Dean Kranz browses at Everett Comics, one of many stores giving away special editions on Free Comic Book Day. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dean Kranz browses at Everett Comics, one of many stores giving away special editions on Free Comic Book Day. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Today’s Free Comic Book Day caters to fans of every stripe

Hundreds of comic shops and libraries nationwide participate in the event.

EVERETT — Kapow!

It’s Free Comic Book Day, a chance to score free books.

There are 50 special titles for the annual event founded in 2002 on the belief that for every person out there, there’s a comic book they’ll love. Series include Avengers, Pokemon, Riverdale (an offshoot of the old Archie comics), and Overwatch, based on a video game.

Hundreds of comic shops and also libraries nationwide participate in the event. Stores make it a party with swag and deals on merchandise to fuel the fervor. People come in comic book costumes and cosplay.

The books are free for customers. Merchants buy the comics at a reduced rate and set the free limit, which varies by store.

“People can grab up to three different free comics,” said Charlie Knoedler, owner of Everett Comics, 2831 Wetmore Ave. “Otherwise we’d have pandemonium.”

Free Comic Book Day is his store’s busiest day of the year.

“Lots of families will be trotting in here. Some say, ‘You know I got a baby. Can I get three for Baby? I promise to read to him.’ I say, ‘Aw, sure.’ ”

He expects people will be lined up around the block when the downtown store opens at 10 a.m.

All for comics?

The wait is worth it for comic fans. Amassing an issue every week or even every month adds up to more than a Netflix or newspaper subscription.

“The going rate is $3.99 and up,” Knoedler said. “Some are published at $2.99.”

A few samples of the free comics available at Everett Comics on Free Comic Book Day are shown. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A few samples of the free comics available at Everett Comics on Free Comic Book Day are shown. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Comic books started in the U.S. in the 1930s with the reprinting of newspaper comics strips on cheap paper. The platform where word balloons and art panels join forces to tell stories evolved to include everything in the universe. Just look at the popularity of the Marvel movies, which have fans of all ages and genders.

“The world of nerdom and comic books has come out of the closet and is accepted by society now,” Knoedler said.

Comics and graphic novel sales to consumers in the U.S. and Canada topped $1 billion in 2016, according to research resource Comichron.

“They are using comics as a gateway to advertise that a movie is coming out. There are more people that watch the movies than actually read comics — or actually read, period, these days,” Knoedler said.

“So the publishing companies are hoping their characters will become either a TV show or a movie and that’s how they make their millions for their stockholders. Not so much in publishing book sales anymore. It has all evolved.”

Everett Comics has umbrellas, backpacks and toys. It is down the block from Funko, which has helped business.

“A lot of people come in here thinking this is Funko,” he said. “Others trickle down here and they’ll buy books.”

Kassandra Poles, 19, a Western Washington University student, stops by both Wetmore places when she visits Everett.

“I’m a comics fan because of my dad. It’s a bonding thing. He brought me into it,” she said.

She’s a fan of Harley Quinn, who first appeared as the Joker’s sidekick and love interest and was later in a romantic relationship with super-villain Poison Ivy.

“There’s not a lot female role models. She may not be the most positive influence but she’s still a very strong woman who can fend for herself,” Poles said. “These superheros are a good influence on the younger generation.”

Chad Siron encourages his two teenage kids to read comic books.

“I’ve been collecting comics off and on for 30 years,” the Marysville man said. “The stories are entertaining. It’s nice to relax with a comic book. I like to hold them.”

Holding a comic is not like holding a regular book. There’s tactile satisfaction. It’s no longer cheap paper with blotted colors. These days it’s glossy and the characters practically jump off the pages.

Siron sported his hero Deadpool on his T-shirt. “He is very sarcastic and a little more adult. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

Knoedler’s favorite is Batman.

“Old school,” he said. “Even as a kid you always thought if you tried hard enough you too could be a hero. Instead of being born with superpowers, it was something a human could strive for.”

On Free Comic Book Day, he’s a superhero.

Bam!

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown @herald net.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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