including David Petersen’s Mouse Guard, the comedic Western Cow Boy and a short tale inspired by Labyrinth (be sure to cue up Flight of the Conchords’ “Bowie” while reading this one). With whimsical art and engaging stories, this will be one giveaway that will stand proudly on your bookshelves. Once you steal it away from your kids, that is.
Hit the jump for the worst freebies from this year’s Free Comic Book Day
5) World’s Most Dangerous Animals
Remember that infamous YouTube Clip from Polish TV in which a poor newswoman got mauled on-air by a circus bear? Depending on what type of person you are, chances are you found it either hilarious or revolting. The point is that it prompted a strong and immediate reaction. The only visceral response that anyone reading Zenescope Entertainment’s World’s Most Dangerous Animals comic will have is extreme boredom. This one was produced in conjunction with Animal Planet; their shows are usually crammed with action and excitement, so it’s a bit of a letdown when the most notable thing about their foray into the world of comics is that nothing really happens. Well, almost nothing:
Yes, this comic features an illustration of a bearded Jesus-look-alike scaring a bear with his horrific body odor. Look at the sheer terror in the bruin’s eyes. The poor guy. Can somebody please get that dirty hippy some Irish Spring?
4) Yo Gabba Gabba!
If Ghostbusters had been originally released in the 2000s instead of 1984, there’s a good shot that Ray would have chosen Brobee has the shape of Earth’s destroyer instead of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Real talk folks: Yo Gabba Gabba! is so aggressively nightmarish that it makes H.R. Pufnstuf seem downright lucid. I can only imagine that the terror is just heightened on the printed page. Let’s take a look:
Yikes. I wonder how discussed this comic is in that Overstreet horror guide I mentioned earlier, because it really freaks me out so much that it gives me that same kind of empty feeling in my belly that I get when I realize I’ll die one day. Oni Press and W!ldbrain Entertainment are responsible for this, so direct your pitchfork-wielding mobs their way. I’d join you, but doing anything just seems so pointless now.
3) DC Comics: The New 52 Special Edition
Hey kids, you think keeping up with the latest Lego Ninjago toys is a challenge? That’s nothing compared to the shenanigans DC is up to. This release has no purpose other than to promote the second wave of DCs New 52 books, including Batman Incorporated and World’s Finest. Of course I realize that at this point Free Comic Book Day is just as much for adult collectors as young readers, but it feels like DC could do better here, especially since the impending release of Before Watchmen is going to overshadow the New 52 books anyway. So what could DC offer as an alternative?
Umm, I take it all back. Give Pandora my love!
2) My Favorite Martian
If this year’s Free Comic Book Day was held in 1964, the above My Favorite Martian book would top the other side of this list. Instead it just leaves me scratching my head. Is this designed purely for those whose lives have become empty voids since Ray Walston died? In the year 2012, who, to be frank, gives one shit about this show? It’s not like it’s The Munsters or The Brady Bunch we are talking about here. I don’t mean to be harsh, but it just seems that come closing time on May 5th comic stores across the country are going to be stuck with tons of this thing. And you know what the weirdest thing about this is? It’s actually a terrific comic. Dan Spiegle’s art here is glorious, and the story is just as lightweight and fun as the show it was based on. My Favorite Martian is being released by Hermes Press, a small imprint that has carved a niche for themselves by reprinting comics based on vintage TV properties. I’m so conflicted, because I have such a respect for reprint companies like Hermes, yet my Daily List duties require me to snark away about it. Fortunately, I can let it off the hook easy because there’s an even lamer Free Comic Book Day offering based on a 1960s TV property. Well, sort of. See for yourself.
1) Burt Ward: Boy Wonder
Holy what the fuck, Batman! For last year’s Free Comic Book Day, Bluewater Productions debuted The Mis-Adventures of Adam West. Somehow that book was successful enough to encourage the company to release the spin-off/companion title Burt Ward: Boy Wonder. Your guess is as good as mine. This comic follows the former Robin as he fights crime with his canine companions. After the Batman series went off the air in 1968, Ward didn’t quite achieve the cult success of West, so this book’s very existence is a bit puzzling, though at least it won’t feature a mention of Ward’s notoriously large package. With this book and the upcoming The Secret Lives of Julie Newmar, it’s evident that Bluewater is determined to milk Bat-nostalgia for all its worth… regardless of how strange it may seem. Personally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for The Secret Adventures of Cesar Romero’s Mustache.