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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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Space Goat Publishing
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Comics
These Evil Dead 2 Comics Will Look Groovy on Your Bookshelf
Space Goat Publishing
Space Goat Publishing

Bruce Campbell has been quoted as saying the gallons of fake blood poured into his face during filming of the 1987 cult classic horror film Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn led to a week of red-tinged mucus leaking out of his nostrils. Fortunately, no Campbells were harmed in the making of two new comic collections from Space Goat Productions that are now being funded on Kickstarter. The Evil Dead 2 Omnibus features over 300 pages of stories set in the Necronomicon-plagued universe featured in numerous comic book miniseries; The Art of Evil Dead 2 reveals never-before-seen production art from both the comics and ancillary projects.

The campaign is the latest from Space Goat, the Bellingham, Washington-based company that’s made a cottage (or cabin) industry from products spinning out of the Sam Raimi-directed film, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. In addition to the new collections, the publisher has also issued an Evil Dead 2 coloring book; a comic where Campbell’s demon-fighting hero, Ash Williams, encounters Adolf Hitler; and a forthcoming board game where players can navigate Deadite threats while shaking their head at Ash’s questionable competency. (No matter the iteration, he seems ill-equipped to deal with the threat of his own possessed and lopped-off hand.)

According to Space Goat publisher Shon Bury, licensing the Evil Dead 2 property from rights holders StudioCanal in 2015 has been a buoy in navigating the difficult waters of comic book publishing. (Even Marvel, which rakes in billions through its film franchises, struggles to sell more than 60,000 to 70,000 copies of its most popular monthly titles.) One day into its Kickstarter launch, the Evil Dead titles had reached 50 percent of their $20,000 funding goal.

“It’s definitely our flagship on the publishing side,” Bury tells Mental Floss. “The board game is our top seller in the Evil Dead category, and the coloring book sells really well. They’re our evergreen products.”

The cover to 'The Art of Evil Dead 2' from Space Goat Publishing
Space Goat Publishing

Exploring Ash’s adventures in other media comes with a few caveats. While Space Goat is free to explore the characters and situations portrayed in Evil Dead 2, incorporating ideas from the rest of the series (including 1993’s Army of Darkness or the Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead) is generally off-limits. And while the StudioCanal rights include a likeness of Campbell, the actor has veto power over how he’s depicted on the page. “For some reason, he doesn’t like the dimple on his chin to be drawn,” Bury says. “But he’s very insistent that the scar on his face from the movie is always there.”

Other actors featured in the film—like Richard Domeier, the future home-shopping host who portrayed “Evil Ed”—may not have granted their likeness rights, but his Deadite character design is part of the deal. “You want to inoculate the owner or licensor of the rights,” Bury says. “So we submit drawings and they might say, ‘No, too close to the actor.’”

That development process is part of what makes up The Art of Evil Dead 2, one-half of Space Goat’s current Kickstarter project that follows a successful Evil Dead 2 board game launch in 2016. The campaigns, Bury says, help target Ash fans with material that might not get enough attention if it were released directly to retailers. “Kickstarter is basically social media. It’s direct engagement, our way of saying to fans, ‘Hey, you’re really going to like this.’”

Bury expects fans to be just as enthused about Evil Dead 2: The Doppelganger Wars, a limited series due for release in 2018 that sees Ash and sidekick Annie Knowby enter the mirror dimension glimpsed at in Evil Dead 2 to discover the true origins of both the demon-summoning Necronomicon and the cult surrounding it. A meeting with H.P. Lovecraft may also be on deck, along with other narratives that would carry the license through the end of the publisher’s current agreement with StudioCanal in late 2019.

Still to be decided: whether Ash will ever encounter the werewolves of The Howling, Space Goat’s latest horror license. “Those conversations have occurred,” Bury says. “It would be a natural. But it’s also challenging because the royalties [for the licenses] double.” 

Digital versions of The Art of Evil Dead 2 and the Evil Dead Omnibus will be available to backers pledging $20 beginning in December. Softcover, hardcover, and Necronomicon slipcase editions ($30 and up) ship in May 2018. The Kickstarter runs through November 25.

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Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
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History
How Superman Helped Foil the KKK
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images
Hulton Archive (left), Bruno Vincent (right) // Getty Images

The Klansmen were furious.

Dozens of them had congregated in a nondescript room in Atlanta, shaking cloaked heads at the worrisome news that their sect leader had just shared: An act of gross subterfuge had transpired over the airwaves. Millions of Americans had now become privy to their policies, their rankings, their closely guarded methods of organized hatred.

All of it fodder for some comic book radio show. Their mission had been compromised, sacrificed at the altar of popular culture. Kids, one Klansman sighed. His kids were in the streets playing Superman vs. the Klan. Some of them tied red towels around their necks; others pranced around in white sheets. Their struggle for racial purity had been reduced to a recess role play.

Stetson Kennedy listened, doing his best to give off irate body language. He scowled. He nodded. He railed.

The covert activist waited patiently for the Klan to settle down. When they did, he would call radio journalists Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson, offering the results of his infiltration into the group for public consumption.

He’d also contact Robert Maxwell, producer of the Superman radio serial. Maxwell, eager to aid the humanitarian mission of the Anti-Defamation League, would promptly insert the leaked information into his show’s scripts. In between fisticuffs, his cast would mock the KKK’s infrastructure, and the group’s loathsome attitudes would be rendered impotent by the juvenilia.

The Klan roared, demanding revenge on their traitor. “Show me the rat,” their leader said, “and I’ll show you some action.”

Kennedy cheered, just as they all did.

And when he returned home, his Klan robe would be traded for a cape.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Kennedy, born in 1916, was an unlikely undercover operative. After a back injury kept him out of World War II, the Jacksonville, Florida native decided he wanted to combat anti-American forces on the home front. With Klan members alleged to have assaulted his family’s black maid when he was a child, the Klan—once again gathering steam in an era of segregation and racial divisiveness—was a favored target.

Having convinced a “Klavern” in Atlanta, Georgia that he shared their bigoted views, Kennedy donned the ominous attire of a Klansman, attended cross burnings, and covertly collected information about the group that he would then share with law enforcement and media. Radio journalist Drew Pearson would read the names and minutes of their meetings on air, exposing their guarded dialogues.

Revealing their closed-door sessions was a blow—one that Kennedy didn’t necessarily have to confine to nonfiction. In 1946, Maxwell, who produced the Superman radio serial broadcast around the country, embraced Kennedy’s idea to contribute to a narrative that had Superman scolding the racial divisiveness of the Klan and airing their dirty laundry to an enraptured audience.

“The law offices, state, county, FBI, House Un-American Activities Committee, they were all sympathetic with the Klan,” Kennedy said later. “The lawmen were, ideologically at least, close with the Klansmen. The court of public opinion was all that was left.”

Ostensibly aimed at children, Superman’s daily radio dramas were often broadcast to assembled nuclear families; one phone poll showed that 35 percent of its audience was composed of adults.

But regardless of whether parents listened, the activist believed the younger demographic was worth attending to. “Even back in the ’40s, they had kids in the Klan, little girls dressed up in Klan robes at the cross burnings," Kennedy said. "I have photos of an infant in a cradle with a complete Klan robe on. It seemed like a good place to do some educating.” 

In “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a 16-part serial airing in June and July of 1946, Superman opposes an organized group of hatemongers who target one of Jimmy Olsen’s friends. Exploring their network, Clark Kent uncovers their secret meetings and policies before his alter ego socks the “Grand Scorpion” in the jaw. The idea, Kennedy wrote in his account of his work, The Klan Unmasked, was to made a mockery of their overblown vernacular.

When traveling, for example, Klansmen might identify one another by asking if they “knew Mr. Ayak,” an acronym for “Are You a Klansman?” Although Kennedy may not have actually shared their code words on air—a longstanding myth that was debunked in Rick Bowers’s 2012 book, Superman vs. the KKK—their histrionics were perfect for dramatization in the breathless structure of a radio drama. Given shape by actors and sound effects, all the clubhouse tropes of the Klan seemed exceedingly silly.

The cover to the first issue of Superman
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Kennedy continued to serve up Klan secrets to Superman, he watched as Klan morale dipped and membership enrollment ebbed. Desperate, the Klan tried calling for a boycott of Kellogg’s, a new sponsor of the show, but racial intolerance was no match for the appetites of post-World War II homes. Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes remained breakfast table staples, and Superman’s battles with the close-minded continued. Emboldened by his success against the Klan, Superman took aim at Communism, a favorite target of the show’s anti-Red star, Bud Collyer.

Kennedy would go on to burden the Klan using proof of uncollected tax liens, and eventually convinced the state of Georgia to revoke their national corporate charter.

Kennedy died in 2011 at the age of 94. While some of his accounts of subterfuge in the Klan later came under fire for being embellished, his bravery in swimming with the sharks of the organization is undeniable. So, too, was his wisdom in utilizing American iconography to suffocate prejudice. Fictional or not, Superman may have done more to stifle the Klan’s postwar momentum than many real people who merely stood by and watched.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon by Jake Rossen with permission from Chicago Review Press. Copyright (c) 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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