This is a weekend of riches for comic book fans. As if the opening weekend of “Iron Man” isn’t enough, this Saturday is also Free Comic Book Day, the annual event whereby comics shops around the nation celebrate this medium by giving away comic books and hosting signings and parties, and CBR’s going to be a part of it in a big way.
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland and News Editor Andy Khouri will be traveling to Phoenix, Arizona to spend the day with the Image Comics founders, who will be signing at Atomic Comics. That’s right, all seven image founders — Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Mark Silvestri and Jim Valentino — will reunite for their first group signing ever! We’ll be reporting live from the event throughout the day, and we’ll produce time-lapsed photography of the signing, which begins at 12:00 MST.
In addition to CBR’s on-the-scene coverage in Phoenix, correspondents will be checking in from events all over the nation on our mobile blog, CBR Live! Check out the cities we have covered and the CBR staffers and friends who’ll be participating:
- Seattle, WA — CBR’s George Tramountanas
- Portland, OR — Dark Horse’s Scott Allie and Oni Press’ James Lucas Jones
- San Francisco, CA — Image Comics’ Joe Keatinge
- Los Angeles, CA — CBR’s Pinguino Kolb, Remy Minnick and Matt Murphy, plus Top Cow’s Filip Sablik and writer Joshua Hale Fialkov
- Anaheim, CA — CBR’s Michael Sullivan
- Phoenix, AZ — CBR’s Jonah Weiland and Andy Khouri, plus Top Cow’s Matt Hawkins
- Dallas, TX (at CAPE) — CBR’s Dale Philbrick
- Columbus, OH — CBR’s Robert Taylor
- New York City, NY — CBR’s Shaun Manning and David Press
Seventeen correspondents in nine cities covering four time zones!
Plus, Brian Cronin will be blogging from Rocketship in Brooklyn all day on Comics Should Be Good all day Saturday.
Short of going to one of these events in person, there’s no better way to celebrate Free Comic Book Day than to spend the day with CBR tomorrow, May 3rd.
Finally, to learn more about the historic Image Comics founders signing in Phoenix, CBR News spoke with Atomic Comics proprietor Mike Malve about why Free Comic Book Day is important to him and his business, which can be found at 1120 South Country Club #105, Mesa, AZ 85210.
Mike, how’d you bring together the seven Image Comicsfounders for this event? It could not have been easy wrangling all seven guys together.
The genesis of this year’s Free Comic Book day event at Atomic Comics started probably 15 years earlier. I used to talk to Jim Lee about coming out to Arizona to visit my shops and do a signing. This was way back in the day when he was still doing “X-Men.” He always gave me one of those, “Yeah, let’s work out the dates” replies, but for some reason it just never seemed to happen.
Fast forward to October 31, 2006. My Mesa Superstore was struck by disaster. At 8:30 AM an uninsured, underage motorist plowed through the front windows, collapsing the roof and blowing out a water pipe which flooded everything. Literally, the entire shop was destroyed within a matter of minutes. That day could have been the harbinger of the end of the magic of Atomic Comics, but something special happened. I was bombarded with phone calls and e-mails from publishers, distributors, retailers and even creators! People all wanted to lend a hand and help out in anyway they could. For days I kept receiving care packages from people like Frank Cho, Mike Kunkel, Top Cow, Udon studios, Marvel, DC and Dark Horse to name but a few. Phone calls from people like Phil Boyle of Coliseum Comics in Florida who lost his store to a hurricane helped me get a handle on things quickly and formulate a disaster recovery plan.
One of those e-mails I received was from Jim Lee who said simply, “Mike, you name the day you plan to reopen the Mesa Superstore and I’ll be there to help you open it.” But when April 15, 2007 rolled around for the Grand Reopening, Jim was already committed and could not make it. We discussed FCBD 2007, but Jim was pre-booked again. I said, “No problem, brother, let’s mark down FCBD 2008!” I hit him up every few months to make sure all was still good.
I then ran into Todd McFarlane one day at his offices when I was touring it with one of my friends who was in town for a signing at my Chandler mall Superstore to promote his new “Freshmen” comic from Top Cow, Seth Green. I introduced Todd to Seth and his partner, Hugh Sterbakov. Then a flash of over-zealous brilliance hit me: why not shoot for the moon and see if Todd would have any interest in a sick huge FCBD 2008 event with all of the Image Founding Fathers. He said, “You mean have a signing with Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld and the rest of the old crew? Wow, that could be interesting.” He thought for a few minutes and said, “You know, Mike, yes I would like to do this. Let me just check the dates with Wanda my wife and get back to you.” So now Jim and Todd were on board.
I then hit up Jim Valentino, whom I work with a lot on the board of directors for the HERO Initiative. I had a gut feeling he and Marc Silvestri and Rob Liefeld would all be a go as we’ve all worked together in the past and have great relationships. I consider them all brothers and would do anything for them. Next came Erik Larsen at Image, another who I’ve talked to for years about coming out to Arizona. So I was very happy to get him here finally. Finally, Jim gave me Whilce Portacio’s number and in short order we had all seven Image founders on board and excited. It was a great accomplishment for me when all was said and done, probably one of the proudest moments of my career!
Have you always supported Free Comic Book Day in a similar fashion? What have you done in years past?
Joe Fields is the undisputed genius Father of FCBD, having formulated the idea and worked with Diamond to make it happen. The rest is history. But I consider myself the King of FCBD. Atomic Comics has been on board and supported FCBD to the max every year.
Every single FCBD we hire Marvel Characters Appearance Program Company to provide a sanctioned and licensed, trained Spider-Man for the kids. I work hard to secure the biggest names in comics every year, allowing Atomic to present its customers with anywhere from 18 to 30+ creators spread amongst the four stores. Our goal is for fans to want to travel to each of our stores throughout the Phoenix Valley to see everyone.
Atomic Comics’ FCBD guest list has included Joe Quesada (who, while signing called Bill Jemas from his cell and said, “Bill you hear that?” as he held up his phone to capture the amazing crowd excitment. “FCBD works! Listen to all these kids and families in Atomic right now!”), Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr, Jeph Loeb, David Finch, Alex Maleev, Darrick Robertson and Paul Jenkins, to name just a few . In addition we always feature a great batch of local talent to showcase their works and they always a great job of doing sketches for all the fans that show up. One of our goals at Atomic is to make the FCBD experience amazing for the creators, so much so that they have come back a few times. Hero Bear’s Mike Kunkel has been to every FCBD we’ve ever had! He is not even local? Love that guy.
I try to generate as much buzz as we can every year for FCBD. We always hire a PR firm to help us brainstorm and create exciting events revolving around FCBD so it isn’t just about giving a couple free books to regular customer, but it becomes ALL about letting NEW people know that comics rock!
We always bring charities aboard during FCBD weekend. We’ve been able to raise thousands of dollars for various charities via art auctions, artist sketches or special VIP events. Donations have been generated for the Ronald McDonald House, East Valley Child Crisis Center, the Heard Museum, the Arthritis Foundation, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids, the Hero Initiative, and many others.
Why is FCBD so important to you and has it had lasting benefits for your chain?
In my mind every day is FCBD and I try to instill that philosophy in the staff. I tell my people constantly to remember that this might be the first comic shop visit for that person or family who walks in the door. We need to make a super positive impression – make it count. FCBD is our only national industry holiday and it brings wonderful attention and excitement to our industry. It’s an amazing opportunity to turn on new readers while encouraging people who are already fans to bring in their friends and loved ones to check out this wonderful world of comics!
I always get great feedback from attendees and we always gain new customers, year in year out. It is inconceivable to me that a comic book retailer would fail to participate in this program. What a missed opportunity — not only for their shop, but for the fans and would be fans of their area.
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