OPINION: The Odyssey of Free Comic Book Day
One of the things that you learn as you start working as a journalist is that stories don’t always have to be assigned to you, sometimes you find stories on their own.
I learned that as I went through the arts festival in Oklahoma City all of those weeks ago, when I interviewed all of those artists. It turned out that interviewing people could be a very interesting experience, worthy of writing about on its own. After a few time where I neglected
It was Free Comic Book Day, which is an informal holiday for comic book fans like myself to flock to local comic book shops and get free comics, as well as discounted trade paperback graphic novels. It usually happens in May and unless there’s some wild pandemic that’ll come out of the depths, it usually happens every year.
New World Comics is my favorite haunt to go to when looking for some comics to read, it’s right off of Meridian and is in a strip mall that also houses a Subway, a massage parlor, and a tag agency, among other joints. It’s a pretty small place, not much larger than a living room. But that’s what gives New Comics its sense of character…also it was by my grandma’s house so I could visit her while I was out scoring comics.
I wasn’t originally intending to write a story about this whole affair, but as I walked into the comic book store, I saw all sorts of comic book nerds filling up the place. There were the stereotypical comic book aficionados, standing around the single issues and looking through them, parents trying to get their children to read comics, and young children who wanted to get comics of their favorite superheroes.
There were also the employees rushing around and helping out people, giving recommendations on what comics to read. There were even some who dressed in costumes such as one who dressed like Miles Morales Spider-Man, Adam West Batman, and Silk from the Spider-Man comics.
I thought for a while about making this event into a story that I could write, but after thinking back to the other events that I had gone to that I hadn’t covered in the past, I had to put my foot down. This was the event where I’d make a story out of it.
Getting interviews turned out to be harder than it was the last time I had gone out. The thing about nerds is that they can sometimes be socially awkward, in other words they don’t always make for easy interviews. But I scoped out the joint to see if I could get some interviews.
I walked around for a bit and ended up finding a guy standing around in the floppies area (for those who don’t know, floppies is a nickname for single comic book issues.) He was a tall, slender man with dirty blonde, frizzy hair, a long sleeved red shirt, and some old jeans on. He seemed decent enough for an interview. Though once I started talking to the man, I was proven wrong.
I said something to the effect of “How’s it going?”
He pointed at one of the masks that was sitting on the ledge near the ceiling and he said “I’m thinking about taking one of those masks and walking down town, see how it is…maybe I’ll take you with me. I’ll be Groot and you can be Hawkman…you can learn how to be a hawk.”
As this man continued to ramble on, I began to become more uncomfortable. It was clear from his inane rantings that there was something a matter with this man, either that or he was pulling some sort of a joke on me. As I stood awkwardly and tried to hear him out, I quickly realized that it was a mistake to try and interview this guy.
The guy didn’t even know it was Free Comic Book Day until I pointed it out to him, and then he began rambling on about power levels for superheroes and how he would have liked to ‘spur’ Wonder Woman into action. I decided to politely extract myself from what was barely a conversation.
“I’ll keep my eye on you,” he said, as I was walking away.
“I hope that won’t be worrying,” I retorted back.
I decided to try and interview one of the employees after that whole mess. I also felt it would be prudent to let the employees know about the man I had just spoken to. I walked over to the counter where the guy checking out comics was standing and went over to him. He was a bald, slightly tubby man who looked like he was in his late mid to late 30s. He was wearing a green New World shirt like he normally did when I went there.
I told him about the man, and said that while I didn’t think he needed to be kicked out or anything like that, I had gotten an ominous feel from him and told him that he should keep an eye on him. He said that he would, and thanked me for the tip.
I then asked him if he had wanted to be interviewed, but he said that the workers, as well as him, were going to be really busy that day. But I could reach out to the owner of New World Buck at some point. I decided to not waste anymore of the man’s time, so I thanked him for his time and went back on the prowl.
I once again looked around for some time, and eventually found a woman looking for some comics. She was also a bit overweight, she had short, but messy dyed red hair and had slight peach fuzz on the side of her face. She seemed really nervous from the way she looked at me.
“Oh? Am I in your way?” She asked.
I told her no and I asked her if she wanted to be interviewed, she looked around for a bit and then said that she was on a tight schedule, as she was from out of the city.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I would do it if it were any other time.”
I noticed that she seemed more on edge as we continued to talk, so I said “I’m sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable.”
“No, I’m usually nervous so you’re fine,” she said.
I was left disappointed yet again, I didn’t know who I could talk to during this whole event. But my mind was set and so I decided to continue looking for anyone to talk to. I was also looking out for the guy in the red shirt who I had talked to earlier. But much to my relief, it seemed that he had left in the meantime while I was finding more people to interview.
Some more time passed, but luck would finally favor me. I found a guy who was more than willing to talk. He was a caucasion man, slightly overweight and bald, with a salt and pepper goatee. He wore a black t-shirt and brown cargo shorts. I told him that he seemed more gregarious than some of the other people I’ve talked with.
He laughed and said “I’ve been called worse, so I’ll take it.”
His name was Allan Ritchie, he used to live in the Northwest Oklahoma City area and frequented New World Comics. Now he lives in Moore.
Allan said that he was hanging out with some friends, and he wanted to come down for Free Comic Book Day.
“I met Buck and liked him, so we just decided to come up here, because it was always kind of a fun atmosphere,” Allan said.
Allan’s reading diet in comics is mainstream, saying that he likes to read Marvel and DC comics, as well as Brian K. Vaughan’s science fantasy epic Saga, which recently returned after a several year hiatus.
He further noted that while the creators were usually slow with putting out Saga, it was always worth waiting for them to release new issues.
Allan also said that he liked the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as well.
“I like to go see them with my nieces and nephews, but they’re at the age where they’ll see it without me,” he said.
Allan said that he picked up some of the discount trade paperbacks for him to read, particularly of the Legion of Superheroes since he is a fan of superhero teams.
After some time of talking with Allan, I decided to try and get one more person to talk to before I called it for the day. I walked around and noticed two guys talking about the recent passing of comics artist George Perez. I recognized one of the guys from earlier when I saw him talking to one of the artists who was drawing some illustrations for the Free Comic Book Day event; he was a short Filipino man, with long gangly hair and wearing a black long sleeved shirt, with khaki pants. I guessed that he would be good for an interview since he seemed so talkative earlier.
Matthew Viriyapah is a production assistant at KOSU, he said that he came down from Norman to see what was going on in the area. I noted to him that I had heard that there was a comic shop down there as well, which seemed pretty cool from what I had heard.
“I’m about to head back home and I’m gonna stop by over there before it closes, hopefully,” Viriyapah said.
Viriyapah said that his comics taste is broad and that he likes a little bit of everything, which he joked was bad, as his storage is starting to rack up.
He also noted that he had come down to see one of the artists who was working here, who I had seen him talk to earlier. Viriyapah is a fan of mech suit comics and Power Rangers and the artist who he spoke to, Robert Wilson IV, often works in that genre.
“I picked up a gundam poster and he did a commission for me too,” Viriyapah said.
Viriyapah also showed me some of the comics that he got from the day, such as some Dragon Ball comics, comics that were meant for kids, and some superhero comics from Marvel and DC.
He added that he probably won’t be reading the comics that he got today for a while.
“That’s kind of the joy of comic books, just getting to collect,” Viriyapah said.
After talking with him, I felt like I got all I needed to for the day’s work. I was also excited to have taken on this opportunity. I got some comics that I had been wanting to read for some time and decided to leave and get back home before too long. I had a movie that I was going to see in theaters and I wasn’t about to miss it.