Owner Russ Bright (left) chats with customer Ben Barnes at Mill Geek Comics. Barnes plans to visit several comic book shops on Free Comic Book Day. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Owner Russ Bright (left) chats with customer Ben Barnes at Mill Geek Comics. Barnes plans to visit several comic book shops on Free Comic Book Day. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Kapow! Free Comic Book Day will wreak joy for geeks and kids

Shops are ready for onslaught of fans seeking freebies. “It is the Super Bowl of comic books.”

MILL CREEK — Be a hero.

Take your kids to Free Comic Book Day on Saturday.

It won’t cost you a dime.

“It is the Super Bowl of comic books,” said Russ Bright, owner of Mill Geek Comics south of Mill Creek.

Freebies such as Little Lulu, Pokémon, Big Bad Pizza Battle, The Incredibles and Minecraft are geared for kids.

“We are trying to start a new generation,” Bright said. “The goal is to make them customers for life. They come in and get a few comics they like and then they start coming back regularly.”

That might sound like a reason to not take your kids.

But what’s not to love about comics?

A full wall displays some of the more graphically appealing covers at Mill Geek Comics. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A full wall displays some of the more graphically appealing covers at Mill Geek Comics. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The thin books are affordable (many start at $2.99), even the 364 days a year they aren’t free.

The paper isn’t flimsy with blotted colors. It’s glossy, with characters that practically jump off the pages.

And, it’s reading.

Long gone are the days when kids had to hide comics in their desks. These days, libraries have comics on the shelves for checkout.

Sales of comics and graphic novels to consumers in the U.S. and Canada are about $1 billion annually, according to research by Comichron. It’s quite an explosion from when comic books started in the U.S. in the 1930s with the reprinting of newspaper comic strips on cheap paper.

Free Comic Book Day gets bigger every year. A promo recently flashed in bright lights on the marquee in New York’s Time Square.

There are some 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.

This year it falls on “May the Fourth be with you” — Star Wars day. Bam! Double fun.

Russ Bright talks with employee Jon Bell as they stock peoples subscriptions at Mill Geek Comics on May 1 in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Russ Bright talks with employee Jon Bell as they stock peoples subscriptions at Mill Geek Comics on May 1 in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Thousands of comic shops and libraries worldwide participate in the event. Stores make it festive with deals on merchandise to fuel the fervor.

So maybe it will cost you more than a dime.

Free titles include Avengers, Minecraft, Bob’s Burgers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Star Wars Adventures, Riverdale, Ghost Hog, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Robotech and Vampirella.

The books are free for customers, but not to retailers, who buy the comics at a reduced rate.

The number of freebies varies by site.

Everett Public Library, 2702 Hoyt Ave., is giving away two issues per patron while supplies last at the main branch starting at 10 a.m.

Phantom Zone Comics in Everett Mall, which opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, has a limit of six per person, 10 per family. After 1 p.m., people can come in and grab whatever is left, owner Joel Bowyer said.

“Everything will be on sale,” he said. The store will have door prizes and a Facebook online costume contest.

After seven years in Lynnwood, he moved Phantom Zone Comics to Everett Mall in March. He said 500 people came to the grand opening and he expects a bigger turnout on Saturday.

“It’s ‘Black Friday,’” he said.

Russ Bright looks out over one the glass display cases at Mill Geek Comics. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Russ Bright looks out over one the glass display cases at Mill Geek Comics. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Another mall store, Wishes, will also give away free comics.

Bright’s shop offers three comics to everyone at no cost when doors open at noon in the strip mall off Everett Bothell Highway at 17624 15th Ave. SE.

“With a $20 purchase you can have as many free comics as you want. You can grab anything on the table,” Bright said.

Ben Barnes, 31, a construction and maintenance worker, plans to hit several shops on Free Comic Book Day. He’s a year-round comic fan, especially of Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“I read comics as a kid. I stopped and picked it back up when I was 25,” he said.

The appeal?

“Some is the art. A lot is the story,” Barnes said. “Lot of emotions, up and down. Being something super, something else. Being a kid.”

Bright started reading comic books as a boy and continued as an adult, but he never considered making a career out of it. Instead, he pursued tech.

“Twelve years ago I was laid off from a software job and this was a fallback business, selling my personal collection,” Bright said.

“I made a decision a long time ago there wasn’t anything that was worth more than feeding my children. When I started this, I had been on unemployment for a year. We had two babies in diapers.”

He never went back to tech. He opened Mill Geek Comics in a cramped space in 2012 and two months ago moved across the highway to a bigger, more visible site.

Last year Bright, 40, was appointed to be an Overstreet Advisor, a prestigious title in the comic book universe.

“This is the pinnacle,” he said. He doesn’t know who nominated him.

The annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is considered an authority on the subject of American comic book grading and pricing.

A photo of Bright with an article by him will be in the edition coming out this summer about “the state of the comic union” in terms of the market and trends.

Bright can’t reveal what he wrote. You have to buy the fat $30 guidebook to find out.

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

Other places to score comics

Everett Comics & Cards, 2831 Wetmore Ave., Everett

Subspace Comics, 3333 184th St. SW, Lynnwood

A World of Collections Games, Comics & Cards, 22611 76th Ave. W., Edmonds

More info: www.freecomicbookday.com

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