Over the last 11 years, Free Comic Book Day has gone from a novelty marketing idea to an annually anticipated event.
It's held the first Saturday in May, almost always coordinating with a major comic-based movie release (this year, it's "Iron Man 3").
You can get previews of the books available and a listing of participating comic shops at www.freecomicbookday.com. And below, you'll find a few tips for those of you who are rookies or for whatever reason haven't found your Free Comic Book Day experience entirely satisfying.
DO: Look at publishers besides Marvel and DC.
I'm sure one of my Free Comic Book Day pickups (my local shop allows two items; others may vary) will be Marvel's "Infinity," which presumably involves Thanos - spoiler warning, the purple dude from the mid-credits sequence of "The Avengers" - starting to do something bad.
But Free Comic Book Day is a great time to take a risk on a title you're not reading, maybe even one you've never heard of before. Piquing my curiosity are the "FUBAR Special," which features tales from an anthology of war stories set throughout American history with zombies added in for good measure, and "Atomic Robo & Friends," an action-packed and humorous series starring an adventurous robot who deals with all manner of bizarre threats.
DON'T: Just grab any comic off the shelf.
There are more than 50 comics being offered by a variety of publishers. Twelve of them - the "gold books," including "Star Wars/Captain Midnight," "The Smurfs" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" - will be at every participating store while supplies last. These and others will be clearly marked as free. If you try to take home the latest issue of "Wolverine" without paying, there may be police involved, Bub.
You probably won't be able to snag every book you want. Make sure you and your friends aren't getting all the same ones (unless you're all "Dragon Ball" completists) so you can share them back and forth.
DON'T: Be surprised if the story isn't new.
While some offerings (like "The Tick") feature original content, others are reprints of classic or popular stories or tie in to upcoming events. That may seem like a cop out, but it can be good, allowing you to read a story you might have missed out on or content you can't easily find elsewhere. This year's "Walking Dead" freebie features a new short story and reprints of three others, none of which will be included in the trade editions. DC's "Superman" issue reprints the first part of a story arc co-written by original "Superman" movie director Richard Donner, while also previewing an upcoming series.
DO: Bring the kids.
And not just so they can grab more books to add to your haul. While a lot of comics these days, including titles starring characters like Batman and the X-Men, simply aren't aimed at or appropriate for younger readers, there are all-ages books being published and a number will be showcased on Free Comic Book Day. Among these are a "Sesame Street/Strawberry Shortcake" flipbook; a Kaboom Entertainment anthology featuring titles like "Peanuts," "Adventure Time" and "Ice Age;" "SpongeBob SquarePants;" and more. If you aren't sure about a title's age appropriateness, ask a store employee. (Hint: "Walking Dead" is not for kids. Some people don't seem to realize this.)
DON'T: Burst into the store wearing a "V for Vendetta"-style Guy Fawkes mask and shouting "Free the comic books!"
It's not as funny as it might seem in your head.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic "Support Group."