Sure, we all know now that the first Saturday of every May is when we get free comics, but you might not know why that is. John Jackson Miller explains the origins of Free Comic Book Day:
Giveaway comics were a major source of new readers for the comics industry over its history, from the March of Comics issues given away at shoe stores to the Big Boy comics still distributed in restaurants. I’ve done a lot of research into those and several other giveaway lines over the years — and it’s plain that many of the people who learned to read comics (and, odd as it sounds, the storytelling language of comics is something one does have to learn to read) learned it from ones they got for free. Most of those comics went completely away in the 1980s and 1990s. Joe’s suggestion in the article was that publishers could create sampler comics for their different lines — “just as Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors of ice cream… a selection of samplers available from different publishers would allow stores to better cover the disparate tastes of those who’ll show up.”
Miller reprints the original column by retailer Joe Field suggesting the concept, along with a “Response From Diamond,” putting the whole thing in a historical context that almost seems surreal now. Joe Field, you did everyone in comics a solid with this idea. Thank you.