So another annual staple of the Geek calendar has been and gone. What does Free Comic Book Day mean to you? To me, well obviously it’s a welcome opportunity to score some free comics, whether that means a few more gratis pages of franchises and characters I already know and love; the chance to sample something new (or at least new to me); or just a one-off wildcard, it’s a fun way to expand my comic reading horizons. It’s a day to celebrate comics, yes, but more than that, it’s a day to celebrate the geek community in general and to have a little fun while supporting local businesses. I love going down to my local comic shops on Free Comic Book Day, more for the atmosphere than for the freebies even – since so many other people make a point of doing the same it’s a great way to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones a long the way.
The Guardian newspaper ran a preview feature on 10 of the best places to enjoy Free Comic Book Day in the UK. The event we attended, at Exeter’s Moving Pictures, actually came in at number 8 on the list, so that was pretty exciting (especially given the typically London-centric focus of that particular publication). It was also pleasing that the article mentioned Exeter’s “big cosplay community.” Those three words are all deserving of equal weight: for a fairly small city we are big on cosplay here and there’s definitely a big sense of community spirit, something for which I’ll always be grateful. Saturday was a prime example of this in more ways than one….
Moving Pictures made FCBD into a great little geeky gathering. Aside from the titular free comics there was cake (see above), a cosplay competition, an impressive replica Back to the Future Delorean, special guests comic book writer Mike Garley (Kill Screen) and artist Martin Simmonds (Death Sentence) and the ever-adorable costumed teddies of Chrissy Jedi Bear and friends. There were various folk in costume, including the ever impressive Scarey Knights and Exeter Cosplay looming large in his Chaos Marine rig. Oh, and there was team Addaltmode as Rodimus and Brainstorm, because honestly what better excuse than a day all about comics to dress up as characters from our all-time favourite comic, More Than Meets the Eye?
I also had my bag of Rodimus stars on hand to give out. I’m sure Rodders would be proud of the way I was giving them out like sweeties, and prouder still of how happily and prominently all recipients seemed to be displaying them! The funniest moment was when I spied a family with a very cute kid dressed as Captain America and asked him if he wanted a medal only for B to chip in “He’s Captain America, he’s got loads of medals already.” But you can’t say you’re sorted for medals until you’ve got one with Roddy’s smug face on it; well now (mini) Cap is truly sorted!
Both being in costume all day we didn’t get the chance to take any photos ourselves but do check out the gallery uploaded on the Chrissy’s Jedi Bear page to get a flavour of the event. I also love this one of my Rodimus, taken by Cosplay Culture...
I mentioned community spirit, well it turns out FCBD wasn’t the only event in our city centre that day. It was also Exeter Pride which is the biggest free LGBT celebration in the UK (I’m hugely proud that Exeter hosts this!) FCBD was a little quieter than usual early on because many of our closest friends and fellow geeks were taking part in the parade. So of course, when we heard the procession coming near by we temporarily abandoned the comics and cake to go and offer our support. We blended in fairly well with the colourful Pride rainbow but even so a few of the marchers did a double take at the sight of 2 Transformers, a Black Cat, and a Chaos Marine cheering from the street corner – because nothing says love and tolerance like a Khorne Bezerker, right? Still, it was amazing to see my city at its very best on a beautifully sunny day surrounded by both rainbows and superheroes! Check out the Pride gallery in the local paper, and see if you can spot the geeky interlopers!
Aside from all the geeky love (of course) the other thing to remember and really appreciate about Free Comic Book day is that although the comics are free to us, the punters, the participating stores do still have to pay for what they give out, comic shops put a lot of work into making the day an enjoyable one so we always like to make sure we make a purchase or two on FCBD if possible. This year B picked up the Magic the Gathering Zendikar art book he’d been coveting so expect a future review of that on this site. We also acquired a rather fabulous vintage fabric Transformers cushion, the focus of which seems to be Ravage killing as many people as possible, what more could you want in your home decor!
All in all, The Guardian got it right: Moving Pictures was definitely a great place to celebrate Free Comic Book Day! Big thanks to Colin and Sam for putting on such a great event and for looking after us and our fellow cosplayers so well. Next year FCBD will fall on Saturday 6th May – date saved: now, what to wear?