Reading Through Another 37 Comics For Free Comic Book Day 2016

I’ve talked about some other Free Comic Book Day titles for 2016 – such as DC Super Hero Girls, Valiant 4001 AD, Suicide Squad, Civil War II, Spectrum, Serenity, Archie Comics, Sonic The Hedgehog, Rom/Action Man and Avatarex…. that’s ten.

There’s fifty in total. Well here are another 37…. I’ll catch up[ on the remaining three tomorrow, I’m sure.

I don’t have all of them. But I have some of the rest. And it’s interesting to notice some common themes and approaches.

The most pervasive is comic books… about comic books. The CBLDF’s Defend Comics is probably the most expected in that regard. Though it got my back up a little with Lucy Knisey‘s lead comic talking about Speakers Corner in London’s Hyde Park…

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Which runs into a contradiction rarely tackled by the CBDLF, that private censorship both counts as censorship and is often far more pervasive than state censorship. And that what the mother says, unable to be repeated fully in this comic book, can play out of British network television in a way that it can’t in the supposedly free speechier USA…

Oh but the comic itself, excellent, varied, pushing the right to speech, to offense, and dealing with reaction to that. With James Kochalka’s Johnny Boo pages looking most likely to be scanned in and posted on Tumblr.

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Not a place for trigger comic books. Some people will even be offended by this. But John Patrick Green’s allegory of zoo animals convinced that every other animal is getting attention over them forcing them all to shout louder is one of the cleverer and simplest online commentary allegories I’ve seen, that’s not about talking less, but talked wiser and being less insecure.

Hmm. Moving on…

Z2 Comics has an anthology, Comics Lab!!! with a variety of meta stories from Welcome To Showside, Hyper Force Neo and The Carver all pushing the appeal of the comic book form with a variety of bizarre characters getting different things out of them, whether the hauntingness of dead comics to Teenomicon

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Or the wacky crisis of confidence and coolness.

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Or the role of the fanzine/tijuana bible publication in the role of recording history. The strong variety and punch of each strip, especially its tease for Legend, has to make this a satisfying appetiser for the Z2-curious.

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Love And Rockets also goes to the comic book shop and delves amongst the pulp, with glimpses of recent strips, a great way for old fans to catch up with their favourite characters, and for new fans to see what all the fuss may be about. Given the popularity of certain titles from Marvel and Boom!, this really is where that all began.

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Although the future of the form may well be in doubt!

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The Tick gets a comic convention all of his own, even though he seemingly has nothing to do with it, in two brand new stories from NBM.

Image One Punch Man from Viz Media rejects the grim’n’gritty approach of the modern superhero, in this introductory chapter from the Viz Media series… the only comic to be published right-to-left on Free Comic Book Day.

Image (46)Though Attack On Titan Anthology keeps it left-to-right as the Western creators take on the world’s most successful comic book today. And take them to a cosplay comic con set in the world, though one where it seems they haven’t put up Cosplay Is Not consent signs – from the Batgirl team of Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr…Image (47)

And from Evan Dorkin as well, as his Attack On Attack On Titan, the usual wonderful irreverence and perfect for this teaser.

Image (101)You can also see Evan Dorkin in the Bongo Free-For-All 2016 book, taking pretty much the same approach with slightly less nudity and ultra-violence. I said slightly less…

Image (100) And the book also puts Homer and Bart back in the super suits – though some new unexplored variety. These are not your grandparents’s Radioactive Man and Bartman…

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Something the Grumpy Cat and Pokey comic book also has a go at, though a grumpy look at Batman V Superman seems to prevail…

Image (56)While the Pink Panther also goes superhero-ish, channelling the power of Thor. You know, I think there are some Marvel fans who would prefer this to the current female Thor. Sigh.

Image (106)Sanjay & Craig featured a number of short stories for the pair and for Harvey Beaks. The comic gives us not only Aqualips but also the GI-Joe-style patriotic zombies, the Zombarines, as part of a series of strange stories. Potentially very kid friendly, it’s also just on the disturbing side for parents to worry befiore remembering the Garbage Pail Kids they used to collect. Good comics.Image (105)Sanjay and Craig may have Aqualips but Spongebob Freestyle Funnies has Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy which is, frankly, a court case waiting to happen. This is a nice thick heavy production comic that feels like it could absorb a lot of water. Again, it channels that slightly-more-acceptable Ren & Stimpiness as Spongebob grows extra arms to deal with the pressures of a busy kitchen. Naturally things get out of control. If only he could get a day off…

Image (104)Free for Free Comic Book Day, Strawberry Shortcake #0 by Georgia Ball and Amy Mebberson from IDW is all about a non-typical day. Whatever you might know about the character is turned on its head as all her friends give her the day off to plan an anniversary party for the opening of her cafe, naturally everything goes wrong. Strawberry doesn’t get to do what she does best. And ever the strawberriness of her hair is taken away from her by a colouring mishap. Basically “everything you knew about Strawberry Shortcake is wrong” for just one day. A charming story with the underlining message that “all your friends mean well, but they are all terrible people.” Never too young to learn that.

Image (62) The Stuff Of Legend is the original story reformatted for a traditional size comic. It still packs an emotional punch.

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Okay, I’m just going to say one thing about the Overstreet Comic Book MarketplaceFCBD issue. You have a gorgeous cover of The Spirit by John K Snyder III. No one can take that away from you. But with a big article on the inside about the Civil War comic and the Captain America: Civil War movie opening in the USA, do you think, maybe that you should have even mentioned that on the cover? More people may have been minded to read Carrie Wood‘s article given the topicality…

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Space Goat gives us an anthology, Dark Lily And Friends, promising all-ages fun! With snobby vampires and snobby goths, I’m not sure if every parent will think “little pirate turd” counts as all-ages, but all the children reading it will.

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…though some parents will find themselves being asked “what’s a big fat tool?” and having to improvise an answer.

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Just, you know, don’t let them all pick up Lady Mechanika unless they’re at least nine and can deal with death, destruction, murder, bad language and tight fiytting corsets with each steampunk seam effortlessly rendered on the page.

Image (97)Image Comics reprints the first issue of Otis Frampton’s Oddly Normal for free. This was one of BC’s favourite comics last year – and probably this one as well. It has struggled to find an audience, maybe Free Comic Book Day could help that. If all children rebel against their background, then this – like Absolutely Fabulous – is a story that rebels against rebellion.
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Assassin’s Creed is all very swish and stylish, previewing two of the Assassins Creed comics – the normal one and the Templars one.Image (65)

Lots of standing around speaking moodily. Which is pretty accurate to the cut scenes…. oh and there’s a nice pull out poster and a thick shinyt paper stock. Sometimes it really does make a difference.Image (64)

Howard Lovecraft & The Frozen Kingdom has chosen to drop all mention of Stan Lee from the cover, which is a shame given his entertaining cameo in the Civil War movie. Did I mention I got the URL?

But the lead, Howard Lovecraft, based on an upcoming movie is a rather pretty and entertaining thrill ride, with plenty of space to breathe. The Unknowns, based on a rock-band-turned-world-defenders is far more of a traditional super hero title, and is a little more literal with the effects of music than, say, the likes of Phonogramn.

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I can see why they knocked this back a little in the actual comic book…

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Hilda from Nobrow gives us a very entertaining spread of three all-ages titles. Hilda’s humdrum modern day village life in a place surrounded by fantasy is the highlight, there’s never quite an awareness of how mucy is real and how much is in her mind until the real life effects hit.
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While Fantasy Sports has a similar feel of a small town where the extraordinary has been inserted into the mundane. Both play with the Steven Universe of Scott Pilgrim kind of approach to reality where not much about life actually changes, aside from the really fantastic living alongside it.
Image (60)Akissi doesn’t do that, however, her reality is one that she wants to escape from and will change her own reality to achieve it. She’s love to live in the other two worlds….

Image (55)Awake, from Action Lab, is a far more fully realised fantasy/sci-fi world that fills every moment, lives utterly transformed.  But even those have familiar moments…. gotta catch ’em all.

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Because yes, everyone knows Pokemon. This comic from Viz also adds to the brief storytelling with quizzes as to the reader’s knowledge of the characters with answers only a page away. The kind of story that fans will find so many layers to enjoy – and that will baffle the rest of us.

Image (52) At least the Legend Of Korra/How To Train Your Dragon/Plants Vs Zombies volume makes some concessions to the new comer. And it’s also about gathering animals (with parental consent)…Image (54)

Kidnapping plants (without consent)….

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…and more moody goths. There’s a lot to pack in here and it does it very well indeed, for kids licensed titles, this one probably can’t be beat.
Image (51)Science Comics from First Second excerpts from their Science Comics line, and show just how well comics can convey what may to some be dull by-tote information by making it oh so very personal with Maris Wicks’ lead story,Image (50)

And by portraying the most fascinating scenes as in Jon Chad’s volcano histories. That’s an image that really stays with you.
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Street Fighter V from Udon is incredibly slick with Edwin Huang channelling a like of animated cel version of Joe Madueria in one of three stories about duty, honour, and beating up everyone. The motivation may not always be there, but in Matt Moylan and Brendon Tapper’s final story… it’s pretty obvious.   

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March previews scenes from John Lewis’ life and observations of the Civil War movement, not only the first two volumes but also the third volume, as events start to take a turn for the more provocational.

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The events continue to gain new life through Nate Powell’s evocative storytelling skills, and the third volume, with more of an “action” feel is going to bring those to the fore.

Image (102)Bob’s Burgers riffs on a variety of comic books styles and genres, but I wasn’t expecting a trip to Rarebit Fiends in a Little Nemo fashion. Albeit one that suddenly looks more like Fifty Shades of Nemo….

Image (99)We get a brand new origin for Bruce Lee, back from the dead, revived to his youth and not understand anything about this world around him. See him find the word “google” amusing….Image (98) Thankfully his best friend Brian Exposition is still around to fill him in, in Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises from Darby Pop.
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Camp Midnight is just the most striking of all the all-ages comics for this year’s Free Comic Book Day, full of flat, clashing colours, scratchy lines and zipatone. A fanzine of a comic, it gives the impression that anyone could – and should – make comics, without itself being an amateur effort. Snarky and sparky, this should be a star.

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Junior Braves Of The Apocalypse from Oni Press has been called Walking Dead for kids but I’m not as convinced. It has much of the appeal and ideas of the likes of Camp Midnight, but less of the skill and less of the balls-to-the-wall bravado. Some might prefer a more traditional take however.

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The world is at an end for Aspen Comics. But a new one is beginning. And this is where it all comes together as realities clash into each other. Every FCBD sees a new Worlds of Aspen, this is the first time when we will actually see a new world resulting from it….Image (91)

Drawn & Quarterly may be introducing Tom Gauld to a whole new audience tomorrow. I do hope so. Here he is Arthur C Clarke crossed with Alan Bennett. Somethjing that should appeal to Chris Ware fans who want to know where the next panel is coming with slightly less effort, and who appreciate a sense of warmness. His work is crisp, detailed, enduring and engaging, and there’s even a touch of Shane Simmons and Roger Langridge to the humour. So, Mooncop, pick it up. One of the best for the day.
Image (89)Devil’s Due/1First Comics has a Mix Tape anthology thing with the return of Badger which hits well…

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The still-utterly-stunning Squarriors which has basically become Mouse Guard with more of a Watership Down take on the violence of animals – educative as well as exploitative…

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Mercy Sparx making a little product placement and a bar that understands that all-ages doesn’t been lining up the shots…

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But my favourite has to be a new Public Relations story, How To Dragon Your Train which – as well as having the best title of anything in Free Comic Book Day this year, is the closet we’ll get to classic Dwayne McDuffie Damage Control. Oh and cosplayers….

Boom also has an anthology title, their Summer Blast…
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Giving us a gorgeously endearing return to Labyrinth giving Ludo his moment in the sun.Image (84)Mouse Guard giving us one of the most intricately detailed and pored over stories, both charming and challenging, that lets you get lost in the detail.

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The Cloud will also fascinate and engage with just the right level of disturbing detail…

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While Adventure Time goes meta as the entire concept of that comic book and cartoon is rejected by the big boys. or girls. But that’s not you is it? You love it! Therefore you are, by definition a better person.Image (82)


And Lumberjanes also walks that line between charm and grossness that ticks all the boxes for parents and kids alike. It’s a rare ability to both resemble something created by committee in some ways, but never lose soul, purpose or appeal. Weirdly, it totally reminds me Doctor Who in that way….

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Doctor Who is all about the nostalgia. Four Doctprs, four adventures, including one that goes back to the first adventure of the Fourth Doctor, with the return of The Giant Robot for the Twelfth Doctor to deal with. While the Ninth Doctor goes back to the Eye Of Harmony from the Fifth Doctor’s days. While the Eleventh Doctor is still dealing with Steve Moore creation Absolom Daak. Only the Tenth Doctor gets an adventure that is all his own…

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Dream Jumper wears its heart on its sleeve. Then makes that heart out of bacon and wraps it around his best friend. Image (7)A story of childhood dreams, given much more importance and urgency. It feels a little empty, like Howard Lovecraft, but with less control over the page. I can’t deny a certain wide eyed appeal though.

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And We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists is just gross, funny, and full of amoral people. Sometimes I think that might be the best all-ages way to go. The We Can Never Go Home story that teases into the new series is, to all intents and purposes, a remixed Kill Your Boyfriend.

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While Young Terrorists feels like classic Garth Ennis…. this is a good thing.

So… what do you fancy picking up tomorrow?

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.