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News / Life / Entertainment

It’s the last Free Comic Book Day at the place where it was created

By Jim Harrington, The Mercury News
Published: May 2, 2024, 8:25am

Joe Field needed something to write about.

“I came up with the idea for Free Comic Book Day when I was a columnist for an industry trade magazine,” says Field, who is the owner of the Flying Colors Comics and Other Cool Stuff store in Concord, California. “I was scratching for ideas when my deadline was looming, looked out the front window of my shop to see a long line of people and none of them were coming into my shop. They were headed next door to Baskin Robbins for Free Scoop Night.

“I thought ‘comics are cooler than ice cream — let’s do this!’ So I wrote a column outlining the idea.”

That was 2001 and the first Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) was held in 2002. It was a massive hit right from Year One, with hundreds of comic book shops taking place in the promotion of giving out free publications to those who visited the participating stores. It now stands as, by far, the biggest annual event at comic book stores worldwide.

“The first FCBD was on May 4 2002, so this year’s event, also on May 4 is the 23rd annual Free Comic book Day,” Field says. “Over the last 22 years, FCBD shops have given away tens of millions of free comic books in more than 2,000 shops in more than 60 countries the world over.’

Yet, this year’s Free Comic Book Day — which just happens to coincide with the annual Star Wars celebration on May 4 (“May the Fourth Be With You”) — will also be the last one that will be held at the place where the idea was first hatched.

To the disappointment of comic book fans all over Contra Costa County, Field’s Flying Colors Comics and Other Cool Stuff store, located at Treat Boulevard and Oak Grove Road in Concord, is set to close in early 2025.

“This year’s FCBD at Flying Colors will be the final one in the shop where the international pop culture event was founded,” Field says. “When our last lease expired, our landlord would only give us three years and gave no option to renew. That lease expires in January 2025, and I tried to get an extension, but was told the owners of this center really wanted to put in a bagel shop. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights this has given me and my wife, Libby, the co-owner of Flying Colors.”

So, what’s the next move? Field says that they are looking for a way to continue on with the business in a new fashion and new location.

“We’re very hopeful and now actually pretty excited by what the future of Flying Colors could be,” he says. “There are a lot of unknowns — like how many of our faithful customers will want to create a new habit of going to a different spot to support us? How many new customers can we cultivate moving to a different spot? How strong will the market for comics and graphic novels be over the next bunch of years? Can we afford to do this when we are already technically past the standard retirement date?

“Our hope, our prayer, really, is that we continue to build community and continue to spread happiness through our comic book business. That’s when everything will be a success.”

Yet, there will be time for planning for “what’s next” in the days to come. Right now, Field has to concentrate on hosting the final Free Comic Book Day at the place where it all began.

“This Saturday’s event will be bittersweet,” he says. “This shop has been our home for more than 35 years, so as the days, weeks and months wind down to the closing of this location, we’ll cherish all the good memories we’ve made here and hope that the next version of Flying Colors will be a fresh start to something wonderful.”

Whatever happens next for Flying Colors, Field’s legacy in the industry he loves so dearly is pretty much set in stone following the unmitigated success of Free Comic Book Day.

“For many stores, it’s their busiest day of the year and one real push for outreach to new customers,” says Ryan Higgins, owner of Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale. “If even one out of 100 people who stop by on FCBD picks up comics regularly after that, it’s a huge boon to the shop.

“The industry is forever indebted to Joe for the day.”

Free Comic Book 2024

When: May 4

Where: Celebrated at some 2,000 comic book stores in multiple countries. Check out with your local comic book for details.

Information: freecomicbookday.com