Wednesday, December 2, 2020



Free Comic Book Day 2020 was different this year. The FCBD comics weren’t given out on their traditional first Saturday of May date because, like most businesses, comic-book shops went into lockdown. The comics shops eventually reopened under various restrictions and customers were able to get free comics. Still, the big celebrations of the past were largely a thing of the past.

Before I go any further, here’s my usual boilerplate explanation of Free Comic Book Day as cribbed from the event’s website:

Free Comic Book Day is an annual event founded on the belief that for every person out there, there’s a comic book they’ll love. Every year, on the first Saturday in May, the industry comes together to give away free comics and encourage fans, both old and new, to flock to the best place in the comic book community: local comic shops. These are the hubs of our community, where fans can come together and discover new comics, make lifelong friends, and find a sense of commonality.

And my usual suggestion:
It’s important to note that these free comic books are not free to the comics shops. They pay for them. So, if you’re visiting a shop to get some free comics, help that establishment stay in business by buying some comics from them as well.

Every year, my pals at Stormwatch Comics in West Berlin, New Jersey send all those comics to me so I can read and write about them in the bloggy. Only twice have I actually reached my goal of reading and writing about all the FCBD comics available in one year. Maybe this year is a year in which I three-peat that achievement. I think I can do it, but it’ll likely take me until sometime in early 2021 to complete this mission.

When I read and review FCBD comics, I look at three areas.

QUALITY: Is the material worthwhile?

ACCESSIBILITY: Is the material presented in such a way that someone coming to it for the first time can follow it?

SALESMANSHIP: After reading the FCBD offering, would someone want and be able to buy more of the same?

I score FCBD offerings on a scale of zero to ten. Each category is worth three points with the tenth point coming from my interest in seeing more of what’s ever in the book.


Batman: Overdrive/Batman Tales: Once Upon a Crime [DC Comics] is a flip book containing previews of these “DC Comics for Kids” graphic novels. While all of the other FCBD issues are standard comic-book-size, this one measures 8" by 5-1/2".

Batman: Overdrive (12 pages) by Shea Fontana with artist Marcelo DiChiara has young Bruce Wayne on the verge of getting his driver’s and restoring his father’s prized 1966 Crusader. The kid is also investigating the murder of his parents, sure the official report of their deaths is wrong. He goes to a junkyard for parts, meets a new friend and gets his first glimpse of the future Catwoman. It’s a well-told excerpt with only one element with which I must raise objection. The movie Bruce attends with his parents on that tragic night is...Captain Carrot? No, that’s just wrong.

Included on this side of the flip book is a nine-page preview of Primer by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski with art by Gretel Lusky. Thirteen-year-old Ashley has body paint that gives wearers super-powers determined by their colors. It’s a top secret military weapon that she stumbled upon. This is a cool concept and I plan on requesting the graphic novel from my local library.

Batman Tales: Once Upon a Crime re-imagines Bruce as Wayneocchio, a puppet who wants to fight crime. Written by Derek Fridolfs with art by Dustin Nguyen, the fairy-tale twist offers amusing moments. I’m leaning towards requesting this graphic novel as well.

This side also includes My Video Game Ate My Homework by writer and artist Dustin Hansen. The 11-page excerpt didn’t appeal to me and it’s the only one of the four features whose full graphic novel I won’t be seeking out.

QUALITY: With the exception of the video game thing, this material was very well-written and well-drawn.

ACCESSIBILITY: The three excerpts that I liked were all easy to get into. Which is important to me in a comics industry that too often publishes impenetrable issues.

SALESMANSHIP: Solid. Besides ads for the full graphic novels of the four excerpts, there were ads for two other aimed-at-kids graphic novels.

SCORE: Three of the four excerpts are terrific, so I’m only going to ding this FCBD issue one point for the video game one. This book gets nine out of a possible ten points.


Archie Blue Ribbon Presents [Archie Comics] features two excerpts from recent graphic novels. We get 13 pages of Betty and Veronica: The Bonds of Friendship by Jamie Lee Rotante and Brittney Williams, followed by six pages of “Nightcrawlers” by Michol Ostow and artist Thomas Pitilli, which seems to be a prologue to the Riverdale: The Ties That Bind.

QUALITY: The Betty and Veronica excerpt is excellent, inspirational and topical. I liked it well enough to request the graphic novel from my library. The Riverdale excerpt was readable.

ACCESSIBILITY: The Betty and Veronica excerpt was easy to get into. The Riverdale excerpt was not new reader-friendly, especially for some one who has only watched 15 minutes of the TV series and never read one of the comic books.

SALESMANSHIP: Quite good. Besides ads for the two graphic novels, there were eight pages of other ads.

SCORE: Nine-and-a-half out of ten points. I wasn’t sold on reading the Riverdale graphic novel.


Asterix [Papercutz] is a fine introduction to the international bestseller by writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo. What editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup and his team have produced here is a sampler of the wonders of the legendary villagers who battled off the Romans who had conquered the rest of Gaul. This free comic book presents excerpts from several Asterix graphic novels to acquaint new readers with the friendship and the history of our indomitable heroes.

QUALITY: This is hilarious stuff, combining physical and verbal comedy with characters you can’t help but love. My solitary quibble is that the lettering could be larger.

ACCESSIBILITY: This comic book will give you enough background on the characters and their world to make reading these excerpts quite enjoyable.

SALESMANSHIP: Salicrup’s editorial shows what he learned during his time at Marvel and working closely with the great Stan Lee. There’s also a inside back cover showcasing several of the Asterix graphic novels that Papercutz is publishing.

SCORE: Ten out of ten points. Your comics education isn’t complete with some Asterix in your home library.

That’s all for now, my friends. Look for more of my Free Comic Book Day commentary in the near future.

© 2020 Tony Isabella

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