Local comic-book shops on Comic Con, Free Comic Book Day

Kevin Timm

Kevin Timm

This weekend Wizard World, one of the country's largest traveling conventions of geekdom, will bless the Twin Cities with its inaugural event at the Minneapolis Convention Center. So if you want to snap a photo with Link from the Legend of Zelda video game series, are looking for an autograph from Ian Ziering of Sharknado and Beverly Hills 90210 fame, or are dying to buy a furry Chewbacca robe, Wizard World's pop-culture Comic Con can make all of that happen.
But as we note in this week's feature story, some local retailers are claiming that Wizard World isn't concerned with putting the "comic" in "comic con," and that throwing its three-day party just two weeks before regional convention SpringCon is putting the squeeze on area comic-book lovers.

See also:
War of the Geeks: Comic Con storms Minneapolis

"From what I'm hearing, there's not going to be a lot of local dealers at [Wizard World]," says Kevin Timm, co-owner of Captain Jack's Comics. "On the other hand, I think the MCBA really loves comics. They're great."

Timm is referring to the Midwest Comic Book Association, which has held SpringCon in mid-May for most of its 25-year run. One of the largest regional comics-focused events, SpringCon will celebrate the four-color world May 17 and 18 in the Grandstand of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. It's been on the schedule for quite awhile, which is why comic-book lovers and retailers aren't impressed that Wizard World's first foray into the Twin Cities happens shortly before this beloved event.

"It may not have been intentional that [Wizard World] placed it so close to SpringCon. It may not have been in a predatory sense," says Andrew Troth, owner of Mind's Eye Comics. "But they are holding a huge con two weeks before a con that has been around for 20 years."

Wizard World denies scheduling its convention to compete directly with SpringCon.
"Our biggest disappointment is we view it as a lost opportunity," says MCBA co-director Nick Postiglione, who has a "more, the merrier" attitude when it comes to bringing conventions and retailers to the region. "I said [to Wizard World], 'When you guys come, give us fair warning, and we'll help. We'd be happy to promote your show.'"

"And then they landed right on top of us," Postiglione concludes.

The three-day Wizard World weekend also takes place during Free Comic Book Day, celebrated nationally by comic-book shops on the first Saturday in May every year. FCBD typically is a carnival for local stores, which give away hundreds of thousands of comics, while also planning games, music, and other activities to attract both longtime and new customers. Many retailers say the holiday, this year on Saturday, May 3, is a vital part of a store's business, and contributes to its position in the community. They're not pleased that Wizard World, which seems to promote celebrity culture over comic books, is interfering.

"To have a huge con coming in on that day, appealing to the exact same people that comic-book stores would like to have, just makes it seem like they're trying something," Troth says.

"That's by far our busiest day of the year, bar none," agrees Timm.

Though he appreciates the support, Postiglione isn't interested in waging war with Wizard World.

"We just don't have the interest or the energy to lock horns with them," Postiglione says. "That's not what we're about. We're about, 'Everybody is welcome.' We're about, 'There's a space here for you.' The thing that ultimately bothers me is I'm in it because I love it. They're in it because they can get $200 for Bill Shatner's autograph," he says.

Continue to page two for Free Comic Book Day activities.


Postiglione, who is co-owner of Source Comics and Games in addition to organizing SpringCon, is excited about Free Comic Book Day.

"At my store alone, we give away two and a half tons of comics -- that's 33,000 books in one day," Postiglione says with pride. "You can't imagine the carnage here."

Postiglione says that this weekend, Source will also welcome a game company to run demos, and will feature a lineup of expert comics creators like Dan Jurgens, Doug Mahnke, and Christopher Jones. But for Postiglione, the best part is watching his community enjoy a shared passion.

"It's a real affirmation for people within the hobby, and it gives them a way to show their affection to others," Postiglione says. "Everybody's talking about comics. 'What's in the bag?' and 'Which ones did you get?' It's a really festive, enjoyable environment."

That kind of atmosphere is what entices Free Comic Book day attendees to discover a new love for comics or deepen their current devotion.

"The hope is that once they're in the store, they find stuff they like, and eventually want to buy, or they want to come back another time," says Troth, who often plans a three- or four-day sale around the holiday. "They just have a greater awareness of what comic books are, and what is available. We've had a lot more people come in and check us out because of this day."
With all that foot traffic, Free Comic Book Day sales definitely are on the agenda for many comic shops.

"Everything in the store is on sale," says Timm, who also sells collectible comics worldwide online. "Free Comic Book Day gets us word of mouth. It'll definitely be our best day of the year."

And what about the people who are discovering comic books solely because of films like Man of Steel or The Amazing Spider-Man?

"As long as people keep reading comics, that's a cool thing," Timm says.