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Worldwide, the first Saturday of May is one of the most important dates on the calendar of comic book lovers.
It’s called the Free Comic Book Day (FCDB), when comic enthusiasts and members of the public dress up as their favourite comic or action heroes, artists exhibit their work, and organisers give away comic books.
This year the 11th FCBD was celebrated in Cape Town, at Stadium on Main in Claremont and was hosted by the Reader’s Den comic book shop.
“I have never seen such a big turn-out. In the five years that we have been going, we have seen an improvement in the numbers of people who turned up, but this year was just phenomenal,” said Zaid Rowe, the production manager of Rising Art Studios.
Rowe and his team were at the FCBD to relaunch the first chapter of a comic book called Scarmander, which deals with a deity which is being held captive in a rock tomb by demons.
Two girls from a local village are the god’s only chance of being set free.
“We found that people were really receptive to our product. And it was good to see that there were so many local artists represented.”
Azadie Abrahams, one of Scarmander’s creators, said the hours of preparation paid off, because they could market their comic book to a much larger audience than they had anticipated.
“By 12 o’clock, there were still people queuing out the door. We’ve never seen anything like that!”
FCBD began when Californian comic shop retailer Joe Field suggested the concept to Diamond Comic Distributors to promote the comic medium as a form of art, literature, education and entertainment.
At the Cape Town FCBD there were 40 titles available this year including superhero fare, sci-fi and children’s comics.
Reader’s Den had ordered 1 500 books with an estimated two million books given away across the globe.
Store owner Mahdi Abrahams said people were often shocked at the idea of a free comic book.
“They think there is a catch, but we are not allowed to sell FCBD books,” he says.
And what would a comic book fare be without superhero mimics and their costumes?
The title for best costume went to an Iron Man impersonator.
True to the champion he was, he stayed in character (and costume), keeping bystanders guessing at his true identity.