Today is Free Comic Book Day!
According to Wikipedia, Free Comic Book Day is:
“…an annual promotional effort on the first Saturday of May by the North American comic book industry to help bring new readers into independent comic book stores…Free Comic Book Day started in 2002 and is coordinated by the industry’s single large distributor, Diamond Comic Distributors.”
Basically, this is a specific day for comic book fans around the world to celebrate their fandom and an attempt to generate a community of new readers in the community. But why?
Undoubtedly, there are commercial/economic goals and incentives for FCBD. However, the comic book industry is not solely founded on the pursuit of wealth. The creators of the first comic book superheroes wanted to make a difference. Literacy is still a growing concern among the upcoming generations. Some children find it difficult to assimilate the words on the page alone. Many educators utilize comic books for children having difficulty with literacy. But some educators would argue that combating literacy is the only education use to comic books. I can assure you that this belief is 100% false. Not only is it a disservice to the industry but to the readers of these fine works as well.
Comic books and their creators emerged on the literary stage in the 1930s. They were social crusaders fighting against the evils of the Great Depression and, soon after, the Axis Powers. Their influence into social issues spans from the 1930s to the modern day. Here are some examples:
- In the first Issue of Action Comics, Superman saves someone from a wrongful execution, stops domestic violence, political corruption and street crime that readers of the 1930s lived with every day. (Action Comics #1)
- Dr. William Moulton Marston criticized comics for not having any strong female characters. DC hires him to create Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is the first female superhero and is a strong, inspiring personality in December of 1941. She is the opposite of what women are expected to be in the 1940s.
- Green Lantern/Green Arrow by Neil Adams and Denny O’Neil became a microscope for readers of comic, both young and old to examine the problems facing society. Denny O’Neil brought new hot topic to comic books like racism, pollution, poverty, oppressive business and other topics. O’Neil and Adams use Green Lantern and Green Arrow to educate comic book readers. It forced everyone to think. O’Neil stated, “Green Lantern is the symbol of antiquated liberal reform. Green Arrow is the voice of radical change.” Naïve Liberals were not safe. It criticized those believing that good intentions and strict enforcement of the law would solve society’s problems. In the comic books, O’Neil states that, like life, there are no quick immediate fixes to society’s problems.
- 1970, the Nixon administration’s Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to create an anti-drug storyline. He used the “Green Goblin Reborn!” in the Spring 1971 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man to accomplish these goals. The arc had a clear anti-drug message but due to the actual mention of drugs the Comic Code Authority did not wanted the story released. Le stated, “I could understand them; they were like lawyers, people who take things literally and technically. The Code mentioned that you mustn’t mention drugs and, according to their rules, they were right. So I didn’t even get mad at them then. I said, ‘Screw it’ and just took the Code seal off for those three issues. Then we went back to the Code again. I never thought about the Code when I was writing a story, because basically I never wanted to do anything that was to my mind too violent or too sexy. I was aware that young people were reading these books, and had there not been a Code, I don’t think that I would have done the stories any differently.”
Comic books are smart, so are their readers. To denigrate one is to do the same to the other. To celebrate comic books is also an action of celebrating their readers as well. Comic book readers/creators are often overlooked simply as nerds, geeks or dorks. But these “social outcasts” and “misfits” can be the architects of great change. It depends upon the reader of course, but notice how many comic book enthusiasts use their fandom for charitable work or public awareness to one degree or another.
The stores are still open so go get your Free Comic Book Day swag, maybe browse the shelves and buy another great story too. But importantly, be a vessel of positive change in your world.
Happy reading all and May the Fourth Be With You!
P.S. I will discuss May the Fourth and Revenge of the Fifth as a whole tomorrow.