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

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.

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Marvel Entertainment
The Litigious History of DC and Marvel’s Rival Captain Marvel Characters
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Marvel Entertainment

Behind-the-scenes struggles and legal wrangling have played just as big of a part in the history of comic books as the colorful battles on the pages themselves. And one of the most complex and long-lasting disputes in the industry has focused on Captain Marvel—or at least the two distinct versions of the character that have coexisted in a state of confusion at both Marvel and DC for decades.

Like many comic book tangles, this dispute was made possible because of the debut of Superman. Soon after his first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #1, there was a deluge of knockoffs from publishers looking for a piece of the Man of Steel pie. Though most of these were fly-by-night analogues, Fawcett Comics’s attempt at its own superhero wasn’t an inferior model—it quickly became real competition.

ENTER: THE BIG RED CHEESE

Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was created in late 1939 by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck and debuted in Whiz Comics #2. On his first cover, Captain Marvel is shown carelessly throwing a car against a brick wall, as two criminals bolt out of the windows. In Action Comics #1, Superman made his debut by hoisting a similar car over his head and driving it into the Earth, as the criminals inside fled.

The similarities were unmistakable: Here were two caped strongmen with heroic squints and circus tights leaping around cities and battling mad (and bald) scientists. But while Clark Kent got his powers from his Kryptonian physiology, Captain Marvel was, in reality, a young boy named Billy Batson who would receive his powers by shouting the magic word “SHAZAM!” If Superman was the straitlaced Boy Scout, Captain Marvel earned his moniker of "The Big Red Cheese" through sheer camp, a wink, and a nod.

Seniority mattered little to young comic book readers, and once Captain Marvel found his footing, he was outselling Superman at the newsstand and beating him to the screen by receiving his own live-action film serial in 1941. But as Captain Marvel reached larger audiences, DC was in the midst of legal action against Fawcett for copyright infringement. The claim was simple: Captain Marvel was a bit too close to Superman for DC's comfort.

DC wanted Fawcett to cease production of the serial and comics by the early 1940s, but Fawcett fought to delay a court battle for years. It wasn’t until 1948 that the case actually went to trial, with the dust finally settling in DC's favor in 1954. Legally, Fawcett would never be allowed to print another Captain Marvel book. By now, though, the superhero market was near extinction, so for Fawcett, it wasn’t even worth it to appeal again. Instead, the publisher closed shop, leaving Superman to soar the skies of Metropolis without any square-jawed competition on the newsstands.

MARVEL CLAIMS ITS NAME

The next decade would see a superhero revitalization, beginning with DC’s revamped takes on The Flash and Green Lantern in the late 1950s, and exploding just a few years later when Timely Comics changed its name to Marvel Comics and launched a roster of heavy-hitters like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, all by 1962.

Marvel was a buzzword again, and in 1966, a short-lived company called M.F. Enterprises tried to capitalize with a new character named Captain Marvel—generally considered one of the worst superheroes ever put to paper.

Marvel now needed to stop inferior comics from using its name on their covers, so it obtained the trademark for the Captain Marvel name and went about protecting it by introducing yet another character named Captain Marvel. This new alien version of the hero made his debut shortly after in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12.

The character was born purely for legal reasons. According to comic book veteran Roy Thomas, Stan Lee only created a Captain Marvel at publisher Martin Goodman's insistence: "All I know is the basis of the character came from a resentment over the use of the ‘Captain Marvel’ name."

Comics are nothing if not needlessly confusing at times, and by the early 1970s, Superman wasn’t quite the sales force he used to be. In need of some fresh blood, DC turned to an unlikely source for help: Fawcett. The company had reemerged in the late 1960s as the publisher of Dennis the Menace comics, but its hands were tied when the superhero business revived since it was legally forbidden from producing new Captain Marvel books. So they did the next best thing by agreeing to license the character and his supporting cast to DC in 1973.

CAPTAINS IN DISPUTE

Now the world’s two biggest publishers both had high-profile characters named Captain Marvel. But there was a catch: Since Marvel owned the rights to the name, DC couldn’t call its new Captain Marvel comic Captain Marvel. Instead, all of his comics went by the title Shazam, as did the character’s live-action TV revival in the mid-1970s. Oddly enough, the name of the character himself was still—wait for it—Captain Marvel. So DC could retain the character’s name in the stories but couldn’t slap it onto book covers or TV shows. Only Marvel could monetize the name Captain Marvel.

Right after Captain Marvel’s first DC book launched in 1973, there was an immediate hiccup. The full title of the series was the slightly antagonistic Shazam: The Original Captain Marvel. That lasted all of 14 issues before a cease and desist order from Marvel turned the series into Shazam: The World’s Mightiest Mortal. Marvel, on the other hand, found itself in the position to keep its trademark by continuously pumping out more books with Captain Marvel on the cover, which is why the company’s history is littered with reboots and new versions of the character turning up every two years or so.

By the 1990s, DC had outright purchased its Captain Marvel from Fawcett, but it could barely promote him. There are only so many times you can put Shazam on a comic cover but refer to him as Captain Marvel on the inside without confusing your readers. So in 2012, DC and writer Geoff Johns decided to end the decades of confusion and simply rename the character Shazam, because, as John said, “everybody thinks he's called Shazam already.”

In 2019, these two characters that are seemingly forever linked will have another shared milestone when they both make their big screen debuts. Marvel’s Captain Marvel will hit theaters on March 8, 2019, with Brie Larson playing the Carol Danvers version of the character. And after nearly 80 years of switching publishers, changing names, and lengthy legal battles, Zachary Levi will play the title role in Shazam! a month later on April 5.

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Evening Standard/Getty Images
8 Actors Who've Played Batman (and What Fans Had to Say About Them)
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Batman is one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, which has made playing him a difficult task for more than one actor. (Playing characters with rabid fan bases can be a double-edged sword.) Here, take a look back at eight actors who've donned the Batsuit—and how fans and critics reacted to their performances.

1. LEWIS WILSON

Lewis Wilson as Batman
Columbia Pictures

Lewis Wilson was the youngest person to play Batman. He appeared in the 15-part 1943 Columbia serial. Critics complained about everything from his weight to his accent.

2. ROBERT LOWERY

Robert Lowery took over the role in the 1949 follow-up serial, Batman And Robin. He was a forgettable actor in this role.

3. ADAM WEST

Adam West at 'Batman'
Evening Standard/Getty Images

West played the Caped Crusader from 1966 through 1968 in the Batman television series in addition to a film spin-off. Fans were torn: Either they loved his campy portrayal or hated it.

4. MICHAEL KEATON

Michael Keaton's casting in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film caused such controversy that 50,000 protest letters were sent to Warner Brothers’s offices.

5. VAL KILMER

Val Kilmer in 'Batman Forever' (1995)
Warner BRos.

Val Kilmer put on the suit in 1995 and received mixed reviews. Director Joel Schumacher called the actor “childish and impossible."

6. GEORGE CLOONEY

It's safe to assume Clooney regrets his decision to star in Batman & Robin. It was the worst box-office performer of the modern Batman movies and Clooney once joked that he killed the series.

7. CHRISTIAN BALE


© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Though Christian Bale is largely favored as the best actor to play the Dark Knight, he was not without criticism. NPR’s David Edelstein described his husky voice as “a voice that's deeper and hammier than ever.”

8. BEN AFFLECK

Most recently: Fans immediately took to the internet to decry the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), recalling his previous roles in the poor-performing Gigli and Daredevil.

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