Thursday, May 9, 2013

A fan’s guide to a busy day at three local comic book stores

Free Comic Book Day is one of the biggest “holidays” in nerd culture. It’s a day that, not only gives us free comics, but also draws us together and allows us to have fun, interact and meet some of our heroes.
Stores across the country hand out comics for free, but most also make an event out of it, as well, bringing in writers, artists and other people from within the industry to make going to the store like a miniature convention of sorts. What follows is a guide of how Free Comic Books Day 2013 went for one fan who also happens to be a journalist.
RELATED: See slideshow from Free Comic Book Day
1 a.m. I tweet that it is officially #FCBD, before heading to bed. It’ll be an early start if I’m to fit everything in that I have planned.
7:45 a.m. Alarm goes off. I’m at home in Toledo, Ohio. My plan is to make it to Green Brain Comics in Dearborn in time for its opening at 10 a.m. First, I need to shower and have breakfast.
8:15 a.m. I decide to check some of my social media accounts before breakfast to see if anyone I know is waiting in line somewhere yet. No one has said anything about being in line, but lots of people are tweeting about where they will be to start the day.
9:15 a.m. Spent too much time on the Internet, will have to skip breakfast and readjust plan as I won’t make it to Green Brain on time. New plan is to head to Big Ben’s Comix Oasis in Allen Park first. It isn’t opening until 11 a.m.
9:20 a.m. Have to turn the car around and head home. I’ve left my camera on the stand by my computer.

9:24 a.m. Stuck at a train on my way to the highway. This isn’t working out to be a great morning just yet.
10:20 a.m. Arrive at Big Ben’s with about 40 minutes until it opens. The door is unlocked, so I walk in. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, they know me well there, but I’ve brought my mom and stepsister along to help me get a major haul of free books since each store limits how many you can get and there are a lot of titles available.
I explain that they are with me and everything is fine, but at least three store employees had tried to tell them the store wasn’t open yet in the 15 seconds before I explained.
10:30 a.m. I begin snapping a few test shots and talk with a few of the guests who were invited to the shop for the day. Among them is an artist from Huron Township; in the art world, she goes by “Elle.” We strike up a brief conversation where I find out that she wanted to be a journalist before getting a “real” job and doing art on the side. Another of the guests is a man I met at the Motor City Comic Con last year. He’s from Belleville and runs a printing company in Taylor. We briefly catch up.
10:45 a.m. The crowd is beginning to get large outside the store. Everything is ready on the inside so I pop out to mingle with the crowd and get a few photos. Owner John “Big Ben” Davis has just gone out and given away toys for the children waiting in line.
10:55 a.m. I ask Davis if he minds if I grab my three books a bit early so that I can concentrate on getting pictures as the doors open. He agrees, and tells me to grab a few others if any interest me. I got the four “must” haves, which included a “Star Wars” book. It is also Star Wars’ Day after all. Unfortunately, the book slips out of my bag and we don’t notice until later.
11 a.m. They open the doors and things begin to get a bit hectic as there are about 250 people waiting in line. The crowd starts to move through the store quickly. Some customers grab the free books and leave, others stick around and browse through the rest of the store inventory.
11:15 a.m. After getting a couple dozen photos, it’s time to move on. I exit through the rear of the building and start to head to my car. That’s when I see a large group of people painting the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, which shares an alley with the store.
Being that I normally cover Allen Park, I walk down to see what’s going on. It was members of the Allen Park High School Interact Club doing community service. I snap a couple of pictures and move on.
11:25 a.m. Time to head to Green Brain. Sadly, I haven’t ever made my way over there, despite working Downriver and in Dearborn for almost two years now. I’m hoping to catch Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly as he was supposed to stop by and give a speech.
11:45 p.m. We arrive at Green Brain and I find out that I missed O’Reilly by about five minutes. Instead, I begin to talk with some of the guests and customers milling about in the parking lot. There are a lot of great people here. It’s almost two hours since the store opened and the crowd hasn’t thinned much from what I’m told.
12:10 p.m. Time to head inside to get my three free books and snap some more pictures. Space is a bit cramped inside, but the crowd is courteous.
12:40 p.m. Time for lunch. We’re all starving since we already skipped breakfast. We head back Downriver and decide to stop at Charlie’s in Lincoln Park. All three of us get the breakfast buffet. I’m surprised to find out that eggs are made to order with the buffet.
1:25 p.m. One more non-comic related stop. Since I’m near the place, I decide to pop in to the quilt show the Allen Park Historical Society is putting on. I can grab some pictures, and a relative of Thomas Jefferson is supposed to be there. I’m excited to meet her.
1:30 p.m. However, Jefferson’s ancestor canceled at the last minute, so I snap some pictures and mingle for a few minutes. Now, it’s time to head to another comic shop.
1:45 p.m. I arrive at WonderWorld Comics in Taylor, just pulling into the parking lot I can tell this is a big party. There are several costume-clad people waving passers-by in by the street, and owner Dennis Barger is riding around on a minibike. There is a bagpipe player walking around the parking lot, and there also are a disc jockey and a large Lego display.
2 p.m. After catching up to everything outside, Barger tells me to go ahead inside and get anything I want off the free wall. I head in and continue snapping pictures. The number of people dressed as pop culture icons is amazing, and there are a lot of industry guests in the store.
2:20 p.m. I finally decide to snag some comics, but I stick to the five allotted to regular customers.
2:30 p.m. Speedpainter Dave Santia is about to perform. I’ve seen him paint on video before, but never in person. The painting takes him less than 5 1/2 minutes and is better than anything I could do in a week. I’m duly impressed and stunned.
2:45 p.m. My stepsister discovers that the “Star Wars,” book is not in the bag from earlier, so we ask if we can get one from WonderWorld. The store is out, but Barger tells me that if he finds one he’ll save it for me. I’m grateful.
3 p.m. We decide to go have some fun and head to Play Atlantis in Melvindale. It reminds me of the arcades that I only really know of from movies and TV shows, since I grew up in a world with home consoles.
4:15 p.m. I decide to check back at Big Ben’s to see if I can get my missing “Star Wars” book there. They tell me they found it earlier, but didn’t know it was mine and put it back on the shelf. They are also out. Looks like I’ll go home without one of my prized books.
4:40 p.m. We stop at the office so I can copy the photos I took to a flash drive and return the staff camera. Mom sees my desk for the first time and tells me that it’s an embarrassing mess.
We end up spending the next three hours cleaning and organizing my desk.
9 p.m. I arrive home and start editing photos and video. I spend the next five hours working on that stuff.

All-in-all, it was a great day. I shot more than 100 photos, recorded a video and got a bunch of free comic books. What more could a comic fan ask for? Oh yeah, next week is Comic Con, where I’ll be back in “nerd heaven.”

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