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Free stuff and stormtroopers

Free Comic Book Day is for everyone

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: Stormtroopers eat this shit up

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What's the best way to get people excited about something? Free stuff.

Check that. Free stuff and Imperial stormtroopers.

When the number one goal of the free stuff is the promotion of literacy in children, teens and adults, it's a win for everybody.

Thus, on the first Saturday of every May since 2002, stores across North America have joined with every publisher they can find to give away comic books - it's called Free Comic Book Day. Major operators like Marvel, DC and Disney provide stacks of recognizable characters, from Spider-Man to Mickey Mouse, while small independent publishers like Aspen, Oni and Top Shelf take the opportunity to draw some much-needed attention to themselves.

According to local comic peddler John Munn, "There is literally something for everyone, young and old, whether it's your first comic ever or your four thousandth." Comic book titles range in audience from young children all the way up to adult comics ... no, not porn, just think PG-13 and R ratings. But the comic book sweet spot still centers on the vast middle ground of superhero fans.

"We get a ton of kids coming in, and because we try to have a family-friendly environment, they come back," says Munn.

The festivities of Free Comic Book Day don't end with comics, of course. After all, it's tough to give stuff away if nobody shows up, so over the years this event has become synonymous with Special Guest Day.

Lacey's Olympic Cards & Comics will be rife with signings by a wide range of Pacific Northwest writing talent. The star of the show is undoubtedly Greg Rucka, longtime scribe of various Batman books, among other things, and writer of the recently film-adapted Whiteout. Rucka will be joined by Eric Trautmann, comic writer and contributor to the Halo video games. Expect a number of other talents as well.

The Free Comic Book Day festivities at Puyallup's Comic Evolution will feature new Seattle transplant Ben Templesmith, best known in the mainstream as the artist of the comic 30 Days of Night, which made its way to film in 2007. To comic fans Templesmith is known as the artist of dozens of even more disturbing tales since then.

Munn's Comic Book Ink will be celebrating the first Free Comic Book Day at the store's current location, Regal Cinema Plaza in Lakewood. On top of the grand pile of freebies, Comic Book Ink will feature members of the Dockyard Derby Dames, plus the casts and crews of popular web series JourneyQuest and The Dirty Do Gooders.

"It's like Mardi Gras without the beads," Munn insists. Hopefully also without the hangovers and guilt.

And I believe I promised you stormtroopers. Comic Book Ink and Tacoma retailers Atomic Comics will feature members of Star Wars recreationists the 501st Legion, in full costume, available for pictures and Jedi mind tricks.

Comic shops aren't the only businesses getting in on the fun. Comic Book Ink's new neighbors, Regal Cinema, will provide free posters. Olympic will carry a comic put together by Lacey's Dutch Bros. Coffee, and give out coupons for other surrounding businesses with every comic given away.

The madness this weekend isn't restricted to Saturday, either. With the opening of Marvel Studios' Thor, Olympic and Comic Book Ink will be starting the giveaways and promotion early, at midnight Thursday, at Lacey Cinemas and the Lakewood Regal, respectively. With their convenient location, Munn promises this treatment for every impending superhero movie. "It's going to be a busy summer for us," he says.

Don't want to go to any of those places? Lucky for you, still more participants, in the South Sound and beyond, can be found via the FCBD Store Locator at freecomicbookday.com.

So if you - or your offspring - like comics, used to like comics, think you might like comics in the future or have an inexplicable prejudice against comics that you ought to repair, Saturday is the day for you. No excuses.

[Comic Book Ink, 2510 S. 84th St. Suite 15A-B, Lakewood, 253.761.4651]

[Comic Evolution, 206 S. Meridian, Puyallup, 253.770.6464]

[Olympic Cards and Comics, 4230 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey, 360.459.7721]

[Atomic Comics, 4020 S. Steele St., Tacoma, 253.472.1908]

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