Kirkman's Amazing Race on Free Comic Book Day

This Saturday sees the comics industry play host to the latest edition of Free Comic Book Day, where comic shops across the nation open up their doors to do exactly what the day suggests – give out free comics. All of the major publishers have put together special edition comics for stores to give away in the hopes of bringing their books to a wider audience.

Participating stores across the nation will play host to numerous events and signings. Some will have artists on hand all day to provide free sketches. Others will have top name writers and artists signing comics in store to help promote the event. One creator taking advantage of Free Comic Book Day in a major way is writer Robert Kirkman. In addition to Kirkman's "Astounding Wolf-Man" comic that's being given away for free by Image Comics, Robert is embarking on a five city tour this weekend that will see him start on the east coast and finish on the West. Check out this signing schedule:

Date: May 4th

Time: 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM

Store: Jim Hanley's Universe

Location: 4 West 33rd St., New York, NY 10001

Note:: (Comic will be given out at 12:01 AM)

Date: May 5th

Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Store: Graham Crackers Comics

Location: 77 E. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60602

Date: May 5th

Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Store: Mile High Comics

Location: 9201 N. Washington, Thornton, CO

Date: May 6th

Time: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Store: Golden Apple

Location: 7018 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038

Date: May 6th

Time: 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Store: Comic Relief

Location: 2026 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704-1117

Looking at that schedule, it appears Kirkman will find very little time for rest this weekend. Just prior to his getting on the road, CBR News spoke with Kirkman about this weekend's events and whether he thinks he'll survive this insane schedule.

"I'm pretty sure this is the only time an honest-to-god full-length, completely original first issue of a new series has been given away for free," Kirkman said of his Free Comic Book Day book, "The Astounding Wolf-Man" #1, the first issue of a new ongoing series. "This isn't a preview or a shorter issue or anything. It's a full 22-pages, it's on the same nice paper you'd expect on any of my books - it's the total package."

Kirkman is joined by artist Jason Howard on "The Astounding Wolf-Man," which tells the story of workaholic CEO Gary Hampton, who is bitten by a werewolf while on a rare family vacation. Instead of following the path most werewolves would by bringing more evil unto the world, Gary attempts to turn this horrific experience into a positive one by doing good. But can a werewolf succeed at doing good when all his instincts are aimed in the other direction?

Fans of Kirkman's work on "Invincible" and "The Walking Dead" should find "The Astounding Wolf-Man" to their liking, Kirkman noting the book is a cross between action and horror genres. "It's definitely not a humor book. It's a superhero book, so by design it's going to fall in line with 'Invincible' a little bit more than 'The Walking Dead,' but it will have the same depth of characters and dramatic tension that 'The Walking Dead' has - it'll just also have the same action-adventure stuff as 'Invincible,'" said Kirkman. "It's like a crossing of the two. I'm trying to put a little bit of chocolate in my peanut butter - so to speak."

This five city tour was the brain child of Image Comics Executive Director Eric Stephenson and is being paid for by the participating retailers and Image Comics. "I think it's a great way to promote a new book and it really is unprecedented at least in recent history," said Kirkman. "I'm very exited about getting out there, pressing the flesh, kissing hands and shaking babies. The best part is I'll be delirious by the time I get to Chicago - so people should really get a kick out of coming by and seeing me make a fool of myself."

Looking at the above schedule, you might ask yourself when Kirkman will find the time to sleep. He's asking himself that same question. Once he finishes up at Jim Hanley's in NYC, he'll catch a couple of hours of shut eye before hopping on a 5:00 AM flight to Chicago. "Then I'm at Graham Crackers in the afternoon, then I fly over to Denver for Mile High Comics. I sleep in Denver and then it's on to Los Angeles the next morning to sign at The Golden Apple in the afternoon and then up to Berkeley, California for my final signing at Comic Relief Sunday evening. It's not too tight, I should be able to get a few hours sleep here and there. I am going with the time zone change, so I will gain a bit of time as I move West, so that helps. But at the end of each signing I'll be jogging out the door immediately to catch a plane so it's probably going to be a little hectic. I'm actually trying not to think about it much."

But what if things don't go as smoothly as anticipated? One missed flight could certainly turn this tour upside down. "My fingers are certainly crossed in that respect," said Kirkman. "Luckily they're all short flights to and from major airports, so if I do miss something I should be able to get another flight quickly and I'll just be late. We'll see, though. We've got the schedule all worked out ahead of time so everything should be fine."

You can get more information about Free Comic Book Day by visiting www.freecomicbookday.com.

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