You may have seen the hashtag #FCBD on your favorite social medium as of late. In case you were confused by the jumble of letters, that stands for “Free Comic Book Day.” The day is quickly approaching, happening on May 6th of this year. If you’ve never heard of the event, we’ve put together a short primer to help you out.
What is it?
Taking place on the first Saturday of every May, Free Comic Book Day is an international event in which comic book stores give away comics to anyone who comes in. It’s not every comic, mind you; there are a wave of comics branded with the FCBD logo which are eligible. But these titles span such an array of genres and ages that you’re bound to find something that appeals to you.
FCBD has been such an outstanding success that 2017 marks its fifteenth year in existence.
Where is it?
Everywhere! OK, well, not really everywhere. Not all comic shops participate in FCBD. Luckily, there’s a comic shop locator on freecomicbookday.com that will point you to your nearest participating store.
What can I expect?
Here’s where it gets fun. First of all, you can expect free comics. However, which comics is up to the shop. There are different tiers of offerings available at different stores so it all depends on how your local comic shop is participating. That Store Locator should help you determine where to go if you want to score a specific issue.
Ah, now you’re asking the right questions.
There’s a ton of good stuff. Fans of Marvel and DC movies won’t be disappointed as both Guardians of the Galaxy and Wonder Woman get the FCBD treatment this year, just in time for their respective films to hit theaters. But Marvel is also offering a chapter from their Secret Empire storyline while DC taps the popular DC Super Hero Girls for a comic.
Archie Comics gets into the mix with two titles of their own. The first is an all-new Betty & Veronica with art by the amazing Adam Hughes. Archie will also be offering a comic based on the popular Riverdale television show from The CW. That one should go over nicely.
A few highlights (or at least titles that I’m most excited for) include:
- TMNT: Dimension X prelude from IDW
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess/Ocarina of Time from Viz Media
- Doctor Who from Titan Comics
- Buffy: The High School Years from Dark Horse Comics
I’m also excited for Lion Forge Comics, which is using Free Comic Book Day as a stepping stone to launch their newest series, Catalyst Prime: The Event. Written by Christopher Priest with art by Joseph Illidge, the solicit for Catalyst Prime sounds pretty solid and this should be a good series. And with the intro to the series being free, it’s worth checking out,
Of course, that’s not all that will be available. Head over to the FCBD website for the full run down. (http://www.freecomicbookday.com/catalog) (Also, once again, not all of the titles will be available everywhere. You may want t check with your local shop to see if they ordered the one you’re looking for if they participate at that level.)
Yes, so much more!
Because this is such a huge event for local comic stores, many of them go all out to promote it. One of my local shops brings in members from the 501st Legion, a devoted group of Star Wars costumers who make various charity appearances. Every year you can see them roaming the sidewalk outside of the store, greeting pedestrians, interacting and taking pictures with customers waiting on line and just bringing an air of joviality to the occasion.
Yet another of my local comic and gaming store had cupcakes. Yes, homemade cupcakes with little plastic rings featuring Thor and Iron Man. That was a tremendous treat. (Sadly, this store has since gone out of business. I was definitely looking forward to seeing what they did for FCBD this year.)
Many comic book stores also host writer and artist appearances. They’ll invite creators to interact with fans, sign autographs, sell sketches… They basically turn Free Comic Book Day into little comic cons.
Some stores will host free or paid raffles and give customers a chance to win some cool prizes.
A lot of the supplemental fun is up to the individual comic shop and not hosted by FCBD so call your local store to see what, if anything, they may be planning.
I hope many of you are planning on visiting your local comic shop(s) on Free Comic Book Day. If you do just remember, these comics are free to you but the stores still have to pay for them. So when you get your free stuff, make a purchase as well. Like any other business, local comic shops only survive if they turn a profit. If you want to be able to enjoy Free Comic Book Day in the coming years, show them some monetary support.
In the coming months, DC Comics will be releasing a slate of comic books featuring the reimagining of some of the most iconic cartoons characters ever, including Scooby Doo and Flintstones. As a preview to this, a few of this month’s Annual issues feature crossovers and backup stories of a selection of Hanna-Barbera’s other characters. One of these crossovers takes the Suicide Squad, a team of villains put to good use in a government wetworks program, and pairs them with the Banana Splits, a group of rock-n-rolling anthropomorphic animals from a show that aired in the late 1960s.
Full disclosure: I never watched the Banana Splits. It was way before my time. The only reason I even know about it is from the Liz Phair cover of “The Tra La La Song” on the Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits soundtrack. But that song is so ingrained in my psyche that when I saw the Banana Splits were featured alongside the Suicide Squad, I needed to pick the issue up.
The story opens with the Banana Splits getting chased by the police for a relatively minor traffic infraction. Through a misunderstanding, they’re arrested and sent to Belle Reve where they catch the eye of Amanda Waller, who just happens to be looking for a team of patsies to back up the Suicide Squad on a mission that has gone south. The two teams meet and, as expected, high jinks ensue as they join forces and take care of an unimportant plot point.
Written by Tony Bedard, the issue was not nearly as fun as I wanted it to be. Though most of DC’s readership likely has no idea who the Banana Splits even are, Bedard solves this problem by making a quick introduction of the characters by the second page, then immediately cracking a joke about how no one remembers them anyway. Unfortunately, that’s one of the few jokes that hits. Much of the issue is devoted to half-hearted humor and easy one-liners. The opening sequence is meant to be played for laughs, with the police mistaking Fleegle’s wallet for a weapon and immediately opening fire. Given how often stories like these flood the news waves, it’s actually surprising that this was meant to be funny but, well, here you go.
Even the tone of the book vacillates from page to page. Suicide Squad is, in general, full of mindless, action packed stories. Banana Splits, on the other hand, is mostly family friendly slapstick humor. Bedard manages to jam both of these tones into the story but they are often at odds with each other. The animals come off as gentle and easy going but two pages later are brawling in the middle of a prison riot. The sudden switch in characterization is jarring and the only way it works is just to shrug it off and go with it.
The art team, consisting of Ben Caldwell on pencils, Mark Morales on inks and Jeremy Lawson doing colors, manages to hold the story together though it’s not the most eye-catching display. The progression is easy to follow and Caldwell varies his angles to keep the pacing interesting, however, there is very little of note throughout the book. The colors are flat, panels and characters lack detail, and most everything is presented without subtext. Though I do have to say that I enjoyed many of the facial expressions Caldwell gives to the Banana Splits gang; not only did it seem difficult to give these animals humanistic expressions and make them feel natural, but they actually happened to be the funniest part of the book.
In addition to the main story, the book features an 8-page back-up starring Snagglepuss, another classic Hanna Barbera character that doesn’t have much of a millennial fanbase. This short was written by Mark Russell and imagines Snagglepuss in the center of the House Committee Un-American Activities during the 1950s. ‘Puss is a flamboyant playwright and he’s being questioned on what’s deemed his less-than-savory attitudes. Most of his dialogue is snarky and capitalizes on the literal interpretation of questions he’s asked, something that those who’ve seen a Snagglepuss cartoon would expect. But the story takes a swerve and settles into a social commentary on the importance of writers and how they’re perceived by society.
The art of the Snagglepuss story is just as clever as the writing. Howard Porter’s pencils are sharp and full of life, providing rich detail to his characters and environments. His panel layouts tend to get a little confusing, especially when he varies the angles to such a degree that it’s difficult to get a take on the scene, but given that almost half of the tale is set in a courtroom, this was likely intentional to keep things from getting boring.
Steve Buccellato’s colors are just as deep. Despite Snagglepuss being a large, pink cat, Buccellato approaches the character in such a way that his appearance in front of a bunch of business-suited men doesn’t come off as ludicrous. Luckily, Buccellato was smart enough to understand that the satire is evident in the concept of the story and bright, outlandish colors would have subverted it.
Overall, I do give credit to DC Comics for dusting off an old franchise like Banana Splits and introducing it to modern audiences. And while pairing them with the Suicide Squad was a bold move, it isn’t one that worked out too well. Instead of a one-off story in an annual issue, I would have prefer to see them in a mini-series of their own, to allow the writer room to expand on the characters and round them out a little more. At the very least, it may have been prudent to put the title into the hands of a different writer, one that’s less willing to turn a troubling social issue into a joke.
The Snagglepuss story is a prelude to a full series coming in the fall and is the most enjoyable part of this particular comic book.
Grade (Backup story): A-
As I opined in a previous article here, Telltale Games continually impresses me with their titles. This absolutely includes Telltale’s latest, Batman: The Telltale Series. My first write-up details my experience making mostly wise decisions as Bruce and Batman. However, out of pure curiosity and entertainment value, I played Batman: The Telltale Series‘ first episode again, but executing antagonistic dialogue choices and actions instead. You can see me play this entire episode as “jerk” Batman on the Sub-Cultured YouTube channel. Here, let’s dissect how these contrasting playthrough experiences differed, not excluding SPOILERS.
In the opening city hall heist sequence, Batman’s actions changed very little. I stopped the thugs and encountered Catwoman, but this Batman chose different words when conversing with her. I made Batman inform Catwoman that he wears the suit for the thrill, instead of any honorable intention. In true Telltale fashion, the game only states “Catwoman will remember that,” without revealing those consequences in this episode.
After the heist, which ended in Batman still recovering the stolen hard drive from Catwoman, Bruce proceeded to the private fundraiser being held for his friend Harvey’s mayoral campaign. This fundraiser, occurring in the Wayne Manor, gives many diverse dialogue options with the varying guests. I portray Bruce as rather dodgy with a fellow famous rich family, instead of inviting. When I encounter Vicki Vale this time, I tell her to leave. She surprisingly understood and walked away as criminal overlord Carmine Falcone crashed the party.
In this instance when Falcone offers his hand to Bruce, I shake his hand, disregarding every single eye watching me. Once Falcone and Wayne talk privately, the conversation nevertheless unfolds similar to my “good guy” playthrough. Falcone ends with some combative statements, to which Wayne promptly kicks him out.
The Press Conference
After the fundraiser concludes, Bruce meets an old friend, Oswald Cobblepot, at the once-prestigious Cobblepot Park. During this verbal exchange, I make Bruce respond to Oz’s veiled threats with threats of his own. Telltale again says “Oz will remember that,” but we do not see how in this episode. After this reunion, Bruce co-hosts a press conference with Harvey regarding the new Arkham Asylum building, where you’re presented an opportunity to verbally spar with the press.
When the press reveals Bruce’s parents had connections with the mob, I chose the more affronted dialogue options for Bruce. He slammed the press for believing flimsy sources, then still left abruptly after hearing the police are searching his mansion. When arriving at Wayne Manor, Bruce again confronts Lieutenant Gordon, but regardless of how argumentative Bruce is with Gordon, Gordon responds with calm “I’m here to do my job” replies.
Vicki Vale again intrudes in Wayne Manor uninvited, and again I have Bruce respond coldly to her presence. Bruce calls her out on her consistent trespassing and I refuse to give her a quote when asked. Before leaving, Vicki still offers words of encouragement, which befuddles me since this Bruce has constantly rebuked her.
Bruce pays Harvey a visit at a restaurant, where I play Bruce as accusatory, stating Harvey withheld information about the search warrant. Harvey claims not to know, but I have Bruce refuse to believe that. When Selina Kyle approaches, she and Bruce recognize each other as their costumed counterparts due to their battle wounds. Harvey steps away and I continue Bruce’s streak of snark as he insists he’s a “better person” than Selina/Catwoman.
Selina suggests Bruce could help her, and I have Bruce refuse to work with the likes of her. Nonetheless, Selina still discloses a warehouse where a chemical weapon exchange was occurring. Once again, the lack of consequences Bruce’s bad attitude has to the story puzzles me.
When Bruce as Batman arrives, the warehouse remains in bloody disarray, just like my first playthrough. After the game requires ace detective work, you find the nearby sniper who killed everyone. Instead of simply intimidating, I opt for Batman to break the sniper’s ribs with a pipe then break the sniper’s arm after obtaining the necessary information.
Because my Batman doesn’t give a damn, I stay when Gordon finally enters, who sees the damage I did to the sniper and responds with disgust. The cop with Gordon threatens Batman more than my “good guy” run, which is a nice touch. When the cop claims she’ll shoot me, I have Batman reply “I dare you.” This is probably the most gratifying, fun response I gave the entire “bad guy” playthrough. However, nothing comes of that right now, as I inform Gordon that the chemical weapons belonged to Falcone.
The Luxury Suite
The stolen hard drive again decrypts at this time, which is evidence on Falcone’s criminal empire. I still choose to provide this evidence to Gordon, although I admit I should have given it to Vicki since this was intended to be my “bad decision Batman” experience. When Bruce hands the drive to Gordon, Gordon emphasizes his intent to thoroughly investigate the Wayne family allegations. “Everyone has a price,” my surly Bruce replies.
After this scene, the finale occurs where Bruce as Batman raids Falcone’s luxury suite. After fighting through Falcone’s henchman, Batman comes face-to-face with Falcone, who accuses the Wayne family of being behind all the criminal activity lately. Despite this “confession,” I elect for Batman to brutalize Falcone by shoving his leg through an exposed pipe. A nearby news chopper and the police see the damage I’ve done, which surely influences them into thinking of the Bat as an unstoppable menace.
The episode ending remains unchanged, with Bruce returning to the Batcave completely shocked and repulsed by his family’s legacy being tarnished. This cliffhanger always sends chills down my spine in pure excitement for what’s to come in this series.
After 2 contrary playthroughs, Batman: The Telltale Series certainly includes enough disparate conversation choices, but could use more consequence. Vicki and Selina insisting on aiding Bruce regardless of my choices are baffling, yet the story couldn’t unfurl too drastically different for each player. There’s a concrete narrative Telltale intends on following, and it’s solid enough to currently hover in my top 10 games of this year, as long as the follow-up episodes deliver similarly.
Telltale Games uniquely excels with storytelling in gaming. Based on player choices, your character journeys through diverging paths in an average Telltale entry. They also possess great dialogue writing abilities, and better than most gaming titles. You’ll find one of their best examples in the hilarious Tales from the Borderlands. Although taking a more serious approach in Batman: The Telltale Series, it is no deviation in quality.
Batman: The Telltale Series tells a completely unique Batman story which doesn’t exist in any medium. There’s no DC comic, poorly-acted TV show, or underwhelming movie containing this tale. Telltale CEO & Founder Kevin Bruner openly discussed their partnership with DC during this series’ creation. In the first episode of the related behind-the-scenes series Batman: Unmasked, it’s revealed that DC felt Telltale’s take does right by Batman. After completing the first Batman: The Telltale Series episode thrice, I say DC’s trust in Telltale is justified.
Instead of your typical review, I’ll dissect my differing playthrough experiences. If you need my usual grade for reference, this episode deserves an A-. For those that have yet to play this fantastic episode, this article includes SPOILERS, as we’ll divulge the results of my contrasting decisions as Bruce Wayne and Batman, starting with my “good” Batman playthrough.
READY TO BELIEVE IN GOOD
My first playthrough consisted of decisions a good person would make. The game opens with Batman (voiced by Troy Baker) attempting to prevent a heist at Gotham City Hall. Here, Batman encounters Catwoman (voiced by Laura Bailey). We end up fighting regardless of the words traded, Batman takes the hard drive she stole back from her, then she escapes. My familiarity with Telltale’s games aids me as I succeed in each Quick Time Event (QTE) here, and in the 2nd playthrough. Batman: The Telltale Series gives us the Batman action we know and love, but your actions’ consequences reside in your dialogue choices.
The first major dialogue choices in Batman: The Telltale Series occurs during a fundraiser for Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign, hosted by Bruce Wayne himself. I navigate through various polite choices with influential guests, with Harvey Dent (voiced by Travis Willingham) at my side. Reporter Vicki Vale (voiced by Erin Yvette) shows up uninvited, but being the decent guy I am here, I tell her she can stay. Carmine Falcone (voiced by Richard McGonagle) also arrives uninvited, yet he’s a known crime boss. With all guests’ eyes on me, I refuse to shake his hand. Then we converse privately, where I insist on Harvey’s presence, and I further give Falcone grief for his methods. Time will tell how this rift impacts Bruce’s life.
After the fundraiser, Bruce reconnects with old friend Oswald Cobblepot, or Oz for short (voiced by Jason Spisak). I keep things cordial with Oz despite his veiled threats of overthrowing the rich (which includes Bruce). Post-reunion, Bruce heads to a press conference, co-hosted with Harvey, for the announcement of a renovated Arkham Asylum. Here, the press bombards Bruce with accusations of his parents’ involvement with the mob. Simultaneously, Bruce receives texts from Alfred notifying that the police are searching his mansion for evidence. I remain cordial and calm with the press, stand up for Bruce’s parents’ legacy, then race home.
A STORM’S COMING
Back at Wayne Manor, Lieutenant James Gordon (voiced by Murphy Guyer) confronts Bruce, and I have Bruce politely tell him how wrong these accusations are. However, Gordon will only believe what the evidence tells him. Then Vicki Vale intrudes again, but I’m inviting to her and give a quote at her request, calling the story on Bruce’s parents fabricated.
After Vicki departs, Bruce finds Harvey at a restaurant, questioning if he knew about the search warrant signed by potentially-corrupt incumbent Mayor Hill. Harvey swears he didn’t, so I have Bruce believe him. Then Harvey’s girlfriend, Selina Kyle, walks up. She silently recognizes Bruce’s scratches as Bruce identifies the bruise on her eye. These two subtly acknowledge each other’s secret identity.
Harvey steps away for a phone call, which is where the real tension builds. I chose for Bruce to scold Selina’s criminal lifestyle, but when she offered help, I didn’t refuse. Selina then gives Bruce a warehouse’s address, where Selina was expected to deliver the hard drive mentioned earlier.
Batman suits up, finds the warehouse a bloody mess after a chemical leak and a shootout, then questions a nearby, poorly-hidden sniper. The options here are to physically maul the sniper or simply intimidate him. This Batman being honorable, I feigned beating him with a pipe, threatened to break his arm, and still obtained the needed information. I passed along these details to Gordon, which implicated Falcone as the responsible party. Gordon notices I didn’t maim the sniper and respects my restraint.
THE POWER OF FEAR
Bruce heads back to the Batcave as the stolen hard drive data is fully decrypts. The drive contains data that can take down Falcone and his empire, although it’s unclear from where the drive originated and why. Another choice reveals itself, as you either opt to share this data with your contacts in the press or the police. While condemning Falcone in the court of public opinion is a nice sentiment, I went with the obvious choice of handing the evidence over to Gordon.
Discussing the evidence with Gordon as Bruce presented a small challenge. Gordon sees your act of goodwill as a potential bribe. Still playing good guy mode, I assure Gordon the intentions are pure, which Gordon trusts. After separating, Bruce suits up as the Bat to start his own methodical takedown of the Falcone regime.
Another commendable element of Batman: The Telltale Series is the detailed approach at choosing your attack plan. There are 4 armed guards in Falcone’s luxury suite, and you select which inanimate objects to beat them with. It’s nothing short of glorious. After this task, you corner Falcone and can either brutalize him or handcuff him. When a news chopper arrived, handcuffing was the less bloodier option I chose, which will play well with the viewing Gotham audience.
Falcone reveals to Batman that the Waynes are behind the entire mess Gotham is in. This sends Bruce in a tizzy. He returns home, violently removes his cowl, and demands Alfred to tell him the truth. This is our first of 4 expected cliffhangers Telltale delivers brilliantly. Now we have a story that’s equal part Batman and Bruce that we the fans can sink our teeth into.
My excitement for episode 2 is palpable but first, we’ll have a write-up and video playthrough of the “bad guy” version of Batman. He’s not so much a killer as he’s just mean and makes bad decisions. However, I suppose one could argue that’s the more fun version.
A few months ago, we were surprised by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s announcement that he’d be producing a Sandman film with the blessing from creator Neil Gaiman. Then, we were teased by writer Jack Thorne’s attachment to the project. Now, as fans twiddle their thumbs waiting for more updates, I’d like to offer an argument for the casting of our beloved brooding Dream Lord.
Some e-whispers suggest that Don Jon himself should don Morpheus’ oneiric cowl. Why not? He’s pale with dark dressings and has dabbled in the DC universe before. Others like our own ethereal editor, Leia, champions more maturity in the master of disguise, Doug Jones. On the other hand, Gaiman put forward the razor-sharp cheekbones of Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch for his two cents.
What is my informed and corrected opinion on who should be cast, you ask, nay, you beg? All of the actors, or at least as many as could be seamlessly cut into a scene.
Hear me out. One reason among many that makes Sandman one of the most preeminent comic series of all time is it’s art, which not only was helmed by a multitude of different artists, but depicted a comic book hero who is iconically inconsistent from panel to panel. Unlike the red and blue of Superman, or Batman’s dark gauntlets, Morpheus’ face and clothing rarely had the exact same features from page to page, let alone spanning volumes. Even more interesting, Dream’s appearance would often depend on who he was interacting with. J’onn Jonzz sees Morpheus as a Martian, while to the Egyptian cat goddess, he is a great black cat with stars for eyes. How then could one actor really capture Dream better than a comic book artist? Why make a film at all if you’re going to lose something so essential from the character? (The different facets of Dream is probably best depicted and explained in the current mini-series, Sandman Overture, which marks Gaiman’s return to the character).
So imagine a movie where different actors play Dream in different moods, or in different scenes reacting to different characters. Picture the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but much, much, better. Not only would this be visually amazing, but would honor the inconceivable vastness of a character that personifies an eternal and formative aspect of the universe. Throw Cat-Dream in there, and I think you’ve got the basis for a perfect Sandman adaptation.
What do you all think?