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Fans line up for their chance to pick from dozens of free comic books at Nob Hill comic book store Astro Zombies on Saturday. Free Comic Book Day is traditionally held the first Saturday of May.

Free comic books unite fans

Local shop gives out 8,000 comics for freebie holiday

Hordes of comic fans filled the Nob Hill comic shop Astro Zombies this Saturday for an annual event that shop owner Mike D’Elia likens to Christmas: Free Comic Book Day.

Astro Zombies, in addition to over a half-dozen other Albuquerque stores, offered more than 50 free comic books to patrons in addition to sales, book signings, raffles and other special events. The store gave out at least 8,000 comic books Saturday.

This worldwide holiday takes place every year as part of an effort to promote the written and visual comic book medium.

“It’s become this thing where throughout the year people are like, ‘Is it almost Free Comic Book Day time yet?’” D’Elia said. “It’s people from all walks of life. I had 3-year-olds in the store and I had 80-year-olds. It was amazing.”

Traditionally held on the first Saturday of May, Free Comic Book Day was inspired by ice cream parlor Baskin Robbins’ Free Scoop Day. Since its inception 11 years ago, the event has surged in popularity. Chicago comic artist Tim Seeley was at Astro Zombies signing books and offering free sketches. He said that he’s never missed a Free Comic Book Day.

“Everybody comes in to check out comics, get free samples … it’s kind of like a big party,” Seeley said.

Two UNM students, Jade McLaughlin and Sam Cafferky, attended the event dressed as characters Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy from the Batman franchise. They said they regularly frequent Astro Zombies.

“You don’t go in just to buy (comic books); you go in and you talk to everyone about the new books, the new movies and everything,” McLaughlin said. “You get connected to them as friends.”

Astro Zombies has been around for 14 years and has participated in Free Comic Book Day every year since the event’s conception. During the holiday’s first year, 2002, the shop gave away fewer than 800 free comics; on Saturday, they distributed about 10 times that number. But D’Elia said it’s not just about the free comics.

“It’s our way — not just as a business but as members of a community — to give something back to everybody,” he said. “You go in, you talk to them (comic artists Tim Seeley and Aaron Campbell), you get a sketch, you grab some free comics, you check out some stuff on sale, and you leave … and you’re smiling the rest of the weekend. That’s what Free Comic Book Day is about.”

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