This Saturday, local comic book stores will be opening their stores to patrons for free comic books and other discounted items. Comic book characters in costume will also attend.
ISLIP TOWN—Every year, major comic book publishers like DC and Marvel sell thousands of issues on the cheap to independent shops for promotional purposes. The result is Free Comic Book Day, which is held on the first Saturday of May. This year’s annual event falls on Saturday, May 4, and local shops are gearing up.
Kevin Dempsey, who owns Lost Planet Comics on E. Main Street in Bay Shore, said it’s the “best day of the year” for his shop. Dempsey also pointed out that this year’s event happens to fall on Star Wars Day, which is celebrated every May 4. He said if all goes well, Darth Vader will be making an appearance at his store.
Michael Hall, who owns Next Generation Comics & Cards on Carleton Avenue in Islip Terrace, said Free Comic Book Day is a chance for shops to showcase what they have in stock. “It’s a time where [comic fans] venture out from their local store and try somewhere new,” Hall said, adding that on Saturday, pretty much his entire shop will be on sale.
It’s common for creators to stop by local shops to promote their work and meet with regular or potential fans. A number of writers and artists are scheduled to appear at Genesis Comics & Gaming, located on Portion Road in Ronkonkoma. One of them is Eddie Avila.
Originally from Queens, Avila moved to Long Island about 20 years ago and slowly made his way east into Suffolk County, where he currently resides. Avila graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2000, but only recently had the opportunity to focus on his art. “I began writing and illustrating my comic, ‘Day One,’ about five years ago and was able to release it through Kickstarter two years ago,” he said.
Avila describes “Day One” as a survival story. “I’ve always been fascinated with being prepared for unthinkable situations and have trained in martial arts almost my whole life,” he said. “I wanted to portray the most realistic story I could. Between my love for that and zombie/apocalyptic stories, ‘Day One’ was born.”
Before writing his own comics, Avila said Free Comic Book Day was just a fun experience, being a comic book fan and frequent patron at many local shops. “After entering the industry, it’s been even better,” he said. “Hanging out with so many people in the stores and being able to share my own comic and art has been one of the best things about getting into this business.”
Kristina Laino is also scheduled to appear at Genesis Comics & Gaming. Originally from Connecticut, Laino, 27, moved to Long Island when she was 10 years old. She currently lives in Holbrook with her husband and their cat, dog and ferret. “It’s a tight squeeze, but we make it work,” she said.
By day, Laino works as a graphic designer for an accounting firm. But by night, or whatever spare time she has, Laino writes, paints and draws her own wide range of material, some of which will be on display this weekend.
Last year, Laino and a co-worker decided they wanted to make art for their office. They visited Genesis Comics & Gaming one day during lunch and told the owner, Bill Tammany, they were getting back into art. Tammany asked if they wanted a booth for Free Comic Book Day that was coming up at the time. They agreed and pumped out some work for his shop.
“This fun little hobby has evolved into a secondary full-time job, all because of the connections made at one Free Comic Book Day,” Laino said.
She is also the author of the “Tales from the Dream King” children’s book series. The third book in the series is due out sometime this year. “My husband and I both share a creative mind, but while I create images, he’s great at writing stories,” Laino said. “One day, I drew a picture of a boy and his lizard companion walking through a blizzard, and just that one image inspired my husband to create a whole world of fantastic characters.
“‘The Dream King’ is a fantasy novel series we’ve been working on for many years, but still have yet to finish,” she continued. “Many close family members of mine have been having children. I wanted to use characters from our story to teach them life lessons and have them grow up on these characters, which is where ‘Tales from the Dream King’ comes into play. These are sub-stories in the world that I created, meant for babies and young children. Our hope is that they fall in love with these characters at a young age, and when they grow older, read the novel and experience the true story and world where these characters are from.”
Laino said much of her creative inspiration comes from her childhood and love of video games, which she said is “very apparent” in a lot of her work. “In high school, my art was very horror inspired, but lately it’s taken a more comedic turn,” she said. “I love telling funny stories in my designs and combining characters from pop culture and fiction to interact with each other in silly ways.”
The first Free Comic Book Day was held in 2002, the same weekend that the first “Spider-Man” movie, starring Tobey Maguire, was released.
The owner of Androids Amazing Comics in Sayville, who goes simply by Anthony, said the annual event can “get pretty crazy.”
“It’s definitely the busiest day of the year,” he said.