by Brian Clarey

There was no such thing as Free Comic Book Day when I was a kid. When I was a kid Free Comic Book Day meant you swiped a couple Archies from the spindly wire rack at the newsstand while the old guy behind the counter wasn’t looking.

And believe me, he was always looking.

But now, the first Saturday in May is always Free Comic Book Day, and though the old fart in me likes to grouse a little, I think it’s a pretty amazing thing.

For one, comic books are awesome, one of the few indigenous American art forms — jazz is another. In the modern era, the form is being stretched toward nonfiction, drama and the digital frontier. I read comics on my phone these days.

And comics are better than ever.

The DC Universe, where Batman, Superman and the Flash do their thing, has undergone a reboot and launched all new storylines. A similar shake-up is going on at Marvel, where Spider-Man is a black, Latino teenager and the Hulk is now red

I’m following Saga, a hyperreal fantasy about creatures from warring worlds — one with horns, one with wings — who fall in love, have a child and may perhaps save the universe. The story reveals itself in excruciating month-long interludes, a part of the comic experience; I can barely wait to read the next issue.

Of course there are free comics on Free Comic Book Day, when major labels introduce new characters or storylines and leverage any and all commercial tie-ins. Truth be told, the comics on Free Comic Book Day kind of suck.

But Free Comic Book Day has become about more than the free comics.

On Saturday, every comic shop in America will host cosplayers, artists, aficionados and children at heart in a festival celebrating the form and the people who love it. It’s a great day, certainly worthy of endorsement.

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