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A stash of indies from Free Comic Book Day

MANILA, Philippines – The first Free Comic Book Day I went to was in 2004 at Midtown Comics, and the two comic books I took home with me were the Image Comics Sampler and a Star Wars Clone Wars comic from Dark Horse.

Unlike the last several years where FCBD is held in the first Saturday of May, that year it was in July. It didn’t occur to me until much later that this usually coincided with the showing of a comic book film. That year it was Spider-Man 2. It was a treat back then to be able to see some of the film’s scenes shot in New York then watch the finished product.

But FCBD…. I didn’t even know it was a yearly thing until a few years ago. I guess you can chalk that up to a heavy workload where I’d just buy my stuff then get out. It was only recently that I started to hang out some and make new friends.

I think FCBD is a marvelous idea. The fall of the speculator market (and justly so) saw who the real comic book fans were. The hundreds of thousands and million copy print runs were over and so were the outlandish back issue prices. However, that left publishers in search of new audiences.

The earlier generation of fans of like me had gotten older and with that, so did our tastes of reading material. While I enjoy reading some childhood faves from Marvel and DC, I purchase a large number of independent titles. Not every thing that I read is for a mature audience. I enjoy just as much the simple and fun fare that I did when I first learned to love the medium.

As much as I read all these independents, Free Comic Book Day allows me to discover newer titles from indie companies that normally aren’t even sold here. So this is the first year where I chose to pick up more indie fare than the usual stuff published by the major players.

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And here’s what I liked:

The Adventures of Jellaby (Capstone Press)

I heard of this Eisner Award nominee and Joe Schuster Award winner for Best Comic for Kids back when it was published by Hyperion (since out of business) from several years ago. Much to my everlasting regret, I saw one of the graphic novels at Kinokuniya in Kuala Lumpur several years ago but was unable to pick it up.

FCBD was my chance to finally pick to get a copy of Kean Soo’s work. And this free comic features three short stories and sketches and a Q&A with the creator. If you like Calvin & Hobbes then Adventures of Jellaby is right up your corner. One is from the early years and has a dark overtone that seems compatible with Emily Strange or Gloom Cookie (from Ted Naifeh who does Courtney Crumrin and the upcoming Princess UGG). But the next two stories have that Day-Glo atmosphere and something that fans of Calvin and Hobbes will appreciate.

Courtney Crumrin (Oni Press)

I picked up Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin after I began reading The Sixth Gun from Oni Press. The Sixth Gun, that most excellent western horror story, introduced me to Stumptown, Queen and Country, Wars in Toyland, and Courtney Crumrin.

Naifeh’s Crumrin is about a young girl whose family moves in with her spooky Uncle Aloysius. It is there that she learns witchcraft. This is not a little’ girl’s story. If you like Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and are suffering from a sever lack of James Robinson’s and Paul Smith’s Leave It to Chance or Lemony Snicket, you will love Courtney Crumrin.

Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics)

Atomic Robo is a longtime participant of FCBD (seven times already). I managed to get a copy of one in New York some time ago and me being a fan of Astro Boy and Sean McKeever’s Sentinel for Marvel, I checked it out. Atomic Robo for me is a robotic version of Tom Strong, and I love Tom Strong.

For this comic, there were three stories in one – Atomic Robo, Bodie Troll and Haunted. However, I don’t think that the Atomic Robo story included was something that would reel in new fans. Nothing great really. But again, if you like Astro Boy or Sentinel, you might want to check this out.

If you loved Russell Myers’ comic strip Broom-Hilda then you’re going to love Bodie Troll. Throw in some of the weird stuff from Arthur Suydam’s Cholly and Flytrap (but not that radical), then it’s a hilarious read.

Haunted… four pages aren’t enough. Intriguing but am not going to be bugging my comic book specialty shop for copies of issues here.

Megaman X/Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics)

I’ve seen the videogame as my son plays it, but I don’t really know anything about the character or its background. It’s something that appeals to kids but I tried it out nevertheless. It got me thinking. The first comic books I can remember reading are of the Justice League of America, Captain America, Thor and the Fantastic Four. I did read one issue of Hot Stuff but other than that, it was all superhero fare for me as a youngster.

And “X-Factor” the story here is a perfect jumping on point for newbies.

It’s got a synopsis to guide new readers along.

The flipbook format features Sonic The Hedgehog and provides a backstory for this video game adaptation.

Not something I’d buy but I don’t mind in my collection as it’s free.

Uber (Aavatar)

This alternate reality series about a world at war and where superhumans are introduced has become a surprise hit for Kieron Gillen and artist Canaan White, whose style takes some getting used to. This free comic book is for the completist and might not bring in new readers as it’s mostly prose (in the guise of interviews with the book’s characters) with some illustrations thrown in.

I collect Uber so I picked this up. Not sure others will though.

Skyward (Action Lab Entertainment)

This is like a grown-up Jonny Quest story set in a different world. The story follows the adventures of Jack and his dog Quinn. The preview story in this free comic book is not the ideal way of introducing Skyward to new readers. A disappointment because I am intrigued by Jeremy Dale’s book.

There’s a second story included – Midnight Tiger that is about a boy who receives a transfusion from a wounded if not dying superhuman. That obviously changes his life.

Again, intriguing stuff but the story contained isn’t compelling enough to hook me.

Dual Identity/Pandora’s Blogs (Red Giant Entertainment)

I picked this up because of the painted cover of Dual Identity that looked like an indie Wonder Woman. And it’s a story about Andromeda, who is a superhero by day and a super spy at night. Has this feel of some of the Malibu Comics from the early 1990s.

Pandora’s Blogs is about a blogger who is investigating all these supernatural occurrences in her town somewhere in Florida.

One thing I noticed about Red Giant Entertainment’s comics is they have a lot of Filipino-American writers and artists. So this bears watching.

Tesla/Wayward Sons (Red Giant Entertainment)

A historical-sci-fi story about the late Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, who in steampunk literature is an inspiration for works such as Dynamite Entertainment’s Legenderry, Red 5 Comics’ Atomic Robo, America’s Best Comics’ Tom Strong, and Red Giant Entertainment’s… Tesla! Yep. If Seth Grahame-Smith brought back Abraham Lincoln for a vampire tale then Terry Keefe and David Lawrence have brought Tesla back and turned him into a “science hero.” If you like Spanish artist Sergio Fernandez Davila’s Legenderry for Dynamite Entertainment then you’ll love Bong Dazo’s style.

Wayward Sons is about the offspring of the gods and goddesses of myth banding together to protect the world from their parents’ whims and machinations. Interesting concept here.

Magika/The First Daughter (Red Giant Entertainment)

I picked this up because of Wilson Tortosa, who is best known for his work on Top Cow’s Battle of the Planets. Like Whilce Portacio’s Stone and Budjette Tan’s and Kajo Baldisimo’s Trese, Magika mines Philippine mythology albeit in a fantasy setting where a young boy enlists the help of fantastical creatures to save his grandparents. Love the artwork (with a lot of help from Sebastian Cheng) but the writing needs some work.

The First Daughter…. Ah forget it.

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe (IDW)

Tom Scioli’s artwork takes some getting used to. There’s a Dave Gibbons/Rick Veitch feel to his style that would look great in an Alan Moore story. This is one of those stories because of the art takes time before you love it. Hated it at first but am growing into it.

Kaboom Summer Blast (Kaboom)

I picked this up for Mike Kunkel’s Hero Bear and the Kid that I enjoy. Again, if you are a fan of Calvin and Hobbes, you’ll love Mike Kunkel’s Herobear and the Kid that is about a young boy who inherits an old stuff toy bear and a broken pocket watch when his dear grandfather passes away. But things aren’t what they seem. And the artwork is incredible.

Other stuff:

Bongo Free for All (Bongo Comics)

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies 2014 (United Plankton Pictures)

Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity (Fantagraphics)

The Smurfs (Papercutz)

Archie Digest (Archie Comics)

Super thanks to Sandy Sansolis and Comic Odyssey for the stuff on Free Comic Book Day. It was a blast.

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