Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics President: Hi, this is Bryant Dillon with Fanboy Comics. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Michael Freedman, owner of Comic Smash, your friendly neighborhood comic book store located on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, California. Michael has been gracious enough to agree to fill in the Fanboy Comics’ audience regarding Comic Smash and the upcoming geek holiday, Free Comic Book Day. Michael, thank you so much for taking time to speak with me today.
Michael Freedman: My pleasure.
BD: Do you want to tell us a little bit about Comic Smash and how you came to own a comic book store?
MF: Sure. Comic Smash is my store. It’s at 11824 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA. I have been a comic book fan most of my life. Always wanted to own a comic book store.
BD: Yeah, it’s a dream of many.
MF: Of course. Of course. And, I was keeping an eye out, looking around for one. Hoping I could find something, After a little while, I found the right store. It was the right price, the right location, right size. Sometimes, the stars just align, you know, you get to live the dream.
BD: Well, and, honestly, I can vouch for it. This is the comic book shop that I go to, and it’s the best I’ve found in California.
MF: Well, thank you.
BD: Definitely check it out. So, let’s get started with Free Comic Book Day. It’s a fairly new event, with the first Free Comic Book Day being held in the year 2002. Can explain a little about what Free Comic Book Day is for those who may not be familiar with it?
MF: Sure. It’s a big promotional day for comic book fans and non-comic book fans alike, where we literally just give away free comic books.
BD: Which is very unusual in any industry.
MF: Yes. So, literally, you’re getting free stuff just for showing up and walking in the door.
BD: Excellent. As the current owner of the comic book store Comic Smash, have you seen a positive response to Free Comic Book Day?
MF: Absolutely. It is always, without a doubt, the best day of the year for us.
BD: A lot of people come in?
BD: And, a varied amount of people, would you say? Young and old?
MF: Oh, sure, yeah. Everything from young kids who are picking up their very first comic book to, you know, people my grandparents’ age who have been buying comic books since before I was even a twinkle in my mother’s eye.
BD: That’s awesome. That’s great to see a spread of people like that. Have you seen Free Comic Book Day grow over the years? In what ways?
MF: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was definitely very, very small when it started. Under-advertised, people didn’t even know about it. Now, it’s everywhere.
BD: If you’ve been to a comic book shop anywhere, you’ve gotten a poly bag at some point that has “Free Comic Book Day” splashed across it. I think that’s pretty much standard everywhere that I’ve been.
BD: I know I have my own, but do you have any specific memories of your first Free Comic Book Day?
MF: Actually, I do. I remember it. It was... let’s see. There was a little comic book store back where I used to live in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. A little hole-in-the-wall store. And, I heard that they were doing a little thing where they were giving away comic books, and I was like, “Great! I want to go to that.” So, I showed up and said, “I want to get free stuff.” And, they gave me a bag that had three or four books in it. The big one was the Ultimate Spider-Man Issue #1, which was a reprint. And, so I read that. First time I read Ultimate Spider-Man. Started picking it up after that.
BD: It’s a very popular series.
MF: Yeah, it still is. And, I think there was a D&D book in there. And, I can’t remember what else was in there, I just remember vividly the Ultimate Spider-Man #1.
BD: Was the D&D book tied into the film?
MF: It very well could have been.
BD: Because, they tend to try to tie in some major film, either a prequel or some sort of related material. I’m assuming there’s some sort of Thor comic on the plate.
MF: There certainly is.
BD: Well, let me ask you this. The comic book industry's single large distributor, Diamond Comic Distributors, is a large force behind Free Comic Book Day. In what ways does Diamond encourage shops like Comic Smash to hold their own Free Comic Book Day events?
MF: Well, they do a lot of things. Others among them being that they sponsor a website.
BD: Oh, nice!
MF: And, I believe it’s just FreeComicBookDay.com. Check me on that, but it basically lists every comic book store in the country participating, and I believe they have links within there for if you’re having a signing, or a creator stopping by. And you can post stuff on there, like if Brian Michael Bendis is coming to your store to do a signing that day, you can put it up that says, “Brian Michael Bendis will be here signing autographs.”
BD: So, make sure to check out the Free Comic Book Day website if you’re unaware if there is an event being held in your area. Next, what can fanboys and fangirls expect from Free Comic Book Day this year?
MF: Oh, it’s going to be a good one.
BD: Bigger than ever? Every year is bigger, right?
MF: Every year is bigger than the year before, of course. This year we have some great titles coming, some good stuff, some DC stuff, great stuff coming out of Marvel.
MF: A couple of other indie titles that are coming out that are worth looking at.
BD: Excellent. Do you have any advice for a novice attending Free Comic Book Day?
MF: Uh, just show up, have a good time, get your free stuff,
BD: Don’t be afraid to say hi.
MF: Yeah, don’t be afraid to say hi. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Take a look at stuff.
BD: I feel like some people can be intimidated in a comic book store, and yours especially, but a lot of comic book shops, you don’t have to be afraid. People, if you talk to them, they will talk back to you.
MF: There’s certainly a lot of guys in the industry. A lot of old-school guys...
BD: Right, like the Simpsons comic book guy, basically...
MF: Right, the cantankerous old man who looks at you cock-eyed when you walk in the door.
BD: “Oh, you’re here on Free Comic Book Day, eh?”
MF: Yeah. But, you know, we’re not all like that. I mean, some of us just love what we do, and we’re more than happy to just spread the joy.
BD: Right, also, this could probably be for many fans their first step into a comic book shop given that that’s one of the goals of Free Comic Book Day. Are there any titles, that they would have to pay for, of course, but are there any titles you recommend for newbies?
MF: Oh, there are certainly a lot. One of the best ones that is great for everyone (male and female) is Fables. Unfortunately, it’s R rated; it’s not for kids. But, for all adults, even girls - yes, gentlemen, give this one to your girlfriends - it will get them into reading comics.
BD: Oh, excellent.
MF: It’s great; it’s a short story. Short synopsis - it’s all the fairy tale characters you know and love, Snow White, Pinocchio, but they’re living in modern-day New York.
BD: Oh, nice.
MF: And, it’s just a lot of fun. Another great title to check out for all ages would be would be Runaways.
BD: Oh, and there’s may be a feature film of that in the works.
MF: Word on the street is that it’s coming. That one is great for all ages, kids and adults. It is a fantastic book; anyone can pick this one up and read it, whether you’re 8 or 80.
BD: What would you say a basic synopsis of that book would be?
MF: It’s about a bunch of kids who discover that their parents are super-villains, and they run away from home to try to stop their parents from doing evil.
BD: It already sounds interesting.
MF: It’s great.
BD: Well, definitely check those out, guys. Well, we at Fanboy Comics, myself especially, are big fans of your shop, Comic Smash. You see me nearly weekly.
MF: I do.
BD: But, for someone who’s never been to your shop on Ventura Blvd., why is Comic Smash the store of choice to celebrate Free Comic Book Day?
MF: Because we’re the best comic book store ever!
BD: I gotta agree. I gotta agree. Two last questions: first, what do you, as both a fan and a retailer, think can be done to improve on Free Comic Book Day?
MF: They’ve certainly stepped up their game in the last couple of years in the quality of merchandise that’s coming out and in terms of the advertisements coming out for it.
MF: The only thing that I would recommend for them to do would be... DC has finally started coming out with new material for Free Comic Book Day. If DC could continue to do that, and maybe if some of the smaller independent studios could find it in their budgets to print new material for Free Comic Book Day as opposed to just reprints, which a lot of companies do...
BD: Yeah, yeah... I’ve noticed that myself as a fan, it took a while given that I’m sort of versed in comic books to sort of break through the idea of - if you’re giving it to me for free, it’s probably not something that I want to read. I think, specifically through your encouragement last year, I read things that I had really never read before and went - wow! They’re really giving out some good material. It’s not just like “Oh, what can we throw together really quickly and hand out for free?”
MF: Sure, I mean Marvel is consistently giving out new material of the highest quality for Free Comic Book Day. DC has gotten better. Two years ago they released the Blackest Night zero issue, which was all new material and it was fantastic.
BD: And, it lead right into a huge event for them that, from my perspective, everyone has really enjoyed.
MF: Absolutely. It was one of the biggest events in comics in the last few years.
BD: Fantastic. Alright, fanboy to fanboy, what should I be trying to get my hands on at this Free Comic Book Day?
MF: I would definitely say the two Marvel books this year are both great. You’ve got an Amazing Spider-man that is written by Dan Sloth that’s just a whole lot of fun. It’s very funny. The other Marvel book, the more kid-oriented book, is a Captain America - Thor book, and it’s written by Chris Sammy, who did the Thor: The Mighty Avenger book, which was a great book that was, unfortunately, cancelled before its time.
BD: As many are...
MF: As many are. It’s a great book if you’ve never really read Thor or Captain America. If you need a little introduction before the movies coming up, it’s just a great Captain America - Thor team-up adventure. The other one I would highly recommend if you don’t have it - it’s a reprint or a partial reprint, but, if you have not checked it out yet, Third World Studios is putting out a partial reprint with some new material for Stuff of Legend. And, if you have not read Stuff of Legend yet...
BD: I have not.
MF: Pick up Stuff of Legend. Pick up that first trade; the second trade is due out very, very soon. It might be on Wednesday, this upcoming Wednesday. But, I cannot recommend Stuff of Legend enough. It is a beautiful, gorgeous book. It is Toy Story if it was intended for a more mature audience.
BD: Oh wow. What an interesting idea.
MF: It is gorgeous art work, a fantastic story. I’ve never been so moved by a book about toys.
BD: Wow. That sounds very exciting! Well, Michael, thank you again so much for taking time to speak with me today. We hope that Free Comic Book Day is a huge success for you. Also, I encourage all of our fans in the Los Angeles area to stop by Michael’s wonderful shop, Comic Smash, located again at 11824 Ventura Blvd in Studio City for Free Comic Book Day and, honestly, any day for any of your comic book and graphic novel needs. It’s a really great place for geeks!
MF: And just to let you know, we’re having a huge sale on Free Comic Book Day.
BD: Oh fantastic.
MF: So almost everything will be on sale. Action figures, graphic novels, back issues will all be on sale on Free Comic Book Day so, in addition to picking up your free books, you can also maybe pick up some stuff on the cheap.
BD: Yeah, that’s awesome! That’s, again, why you need to go to Comic Smash for Free Comic Book Day. Well, again, this is Bryant Dillon for Fanboy Comics. Thanks for listening and make sure to get out and celebrate Free Comic Book Day this Saturday, May 7th, at your local comic book shop!