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Scenes from Free Comic Book Day 2013

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Comic Book University owner Rob Skorjanc.
  • Comic Book University owner Rob Skorjanc.

By 9:30 a.m., the line was wrapped around Meridian Market Place, the strip mall on just north of County Line Road on Meridian Street where the locally-owned comic store Comic Book University makes it home. They were waiting for the start of Free Comic Book Day, an annual event designed to encourage readers both new and veteran to visit their local comic emporiums.

The line expanded through the morning, like the waistband of the Incredible Hulk, until the doors opened at 11 a.m. and the first in line fired off faster than a speeding bullet.

The diehard fans darted between steel-wired stands lined with recent issues of the week, searching for their favorite titles. Free Comic Book Day swag was arranged around the register, waiting for searching hands to seek out new worlds and literary experiences.

Rob Skorjanc, the owner and lone for eight years of Comic Book University, stood guard over the register for some ten hours of Comic Book Store Day. A dynamic cast of friends and sponsors had worked the week prior to prepare displays and events.

Sponsors from Red Barron pizza offered free slices to all, curbing the hunger of those stuck in the rear of the line. Local comic artist Jackie Crofts and Jason Keith Phillips appeared to promote their upcoming releases, doing fan sketches and signing autographs.

Artist Jason Keith Phillips.
  • Artist Jason Keith Phillips.

Jackie Crofts' book, Nutmeg, is about two average junior-high students who, through a series of unfortunate events, get caught up in the world of drug dealing. Their signature ingredient? Nutmeg.

Jason Keith Phillips upcoming Dreklok is about an alternative world, called Airth, where animal people co-exist with both regular old humans and evil, deadly cyborg entities, named Tech-Sols, who run amuck causing deadly mayhem. The hero, Dreklok, attempts to rid the world of these psychotic robo-baddies.

There's still a long wait at 1 p.m. Even Mister Fantastic would've been baffled by the devotion of these fans.

For this fan, the best experience about the entire event was not the free, killer swag, but the people who remain behind after scoring that free stuff to treat Free Comic Book Day as a festival of sorts. Fans discovered new titles upon the recommendations of others, numbers were exchanged, friends were made - and, heck, even a couple of Nintendo 3DS owners exchanged data via a Street Pass.

Newcomers rubbed shoulders with vets. Eddie Schmidt, who began recently reading comic books, had plenty of fun - and picked up Marvel and DC's FCBD offerings, along with copies of IDW's Judge Dredd and TMNT (or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

Bob Sherley, a reader for more than 50 years, remembered the days when Stan 'The Man' Lee and Jack 'The King' Kirby' heated up the pages of Marvel. "There have been a lot of various changes over the years," noting that "dark" and "not-so-dark" subject matter balanced out each other in the days. "Right now I'm reading a lot of sci-fi, fantasy," he told me. "I'm looking forward to Marvel's Infinity event by [Jonathan] Hickman, it looks very interesting. It had a very [Neil] Gaiman look to it."

I checked in with Skorjanc the day after, his eyes still heavy with fatigue, but his spirits lifted by the success of the event. Customers a day late for Free Comic Store Day shuffled through the store.

The line.
  • The line.

"Comic books have been pretty cool and accepted for years now," he said. "One of the breakthrough titles to further this acceptance would have to be Walking Dead. When Marvel Studios released their first movie with Iron Man, it really did take the game of comic book characters and properties to a whole another level of popularity. The great thing about Free Comic Book Day is that people who either are new to the medium or who are consistent readers are exposed wide variety of the popular and hidden titles alike."

Was he satisfied with the turnout?

"It was tremendous!" he told me. "It's bigger every year; yesterday did not disappoint. Jackie Crofts, who works for Action Labs, and Jason Keith Phillips, whose Kickstarter coincidentally was on its last leg yesterday, fulfilled his quota for funds. So it really was an exciting event to be a part of."

And what are Skorjanc's top five titles as a reader?

"I would say, not in any order: Batman, Superior Spider-Man, Thor, Saga, and East of West."

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