County libraries, stores to mark Free Comic Book Day with giveaways, crafts and costumes

The season’s biggest movie theater hits, based on Marvel comics, could bring an uptick in interest to this year’s Free Comic Book Day, scheduled for Saturday, according to some event organizers.

Free Comic Book Day, which is always the first Saturday in May, gives comic connoisseurs cause to celebrate.

The annual event is organized by Hunt Valley-based Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor of English-language comics, graphic novels and pop culture merchandise in the United States. For Free Comic Book Day, the company arranges for comic books to be sold at cost to stores around the country, which then distribute them to guests.

Hollywood’s synergy with the comic book industry could be gauged by interest in this year’s event. Marvel’s latest movie, “The Avengers: Infinity War” is currently in theaters smashing box office records, following the recently released “The Black Panther,” another Marvel blockbuster.

“It definitely raises awareness of comics and the store specifically for sure,” said Andy Bridges, general manager of Cosmic Comix and Toys in Catonsville. “Just like anytime there’s a new superhero movie or a new comic movie, it raises awareness in general.”

Cosmic Comix has been a part of Free Comic Book Day since its inception in 2002, Bridges said. His store is expecting around 1,000 visitors this year. The store will be open from 9:30 a.m to 7 p.m. that day.

“We like to think of it as a huge party, a huge celebration of all things comic book,” Bridges said. “If we can make that party more fun and turn people on to comics, we think that’s successful.”

For the first time this year, Cosmic Comix will be temporarily expanding its footprint into currently vacant stores around it, Bridges said.

In the “main room,” the store’s normal location at 87 Mellor Ave., everything will be 25 percent off and guests can grab free popcorn. The “Lincoln Lodge,” at 81 Mellor Ave., will be “jam-packed” with comics and merchandise, all for $5. And the “Free Room,” at 75 Mellor Ave., is where Cosmic Comix will be distributing the free comics and hosting cosplayers, people who create sometimes elaborate costumes and dress up as characters from comic books or other media. It will also be where visitors can play a giant dice game for prizes.

“If someone comes to Free Comic Book Day for the first time in the store, their minds are going to be blown,” Bridges said.

Collector’s Corner, a comic chain headquartered in Parkville and with stores in downtown Baltimore and Bel Air, is also participating in the annual event, offering giveaways, including tote bags filled with free merchandise and graphic novels, and movie passes to see “The Avengers: Infinity War” on Saturday night.

The Collector’s Corner stores will feature chances to win shopping sprees and plan to bring in comic book artists for free signings. Collector’s Corner also partnered with Baltimore County Public Library to provide all library branches with some free comic books.

School-aged children can visit any branch to receive a free comic, while supplies last. To note the occasion, some of the library branches also will be hosting special events.

The Hereford branch, located at 16940 York Road, will have a craft station converting old comic books into wearable buttons. The Perry Hall branch, at 9685 Honeygo Blvd., will feature superhero face painting, and the Arbutus branch, at 855 Sulphur Spring Road, will have a craft station to make superhero masks.

Arbutus branch manager Bob Maranto said the library had been participating in Free Comic Book Day for “several” years.

“It’s a casual, through-the-day thing,” Maranto said.

Arbutus stocks a small collection of comic books aimed at a younger, elementary school-aged audience and typically waits for different series to complete before purchasing graphic novels for older library users, he said.

Comic book and graphic novel readers can be forgotten or neglected by libraries, so they are important to engage, Maranto said.

“It’s reading, it’s fun, why would we not go along with that?” he said. “I love graphic novels. To me, it’s just another book.”

Maranto also pointed out that the library branch’s graphic novel section recently has expanded to a third row of shelves to meet a growing demand. A dedicated group of library patrons that requests new graphic novels as they’re released has kept the stock growing, he said.

“It was just totally packed in,” he said. “Shelvers were saying it was tough to get books put away.”

A full list of the comics that are being sold at cost to comic book stores and made freely available to customers can be found on the Free Comic Book Day website.

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