Retailer Q | #10: FCBD 2012

Welcome to Retailer Q, spinning 52Q’s format at top Canadian comic retailers. Comic Book Daily asks the question and our retail friends give their perspective. Please share your FCBD success stories from this past weekend: how it went, what your store does to promote the event, that kind of thing.

Welcome to Retailer Q, spinning 52Q’s format at top Canadian comic retailers.  Comic Book Daily asks the question and our retail friends give their perspective.

[box type=question]Please share your FCBD success stories from this past weekend: how it went, what your store does to promote the event, that kind of thing.[/box]

[box type=shadow]Kevin Boyd, co-owner of The Comic Book Lounge + Gallery in Toronto, ON.[/box]

This was my first FCBD event as a retailer, since the Comic Book Lounge + Gallery (formerly known as Dragon Lady Comics) only officially opened a few months ago at 587A College Street in Toronto, ON. We’ve been very lucky to have received some great promotional support from local newspapers and a great spotlight on the unique nature of our 3-in-1 space (that we share with the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop and Guerilla Printing) on the Space channel’s InnerSpace last month.

Given the number of comic events going on in the city last weekend I wasn’t sure how we would do but we chose to go all out and use the Lounge’s unique event space to hold a mini-con with comic creator guests like Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Ty Templeton, Marco Rudy, David Cutler, Mike Del Mundo (our current artist in residence), Raff Ienco, Rick Evans, Rachael Wells and Karly MacDonald. We had some friends of the store appear in full costume – so our gender-bending Flash, Thor and Loki were out front and in-store posing with the people that came to the store. We also had an electrifying visit from Toronto Batman who came by for a couple of hours mid-afternoon to inform fans that his parents were dead. We also took the day as an opportunity to hold some mini-sales, such as a 20% off Avengers book sale, $1 overstock sale of recent books, and a doorcrasher specials table with reduced price hardcover books and trades. Finally, we had a make-up artist on hand doing face painting for kids and adults.

In the evening Ty Templeton launched the first of what he hopes to be regular evening talks at the Lounge entitled “On the Couch with Ty Templeton” which was filmed and should be available for viewing online soon. His guests were Scott Chantler, Ken Lashley, Lost Heroes director Will Pascoe, and Space’s Mark Askwith. It was a fun evening, and the conversation went in a number of interesting directions.

What we did to promote the event was mainly in-store and using social media like Facebook and Twitter. We tried Facebook ads to promote the event and this seemed to work very well, as it targeted people in the GTA with specific interests. Our street team was very effective in getting people walking and/or driving by to pop in for a visit.

I thought it went much better than we ever dared expect. The store was jammed with customers and friends from 1pm until about 5pm, and as far as sales went we had about six times our normal Saturday’s average sales, and we managed to sign on a number of new pull file subscribers from people in the neighborhood. We had a lot of families come in, and the kids were rewarded with lots of free comics and sketches from the guests. Some of the kids were excited and came dressed up. Aside from a few FCBD Yo Gabba Gabbas we gave away all of the FCBD books we had ordered. I would also point out that the opening of the Avengers movie was probably the most talked about item at the store, as many people had seen it and were raving about it to those within earshot and we saw a lot of the Avengers related tpbs and hardcovers move out the door as part of the sale.

So I would say it was a great success and I wish we could have events like this every month. We can’t wait to do it again in 2013.

I’ve uploaded a full gallery of photos onto our Facebook group page.

[box type=shadow]Jennifer Haines, owner of The Dragon in Guelph and “Manager” of the cutest baby in comics![/box]

Free Comic Book Day was a huge success for us as usual! Over 500 people came through the door to for free books, face-painting and balloon designs from Kricket ‘n’ Krew, sketches from cartoonist Jay Stephens.  They even got to meet a Stormtrooper.  We also raised $300 for the CLLDF!

Photos courtesy of Andrea Connell.


[box type=shadow]Brahm Wiseman, sequentially yours, Heroes, London ON. Sometimes a little long-winded…[/box]

Heroes’ FCBD was amazing! It is a beast all its own in London. This was our tenth year of our FCBD crossover featuring 5 stores and the London Public Library: a passport that can be stamped at all 6 participating locations, and then entered into draws to win great prizes. Lots of comics given away, prizes drawn and won, costumes worn, long lines and lots of fun. The day has grown to mythic proportions, almost above capacity. We had around 1500 people through our doors, many braving 2 hour line-ups to get in. We make sure it is well worth the wait and are constantly looking for ways to accommodate the crowds with things like in-line giveaways of toys, water, freezies and candy all passed out by a cavalcade of costumed characters. We are always also looking for new ways to entertain the fans with events like our costume contest at the library. I’m already looking for cool stuff to give away at next year’s event.

My photos are accessible through Facebook.

[box type=shadow]Paul Stock, Librairie Astro.[/box]

Success stories?

Well, for the second or third year in a row, I completely missed entering FCBD stuff on the monthly order form, but was rescued by ever-alert Diamond CSR Kyle.

As usual, we handed out just about everything we had, and had a lot of more new faces than usual,  everyone seeming to have a good time, especially when the CTV news crew showed up. (Everyone loves to be on camera.)

We’ve never looked at FCBD as a big selling day- it’s a community event, bringing exposure and a bit of fun.

This year we added a store-wide 25% off sale. As a result of everything, sales were up about 50% over a normal Saturday. Best part of it is that we had the real “A-Team” staff holding the fort, and I managed to maintain my personal “good day to stay home” tradition.

[box type=shadow]Jay Roy, Sales Associate, Strange Adventures, Halifax, Nova Scotia.[/box]

I was one of the organizers of this year’s FCBD celebrations at Strange Adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia. For promotion, we followed our basic format from years past, just made sure we plan for more and more people every year. We work together with the other comic shops in the area, Quantum Frontier, Monster Comic Lounge, and Giant Robot Comics and our second of three Strange Adventures stores across the water in Dartmouth to spread the word via community poster projects, radio and online advertising, and also pages in our local paper publications and word of mouth.


At Strange Adventures here in Halifax, our boss man, Cal, rents out St. David’s Hall just up and around the corner from our shop on Sackville St. where this year, over 800 people lined up outside in various colorful costumes to await noon when Dr. Doom and our own hero, Super Snipe usher the comic lovers new and old, to Free Comic Book Day, 2012. We have honed our skills in comic slinging, guiding families and young readers to our Teen and All Ages tables where our knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers dedicate their first Saturday in May to connecting kids (of all ages) with comics. The bean bag toss and Mr. J the magician are always much loved components of our FCBD celebrations as well, and my co-worker, and a most talented photographer, Nathan Boone sets up his elaborate photo stage where anyone and everyone are welcome to choose a lightsaber, Captain America’s shield, or a Minecraft sword to name a few props and capture a moment. Smiles and grins turn to contagious laughter as Nathan encourages the one-minute models to express their inner super heroes…or villains!


Cal and local loved comic creator Darwyn Cooke chatted to attendees at the exit table, handing out bags and the beautiful FCBD Archaia hardcovers, thanking everyone who made it out to enjoy the day with us, while the other members of our awesome staff attended the shop, skillfully handling the influx of customers from the celebrations around the corner.

Below are some shots of the event, and some photo booth shots, courtesy of Nathan Boone.

More photos can be seen on our Facebook album.

[box type=shadow]Walter Durajlija, co-owner of Big B Comics.[/box]

We had our busiest FCBD event to date at both our Hamilton store and our Barrie store. Head counts were over 1500 in Hamilton and over 1000 for Barrie. Big B’s 3 week old Niagara Falls store saw about 300 visitors enjoy the FCBD festivities.

We can honestly say the event has outgrown the store fronts. Though our line ups were less than half an hour we have to look to improve the flow or else risk stagnating with this event.

I think each shop has to clearly state their goals for the event then work towards them. I suspect these goals may differ from shop to shop.

I’ve talked to a few shops and all report crowd control issues. This speaks to the successful growth of the event.

Big B ran out of hot dogs, we ran out of sweets and we ran out of free comics. Luckily we have not run out of ideas and plan some drastic changes next year.

Scott VanderPloeg
Scott VanderPloeg

Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.

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12 years ago

The main problem with Free Comic Book Day is the name. I suggest you guys coordinate and drop “free” and just call it “Comic Book Day”… or “Hero Day” and have it evolve into something like Halloween where free comics are understood but it’s more of a celebration.

Bribing people with “free” comics is okay but ultimately, you want comics to take hold of peoples hearts and minds. Perhaps have it be less about comics and more about writing and drawing so you can shed the retail aspect and focus more on the craft to help legitimize the “medium” outside of the core fan base.

Not sure how WOTS is doing but they seem to have the right idea:

Walter Durajlija
12 years ago
Reply to  Charlie

I think the biggest problem is that it is not a coordinated effort.

There are 2000 plus comic shops with 2000 plus plans for FCBD. I’m sure they range from “I’ll order some stuff to give away and hope I get a spike in customers and make some extra cash that day” to “I’m going to use this day too rally the whole community, businesses, professionals (artists, writers) public institutions (schools, libraries, the mayor) and citizens in support of literacy, art, comic books as an entertainment option…” etc, and everything in between.

The publishers and the distributors should perhaps add other resources and support the shops could use. There should be more of a unified front on FCBD.

Christopher Butcher
12 years ago

This year in addition to handing out FCBD books in our Owlkids Area at TCAF, our new store Little Island Comics held their first-ever Free Comic Book Day event with two of the authors who were in from out of town who did FCBD books, Owly creator Andy Runton in the Top Shelf Kids Club book, and Serenity illustrator Fabio Moon in Dark Horse’s book. Since I was presiding over TCAF at the time, I asked Rebecca, one of Little Island’s employees who ran the event, to do a quick write up on my behalf. Take it away, Rebecca!

FCBD at Little Island Comics was a big success this year! We’re the new offshoot kids’ store of the well-established Toronto comic shop The Beguiling, and we decided to use the event as a way to let people know about the new space – kids and adults alike. To do this, The Beguiling didn’t participate in FCBD at all, but simply directed interested people around the corner to our new store.

As soon as we opened, we had a rush of people that didn’t let up until evening. We kept the kid-friendly comics on two low tables near the front of the store, and the teen and adult oriented comics on a higher table further back in our event space – since we present ourselves as a fun, safe place to bring young children, we wanted to make it easy for parents to direct their kids to the comics that would be most interesting and appropriate for them. Advertising for the event mostly consisted of cross-advertising with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, our huge comics fest that was running concurrently, and one of our staff standing out front with fliers and announcing that people could get free comics inside. Having someone outside engaging with people brought a surprisingly large crowd into the store – passersby really responded to the word “free,” and we had a number of people in who didn’t seem to know comics at all, but just thought it would be fun to get some free stuff for themselves or their kids.

We also had two signings with artists who had work in the FCBD books – one aimed at adults, one at kids – which brought some people into the store, but mostly ended up being a fun interaction for people who didn’t necessarily plan to meet an artist that day.

All day, I fielded questions about the store – “Are you guys new?” “How long have you been open?” “Didn’t this used to be (closed comic store)?” – showing that our plan to bring in new people was working. I’d call that a success!

By all accounts a fun time was had. 🙂