12 Comics to Get Your Kids on Free Comic Book Day

Clockwise (l to r): DC Comics, Nobrow Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Dark Horse Comics, Papercutz, American Mythology Productions
Clockwise (l to r): DC Comics, Nobrow Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Dark Horse Comics, Papercutz, American Mythology Productions

Every year, comic book shops around the world celebrate Free Comic Book Day with in-store events, creator signings, cosplay, and (of course) free comics. This year’s events will be held on Saturday, May 6, and most shops will have up to 50 different free comics spanning a wide range of genres for all types of readers. Free Comic Book Day is an especially great opportunity to introduce the joy of comics to young readers. Below is a list of some of the free comics you and your kids (from early readers up to teenagers) can try to snag at your local comic shop (get there early!). You can see a full list of what will be available here.

1. BUFFY: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Dark Horse Comics

What is it?

Joss Whedon and Dark Horse Comics team up to bring us more adventures of Buffy's early years as a 16-year-old who is still getting the hang of taking out vampires. Unlike most Buffy comics that stick pretty close to the tone of the Whedon-directed TV program, this FCBD comic is a little lighter and more cartoony in style. It also includes a Plants vs. Zombies backup story based on the popular video game.

Who’s it for?

Of course hardcore Buffy fans will be interested in this, but it is intended for younger, pre-teen readers as opposed to more standard Buffy fare, which is usually a bit darker and more sophisticated.

2. DC SUPERHERO GIRLS

DC Superhero Girls
DC Comics

What is it?

To accompany a new toy line and an animated YouTube series, DC has been putting out a series of graphic novels about a superhero high school featuring cute teen versions of their most popular female heroes (and anti-heroes) like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy. As the show begins its second season, a third graphic novel is soon to be released. This comic previews a story from that book, Summer Olympus.

Who’s it for?

These are made to appeal to young girls—the toys are designed to look like Barbie dolls—and the lighthearted, school-oriented nature of the stories is appropriate for early readers.

3. BOOM! STUDIOS SUMMER BLAST

Boom! Studios Summer Blast
Boom! Studios

What is it?

Boom! Studios has hit a sweet spot with their fantasy and adventure comics for teen and pre-teen girls. This is thanks mostly to the success of their supernatural summer camp series Lumberjanes, and their Free Comic Book Day sampler has excerpts from three series that should have a similar appeal. The first is a new story from David Petersen’s popular Mouse Guard, a long-running fantasy adventure series about medieval mice. The second is from a new series about Brave Chef Brianna, who is trying to start her own restaurant in a place called Monster City. And the third, Coady and the Creepies, is firmly in the Lumberjanes domain as it features an all-girl punk rock band, one of whom is secretly a ghost.

Who’s it for?

A lot of Boom! Studios books aim for the type of readers that enjoy Cartoon Network shows like Adventure Time, so this is going to be a good choice for boys and especially girls ages 12 and up.

4. BAD MACHINERY

Bad Machinery
Oni Press

What is it?

John Allison had a recent hit adapting his webcomic Giant Days into a popular new monthly comic for Boom! Studios, but over at Oni Press, his other webcomic, Bad Machinery, is now in its seventh collected volume. Both comics are related in that they are spin-offs of Allison’s last long-running webcomic Scary Go Round, but where Giant Days focuses on the daily lives of three university-age young women, Bad Machinery is about a group of boarding school kids solving surreal mysteries around town.

Who’s it for?

These are smartly written comics with a decidedly British humor that will probably appeal to pre-teen readers. The Scooby-Doo-like mysteries are kind of wacky but often take a backseat to the snappy repartee between the large cast of quirky teens.

5. HILDA'S BACK

Hilda's Back
Nobrow Press

What is it?

Luke Pearson’s delightful Hilda series stars a precocious and adventurous young girl who lives in a world populated by magical creatures. Last year’s Hilda and the Stone Forest ended on a cliffhanger when Hilda woke up transformed into a troll, and this FCBD comic features a preview of the upcoming sequel. As a bonus, it also includes a preview of Jen Lee’s upcoming Garbage Night, about a group of teenage animals journeying across a desolate wasteland where humans have gone missing.

Who’s it for?

Hilda is one of the great all-ages comics right now (and is soon to become an animated series for Netflix). It’s great for early readers and older, but the subject matter of Garbage Night may skew closer to teenage readers.

6. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: PRELUDE TO DIMENSION X

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
IDW Publishing

What is it?

These guys need no introduction, though you may forget that the Ninja Turtles originated as a comic book back in 1984 before conquering every other possible medium out there. They’re still going pretty strong as an ongoing comic series, and this issue kicks off a big new story involving longtime antagonist Krang as well as a brand-new villain.

Who’s it for?

Probably boys, and probably in that pre-teen age range as there is a certain amount of inevitable ninja violence to be expected.

7. MIRACULOUS

Miraculous
Action Lab Entertainment

What is it?

The popular French animated series arrived in the U.S. last year and will debut its second season this June. To coincide with the show, Action Lab Entertainment is putting out a new graphic novel series based on the series. It’s about a teenage girl who has a crush on a boy she knows. She has a double life as a superhero named Ladybug who reluctantly accepts help from an unneeded sidekick named Cat Noir who, little does she know, is actually her crush.

Who’s it for?

Primarily for girls aged 8-12 who will appreciate this female hero who can take care of herself.

8. THE LOUD HOUSE

The Loud House
Papercutz

What is it?

Based on the hit Nickelodeon animated series, this new series of graphic novels from Papercutz follows the adventures of 11-year-old Lincoln in his full house with 10 sisters. The comics are written and drawn by the show’s creator and animation crew, so fans should have no reason to be let down.

Who’s it for?

Any kid with siblings will appreciate Lincoln’s plight. Like the show, these are written for kids in the 9-12 age range.

9. DRAWN & QUARTERLY PRESENTS: COLORFUL MONSTERS

Colorful Monsters
Drawn & Quarterly

What is it?

Drawn & Quarterly, the prestigious publisher of high-quality literary graphic novels, has built up a collection of wonderful international children’s comics over the years, many of which are sampled here. It includes reprints of famous works like Tove Jannson’s Moomin and Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro, plus brand new comics like Elise Gravel’s imaginative collection of sketches If Found…Please Return and Anouk Ricard’s hilarious ensemble comedy Anna & Froga.

Who’s it for?

These are all great comics for early readers, although the humor and storytelling may be a little subtle and culturally different than some kids are used to.

10. UNDERDOG

Underdog
American Mythology Productions

What is it?

“Speed of lightning, roar of thunder...” The latest character to be transported from the childhoods of adults to today’s comic book market is Underdog. The 1960s cartoon series with a memorable, rhyming catchphrase, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here,” was a fun send-up of Superman, and this comic should have the same appeal.

Who’s it for?

To be honest, probably parents who remember watching the show when they were kids, but that doesn’t mean younger readers won’t appreciate what we used to enjoy about this character.

11. KID SAVAGE

Kid Savage
Image Comics

What is it?

A pioneering but dysfunctional “first family in space” crash lands on a primitive planet, and their only chance of survival is the help of a native wildling. This is the latest adventure series from writer Joe Kelly, co-creator of Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, and inspired by the old Hanna-Barbera adventure series like Jonny Quest and Herculoids. The first full volume of this series is now on sale, and this Free Comic Book Day sampler presents the first chapter.

Who’s it for?

This is pretty safely in the all-ages category with pre-teen boys being the main target.

12. DISNEY DESCENDANTS

Descendents
Tokyopop

What is it?

Descendants is the surprise made-for-Disney Jr. hit movie about the teenage children of Disney villains like Maleficent and the Evil Queen who are sent to prep school with all the “good” children of characters like Belle and Sleeping Beauty. The manga adaption of the movie from TokyoPop is excerpted here in the FCBD sampler.

Who’s it for?
If you have a daughter in the 6-12 age range they probably already know about Descendants and will want to read this.

You Can Get Paid $1000 to Watch All 20 Marvel Movies Before Avengers: Endgame Hits Theaters

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Marvel fans in need of a little cash, listen up: CableTV.com, an online resource for finding the best TV, internet, and phone services, has posted a listing for what they've deemed "The Marvel Movie Marathon Dream Job." Just ahead of Avengers: Endgame's arrival in theaters on April 26, the company is looking for an individual to watch all 20 released Marvel Cinematic Universe movies back to back.

“Do you have the endurance of Iron Man?," the listing reads. "The tenacity of Captain America? The leisure time of Ant-Man? Then CableTV.com has a mission for you." The best part? The chosen individual will get paid $1000 for their time and will receive a bundle of MCU merchandise as well.

You may be asking: Why would a company want to pay someone to binge-watch a handful of movies they're probably already planning to watch on their own? Well, they’re also requesting that the selected viewer live-tweet their experience in collaboration with CableTV.com, then meet up after the MCU marathon and “share your takeaways from the movies so we can make some beautiful, badass rankings together.”

The competition is bound to be fierce for this job, and the application period will end on April 15, 2019—so don't delay in submitting yours here.

Batmania: When Batman Ruled the Summer of 1989

JD Hancock, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
JD Hancock, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

“Flop” is how marketing research group Marketing Evaluation Inc. assessed the box office potential of the 1989 Warner Bros. film Batman. The big-budget production, directed by Tim Burton and co-starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, was expected to be one of the rare times a major Hollywood studio took a comic book adaptation seriously. But according to the marketing data, the character of Batman was not as popular as the Incredible Hulk, who was then appearing in a slate of made-for-television movies. And he was only a quarter as appealing as the California Raisins, the claymation stars of advertising.

That prediction was made in 1988. The film was released on June 23, 1989, and went on to gross $253.4 million, making it the fifth most successful motion picture up to that point.

While Marketing Evaluation may have miscalculated the movie’s potential, they did hedge their bet. By the time profits from the movie’s merchandising—hats, shirts, posters, toys, bed sheets, etc.—were tallied, the company said, Warner Bros. could be looking at a sizable haul.

When the cash registers stopped ringing, the studio had sold $500 million in tie-in products, which was double the gross of the film itself.

In 1989, people didn’t merely want to see Batman—they wanted to wear the shirts, eat the cereal, and contemplate, if only for a moment, putting down $499.95 for a black denim jacket studded with rhinestones.

Batmania was in full swing. Which made it even more unusual when the studio later claimed the film had failed to turn a profit.

 

The merchandising blitz of Star Wars in 1977 gave studios hope that ambitious science-fiction and adventure movies would forever be intertwined with elaborate licensing strategies. George Lucas's space opera had driven audiences into a frenzy, leading retailers to stock up on everything from R2-D2 coffee mugs to plastic lightsabers. It was expected that other “toyetic” properties would follow suit.

They didn’t. Aside from 1982’s E.T., there was no direct correlation between a film’s success and demand for ancillary product. In 1984 alone, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were smash hits. None of them motivated people to flock to stores and buy Gizmo plush animals or toy proton packs. (Ghostbusters toys eventually caught on, but only after an animated series helped nudge kids in their direction.)

Warner Bros. saw Batman differently. When the script was being developed, producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber were urging writers to make sure scenes were aligned with planned merchandising. They scribbled notes insisting that no onscreen harm come to the Batmobile: It should remain pristine so that kids would want to grab the toy version. As Batman, millionaire Bruce Wayne had a collection of vehicles and gadgets at his disposal—all props that could be replicated in plastic. Batman's comic book origins gave him a unique iconography that lent itself to flashy graphic apparel.

In March 1989, just three months before the film's release, Warner Bros. announced that it was merging with Time Inc. to create the mega-conglomerate Time-Warner, which would allow the film studio to capitalize on a deep bench of talent to help drive the “event” feel of the film.

Prince was signed to Warner's record label and agreed to compose an album of concept music that was tied to the characters; “Batdance" was among the songs and became a #1 hit. Their licensing arm, Licensing Corporation of America, contracted with 300 licensees to create more than 100 products, some of which were featured in an expansive brochure that resembled a bat-eared Neiman Marcus catalog. The sheer glut of product became a story, as evidenced by this Entertainment Tonight segment on the film's licensing push:

In addition to the rhinestone jacket, fans could opt for the Batman watch ($34.95), a baseball cap ($7.95), bicycle shorts ($26.95), a matching top ($24.95), a model Batwing ($29.95), action figures ($5.95), and a satin jacket modeled by Batman co-creator Bob Kane ($49.95).

The Batman logo became a way of communicating anticipation for the film. The virtually textless teaser poster, which had only the June 23 opening date printed on it, was snapped up and taped to walls. (Roughly 1200 of the posters sized for bus stops and subways were stolen, a crude but effective form of market research.) In barber shops, people began asking to have the logo sheared into the sides of their heads. The Batman symbol was omnipresent. If you had forgotten about the movie for even five minutes, someone would eventually walk by sporting a pair of Batman earrings to remind you.

At Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles, 7000 packs of Batman trading cards flew out the door. Management hired additional staff and a security guard to handle the crowds. The store carried 36 different kinds of Batman T-shirts. Observers compared the hysteria to the hula hoop craze of the 1950s.

One retailer made a more contemporary comparison. “There’s no question Batman is the hottest thing this year,” Marie Strong, manager of It’s a Small World at a mall in La Crosse, Wisconsin, told the La Crosse Tribune. “[It’s] the hottest [thing] since Spuds McKenzie toward the end of last year.”

 

By the time Batman was in theaters and breaking records—it became the first film to make $100 million in just 10 days, alerting studios to the idea of short-term profits—the merchandising had become an avalanche. Stores that didn’t normally carry licensed goods, like Macy’s, set up displays.

Not everyone opted for officially-licensed apparel: U.S. marshals conducted raids across the country, seizing more than 40,000 counterfeit Batman shirts and other bogus items.

Collectively, Warner raked in $500 million from legitimate products. In 1991, the Los Angeles Times reported that the studio claimed only $2.9 million in profit had been realized from merchandising and that the movie itself was in a $35.8 million financial hole owing to excessive promotional and production costs. It was a tale typical of creative studio accounting, long a method for avoiding payouts to net profit participants. (Nicholson, whose contract stipulated a cut of all profits, earned $50 million.)

Whatever financial sleight-of-hand was implemented, Warner clearly counted on Batman to be a money-printing operation. Merchandising plans for the sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns, were even more strategic, including a tie-in agreement with McDonald’s for Happy Meals. In a meta moment, one deleted script passage even had Batman’s enemies attacking a toy store in Gotham full of Batman merchandise. The set was built but the scene never made it onscreen.

The studio was willing to give Burton more control over the film, which was decidedly darker and more sexualized than the original. Batman Returns was hardly a failure, but merchandising was no longer as hot as it was in the summer of 1989. Instead of selling out of shirts, stores ended up marking down excess inventory. McDonald’s, unhappy with the content of the film, enacted a policy of screening movies they planned to partner with before making any agreements. By the time Warner released 1995’s Batman Forever, the franchise was essentially a feature-length toy commercial.

It paid off. Licensing for the film topped $1 billion. Today, given the choice between a film with Oscar-level prestige or one with the potential to have its logo emblazoned on a rhinestone jacket that people would actually want to buy, studios would probably choose the latter. In that sense, the Batmania of 1989 endures.

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