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FreeComicBookDay.com

10 Free Comics To Get On Free Comic Book Day

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FreeComicBookDay.com

Saturday, May 7 marks the 15th annual Free Comic Book Day, in which comic book shops around the world will give out over 6 million select comics free of charge. The 50 different titles that will be available span the industry’s vast array of genres and target audiences.

The following are 10 comics that cover everything from superheroes to manga to educational comics, showcasing the wide variety you’ll be able to find at your local comics shop. Free comics are great, but while you’re there, don’t forget to buy something, too!

1. CIVIL WAR II

Marvel Comics

With Captain America: Civil War hitting theaters this weekend, there is sure to be demand for this prelude to the new Civil War II mini-series. The film is loosely based off of a 2006 comic in which the superhero community gets split into two factions over whether or not to register their identities with the federal government. The sequel will once again feature a rift, with two sides falling behind either Iron Man or Captain America—but this time, the divisive subject is whether the power to predict the future should allow for someone to be tried before they commit a crime.

A backup story in this FCBD issue introduces a new version of classic Avenger the Wasp, written and drawn by comic veterans Mark Waid and Alan Davis.

2. DC SUPERHERO GIRLS

DC Comics

DC Comics has a vast array of great female characters, but only now does the publisher seem to be tapping into the potential they have to appeal to young female readers. DC Superhero Girls is both a new cartoon series and a line of Barbie-sized action figures. It's set in a superhero high school where characters like Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn have adventures that teach lessons about empowerment and friendship. This Free Comic Book Day sampler includes two stories from the upcoming graphic novel that will be released this summer.

3. ROM #0

IDW Publishing

Joining other 1980s mainstays like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and the Micronauts is Rom the Space Knight. Like the Micronauts, the original Rom comic series from Marvel long outlived the actual toy line and remains a nostalgic fan favorite. IDW Publishing, who is already making comics with the properties mentioned above, has picked up the long dormant Rom comic book license, and this free issue will act as a prologue to the new ongoing series that launches in July.

4. ATTACK ON TITAN ANTHOLOGY

Kodansha

Attack on Titan is the most popular manga of the past decade, and it has spawned critically acclaimed anime, prose novels, and video games. It is a multi-volume epic about the citizens of a walled city besieged by giant, horrific “Titans” who attack and eat humans. Its popularity has reached the States and it has inspired many Western comic creators. To celebrate this, manga publisher Kodansha is releasing an anthology of Titan stories by an impressive collection of creators, like Cameron Stewart, Michael Avon Oeming, Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Babs Tarr, Tomer Hanuka, Faith Erin Hicks, Kevin Wada, and more. This sampler contains excerpts of many of the brand new stories that will appear in the anthology.

5. SCIENCE COMICS

First Second

First Second’s new educational Science Comics line launched earlier this year with two kid-friendly graphic novels, one about Dinosaurs and another about Coral Reefs. They tackle the scientific details of their subjects in a way that middle-schoolers will appreciate, by using humor and charming illustrations. Their Free Comic Book Day offering includes two new science-related non-fiction stories by Maris Wicks (Coral Reefs) and Jon Chad (Volcanoes).

6. ARCHIE

Archie Comics

If you haven’t been following comics lately, you may be surprised to learn that Archie Comics is one of the most daring and interesting comic publishers of the past few years. They’re always willing to take chances with their brand's beloved characters, most recently with a reboot aimed to modernize Archie, Betty, Veronica, and gang into something that more closely resembles a modern teen comedy. Mark Waid and Fiona Staples’ Archie comic is fun and stylish, and this FCBD re-release of the first issue in the series is a great introduction for new readers.

7. 2000 A.D.

2000 A.D.

UK publisher 2000 A.D. has been putting out their weekly science fiction comics anthology of the same name for over three decades now, but many American readers still are unfamiliar. Anyone who enjoys comics like Prophet and Saga will probably find a lot to enjoy in 2000 A.D.'s imaginative and often satirical brand of science fiction. This extra-sized free issue contains samples from a bunch of 2000 A.D. staples, including Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper.

8. ONE-PUNCH MAN

Viz Media

One-Punch Man, the surprise manga hit of 2015, now has multiple volumes available in bookstores and comic shops, and this FCBD sampler is a great example of why so many people love this dynamic send-up of superhero comics. It is the ongoing story of Saitama, a young man with a deadpan face who easily defeats any opponent with just one punch, a fact that fills him with unbearable ennui. This sampler includes both a One-Punch Man story and a My Hero Academia story, which is a superhero high school comic that runs in Japan’s Weekly Shonen Jump.

9. WE CAN NEVER GO HOME // YOUNG TERRORISTS

Black Mask Studios

Black Mask Studios is a new publisher who's been rapidly putting out subversive, mature-reader material by interesting new creators. Their Free Comic Book Day “Mixtape” contains samples of two of their best series so far. “Side A” is a new chapter in the super-powered teenage runaway drama We Can Never Go Home that will bridge the gap between the previous volume and the upcoming one. “Side B” contains a story from Young Terrorists, the edgy near-future comic about the daughter of a globalist kingpin who leads an uprising against the government, big banks, and the military.

10. BOOM! STUDIOS SUMMER BLAST

Boom! Studios

Boom! Studios is putting out some of today’s best comics geared towards a diverse all-ages audience. This sampler contains not only their biggest hit, Lumberjanes, but also a preview of their next Adventure Time series, an excerpt from their excellent new mini-series Goldie Vance, and an all-new Mouse Guard story from David Peterson. There’s also a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story and a preview of the upcoming fantasy graphic novel The Cloud.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

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