Free Comic Book Day

In my early morning pre-caffeine internet gazing this morning, I learned that today is Free Comic Book Day. And not only were there free comics but the was a comic book store near my house that was handing out bagfuls of them. My sons are very young but the idea of free book of any variety is enough to get them in the car- and holy smoke did they haul in a pile of comics. We have Richie Rich, Green Lantern, Justice League, and comics I haven’t heard of – and of course Archie Andrews, which I confess is about the limit of my comic book knowledge. 

The staff of the Time Warp Comics store in Cedar Grove had a bunch of recommendations. Folks who came for the free comic book day could get a bag of about 10 different comics, and then pick 8 more from a selection inside. The selection was amazing. It seemed like every major comic publisher and every major storyline had a Free Comic Day special edition. We immediately drove to Connecticut to see my in-laws, and even with traffic the car was very quiet. Comics were a total hit in my house.

There are a lot of people in publishing who insist that anything free isn’t a working business model, but in this case yet again I disagree. I now know where the comic store is, know how friendly they are, and know that I can bring my sons there to find more stories. I just got my five year old his first graphic novel this week, and he has already read it twice. Free comics were a perfect addition to a new reading addiction.

Jemmaprophet tweeted to me that she loves comics, and that there are some wonderful romances in comic books. I confess, my knowledge is limited, but maybe you know more than I do (this is very likely). Which comics have a wonderful romance storyline? Which do you recommend?

And to all the people who must have worked very hard to make Free Comic Book Day happen, thank you thank you thank you. You are awesome. 

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  1. 1
    Kaelie says:

    I love free comic book day, it’s just so much fun. Though it sounds like your comic shop had more free comics than ours did *le sigh*.

    As for comics with romance, I’ve never tried to find strictly romance comics. But a favorite of mine (which I’m hoping to buy soon) that has a pretty good thread of romance in it (even thought you wouldn’t think it does) is Thor: The Mighty Avenger. It’s not a very long series (it got canceled), and it’s kinda in its own world so you don’t need to buy a whole bunch of other comics to understand what’s going on.

    Here’s a sample (or two): http://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/2606634.html?#cutid1
    http://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/2187732.html?#cutid1

  2. 2
    LG says:

    I have no nearby comic shop, but I do have a bookstore that sells graphic novels and manga. By the time I got there, there were no more free comics, but I mostly went for the sales on manga.

    I don’t read a lot of American comics, because I got tired of all the decade-spanning series – plus, as far as I can tell, American comics still mean “superhero comics” an awful lot of the time. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but I get more variety when I read manga.

    That said, one series I can think of that has fantastic romantic storylines and happens to be one of the series that got me hooked on comics is Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini. If you read it, you MUST read it in color – it’s too gorgeous for black-and-white. You should still be able to get it via the library, but it can be insanely expensive to buy. I recently found out that the entire series has been made available to read for free online, too.

    As far as manga goes, there are an insane number of titles with great romances. A lot of the ones I read are aimed at teenage girls but work for older audiences as well. Some of my favorites are Fruits Basket (over 20 volumes long) and High School Debut (shorter, but not by much). Then there’s ones aimed at slightly older audiences, such as Tramps Like Us.

    I believe Harlequin has a manga line, but I’ve only ever read reviews, never the actual volumes.

  3. 3
    Gail says:

    I can name plenty of good things that have romance subplots (though it is the nature of serials to draaag out courtships). I’m especially found of Girl Genius which has the tagline “Adventure, Romance, Mad Science, Occasionally Tea” http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php
    This comic btw is a really good case study for success with free content. It was a struggling print comic before it went online, it is now a Hugo award winning online comic that routinely sells out its first print runs for the trade paperback editions they publish.
    The Elfquest series also comes to mind for having some good romance content, especially the early books. You could check out Strangers in Paradise for something with a more soap opera feel to it.  Or for pure snark check out http://www.lastkisscomics.com/2011/05/03/too-sexy/
    If you dip your toe into the world of manga I’m sure could find all sorts of things, for instance Harlequin’s foray into manga http://www.darkhorse.com/Press-Releases/1208/Harlequin-Ginger-Blossom-manga Note .that I haven’t read those so I can’t speak to quality or lack thereof.

  4. 4
    Ron Hogan says:

    Marvel’s ALIAS, which ran from 2001 to 2004 and is pretty well-collected now, had an excellent romantic storyline between its main character, Jessica Jones, an ex-superhero turned private investigator, and Luke “Power Man” Cage. Their relationship has continued and deepened in subsequent comics, including the Avengers franchise.

  5. 5
    HelenMac says:

    First things first: FCBD – I both love and hate it. Love it, because, you know, free comics=awesome, for the luring of new comic book geeks to swell the ranks, and for the content of the comics themselves, which often combine jumping off points for n00bs with fan-service-y in jokes for oldbies all in one. Hate it, b/c I’ve never actually availled myself of it on the day – I’m always either not close to a comic book store, at work (RETAIL, I DO NOT LIKE YOU AT ALL, SOMETIMES!), or so exhausted from work that I don’t wake up in time to make it to my LCS in time for free stuff . And when free is my favourite price, too. *pout*

    RIGHT. On to the good stuff. Romance storylines. Obv, spoilers, but not for anything published in the last month, promise.

    (I’m going to assume you want recs for actual canon, in-continuity storylines, rather than an essay on various non-canon pairings that are totally there, man, you don’t even have to squint, it’s only subtext if it is subtle and there is no non-relationship based explanation for that at all! Although, I can totally do those, too…we may come back to that…)

    I’ve decided, somewhat arbitrarily, to just mention 3 couples, otheriwe I could be here all night.

    The first romance storyline romance of my girlish heart is Rogue/Gambit (Marvel, X-Men titles, many many years of them) (ignore the films’ continuity, it screws EVERYTHING up). I fell in love with the idea of the two of them when I was knee high to a grasshopper, and the main two reasons for this were: a) Gambit’s accent (his real name is Remy Etienne LeBeau and he’s from N’awlins), and; b) the angst in-built to their relationship, mostly from Rogue’s powers meaning that they can’t kiss or touch at all skin-to-skin, but also the sheer amount of emotional baggage thay both carry around. (They were both bad guys before they were good guys! She put the first boy she ever kissed into a coma! He’d been (unwillingly) involved in the Morlock Massacre! They lost their powers and could touch! Then they got their powers back and he was blinded! He’s been possessed by one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse! … I’ll stop now. In summary: MEANT to be together, MUCH delicious angst keeping them apart.

    In a similar ‘meant to be together, much angst keeping them apart’ vein: Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) (Marvel – Avengers titles, many many years). Their relationship issues read as more ‘grown up’ than those of Rogue and Gambit, dealing as they do with such things as rape (Bobbi’s), infidelity (Clint’s perception of), marriage to each other, divorce from one another, supposed reconciliation, apparent death of one, and so on, and yet, while the things that happen to them can be as fantastical as for the first couple I mentioned, with Skrull impersonators and ghostly Phantom Riders, and so on, and even though Clint in particular keeps shooting ‘them’ in the foot, the way they deal (separately and together) feels adult and real and believeable.

    To return to the idea of non-canon pairings for a second, for my third rec, I’m going Marvel again (and I tell everyone I’m a DC girl now, whut), and a couple who have only recently (in the past two publishing years, rather than decades and decades like the first two) become a couple: Julio Richter (Rictor) and Shatterstar (we’re just going to stick with that one name, because his history is too complicated for me to summarize here). For YEARS, some fans swore blind that they were a couple, or that something was going on between them, while other fans just said it was all in their minds, and there was no basis on panel for that conclusion. And then in the summer of 2009, Shatterstar returned, they kissed on panel and a thousand slash fangirls and boys eyes turned into hearts, anime-stylee. The reason I’d rec them is not so much for the years of ‘tilt your head and squint and think about it and you’ll totally see it!’ comics, but the X-Factor comic since the kiss – the conflict in their relationship has come from two main sources, Rictor’s apparently getting someone prgenant just before Shatterstar’s return (resolved-ish), and Shatterstar’s complete lack of boundaries when it comes to ‘appropriate’ relationship behaviour (ongoing, but he can’t help it, he’s an alien who’s just not used to romantic relationships at all and struggles with understanding what it is to be human, let alone a good boyfriend).

    Okay, I lied, after talking about Ric/Star, I have to mention two more Marvel couples, for two reasons, the gay, and the ‘it’s totally there, man, you don’t even have to squint, it’s only subtext if it is subtle and there is no non-relationship based explanation for that at all! thing. First, the gay: Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) and Teddy Altman (Hulkling): fan favourites, because they are teenage Avenger fanboys with powers of their own. Also gay, and the fangirls love that. ;-) Secondly, Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar)‘s unrequited love for Bobby Drake (Iceman): they were and are not a couple, and JP has a boyfriend now, after coming back from the dead, but the issues dealing with JP’s feelings for Bobby were just heart-wrenching.

    There are loads more couples whose arcs I follow(ed) passionately, but with many, their relationship’s development isn’t front and centre in the book, and so it wouldn’t be fair to reccomend them as romantic storylines. Or their future is uncertain – in some cases, for publisher, rather than character issues (Apollo/Midnighter, I need more of your story!!! DC! Decide what you’re going to with the Wildstorm characters you bought!!!)

    Although that raises another issue (man, I really need to stop typing stream of conciousness like this): because of the nature of comics publishing, can any comic book couple’s storyline be Romantic, rather than romantic? Especially as there is almost a guarantee any Happy is For Now, rather than Ever After?

  6. 6
    HelenMac says:

    Apparently the ESSAY I just wrote in the comment box may be spam, and is awaiting moderation. That’ll learn me to type so much, so stream-of-conciousness-ly.

    @Kaelie oh, Jane and Thor and S_D! *le sigh* You’re a girl after my own heart.

    @LG @Gail I did read a the first 4 Harlequin manga, and they were disappointing. The art was generally lovely, but the stories were so dated, which was unsurprising, because essentially what the Harlequin manga were, were translations into English of not-all-that-recently-published-in-Japan manga based on Harlequin books. I mean, I’ve read and love more than my share of 80s category romance, but I was hoping that Harlequin was going to put more effort in/do something more exciting with the new line.

    @Ron Hogan the Jessica-Luke back and forth is one of my favourite things about the Avengers ongoing.

  7. 7
    AfroQueen says:

    I LOVE COMICS!  I’ve been reading and collecting them for over 25 years.  I was so happy to discover FCBD a few years ago and even happier that the library system where I’m a librarian participates by giving away free comics.  I love the epicness of comics and I’m more of a Superhero comic person, I read the X-Men, Green Lantern, Thor, Avengers, Deadpool, etc and what always keep me coming back is the relationships between the characters.  I started collecting comics because of the art, but kept reading them because of the stories and the characters. 

    Comics are Epic.  Oh and I saw “Thor” twice in a 24-hour period…if nothing else, go see it for the HOTNESS that is Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and the sexiness that is Idris Elba’s (Heimdall) voice. 

    :::Le Swoon:::

  8. 8
    LG says:

    @HelenMac – The reviews I read of a few Harlequin manga agreed with you, which is part of the reason why I haven’t read anything, although I almost caved and bought some when they popped up in a RightStuf sale. I’m such a sucker for a sale. Another reason I held off on them was that I was a little leery when I read they used colored ink (similar to Shojo Beat magazine’s use of blue and pink – don’t know if they do that anymore). That seemed just a tad too cutesy to me.

  9. 9
    Andrea says:

    I just recently got into webcomics, and have been devouring archives as fast I can read. For romance readers, I’d recommend Gina Biggs’ Red String and Danielle Corsetto’s Girls with Slingshots. I also second Gail’s recommendation of Girl Genius, which is more steampunk-adventure than romance so far.

    The only problem with webcomics is the incredibly long wait for the HEA. Girl Genius has been stuck in the same day of comic-time for several years now. Red String has been running since 2003 and isn’t scheduled to finish for another few years. I personally think it’s fun to watch the story develop, but impatient readers may want to stick with finished stories.

  10. 10
    EC Spurlock says:

    I must say they had an exceptionally good selection of free comics this year, and our local comics shop expanded their allowance to two per person, plus had a selection of back issues available for 10c each, which was cool.

    I am more of a newspaper and manga type, never got into superheros, but I can recommend a few, notably The Dreamer by Lora Innes, also available online here: http://thedreamercomic.com/ Double romance (in two different time periods, which makes for one confused heroine!) and a large dose of history as well. I also highly recommend Dovecote Crest http://dovecotecrest.com/ for romance between history nerds that is just too cute, and Red String by Gina Biggs http://www.redstring.strawberrycomics.com/ which is very topical teenage angst dealing with all forms of love. And I very much second Gail’s recommendation of Girl Genius; I’ve been a fan of Phil Foglio from way back and nobody does comics better. For an excellent Western style manga, I can’t say enough about Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova. It’s a short series—only three books, which have now been collected into a single volume—and a great way to get your feet wet.

  11. 11
    Kaelie says:

    @ HelenMac: It seems you are a woman after my own heart as well.

  12. 12
    EC Spurlock says:

    @Andrea, you kind of have to look at webcomics as sort of more like soap operas than novels. The enjoyment is in the journey more than in the arrival at the HEA.

  13. 13
    hapax says:

    GIRL GENIUS yes, and STRANGERS IN PARADISE yes yes, although I’d call them more “fiction with strong romantic subplots” than pure romance.  There’s also some great romantic subplots in Bill Willingham’s FABLES, especially that between Snow White and the Bigby Wolf (don’t worry, it’s not like it sounds… well it IS, but you’ll love it, I promise). 

    My favorite (non-manga) romance would have to be LOVE & CAPES, by Thom Zahler, although romance part is pretty much told in flashbacks.

    Another terrific (and non-fiction…ish) romance is Tom Beland’s TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD.

    My favorite manga romance has to be the incomparable Rumiko Takahashi’s MAISON IKKOKU.  If you want to try the manga equivalent of an HP , but totally over the top and not at all taking itself seriously, I’m really enjoying Yuki Yoshihara’s BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS.

    If you’re willing to dip your toe into yaoi (m/m) manga, my absolute comfort reading when I’m blue is Sanami Matoh’s FAKE.  Also delightful love stories (but a lot more explicit) are Saika Kunieda’s FUTURE LOVERS (be sure to get both volumes for the sweetest HEA evah) and the over-the-top Korean manwha TOTALLY CAPTIVATED by Hajin Yoo.

    [verification word “poor65”—I’ll be poor well before age 65 if I can’t ease up on my comic book habit]

  14. 14
    Jessimuhka says:

    As far as romances in comics go, Fables is one of my favorite comics, and the Snow White romance is pretty great.

  15. 15
    ev says:

    I’m hoping my comic book guy put them in my usual pile ,we have a standing order and I pickup about once a month to the tune of $100 or so of comics. As for romance, well, The Spawn and I tend to collect more super hero ones, although she does get the Buffy and Angel ones and I have the Harry Dresden and Anita Blake on standing order, along with Stephen King’s Tower series.

    I’ve been collecting since i was a little kid- around 40 years worth. And yes, they are insured, believe me.

  16. 16
    Stef says:

    I just came here to post about Fables.  I love that comic, and it is,in fact, the only one I read.  Snow and Bigby’s relationship is really great, And the rest of the comic is amazing, too.

    I also love the relationship between Spiderman and Mary Jane, but the writers ruined it by retconning their entire married life. Maybe it still is good, and is now a good time to jump into the Spiderman universe to see their relationship develop.

  17. 17
    Gail says:

    I endorse all the recs for Fables.

    Also since Yaoi came up I want to add Fumi Yoshinaga to the list. Not all of her stuff is romance (but it tends to all be excellent). If you are looking for M/M then both the Ichigenme…The First Class Is Civil Law (contemporary) and Lovers in the Night (regency) dualogies are good.

    and thanks EC Spurlock, I followed the link to Dreamers and I’ll be reading more.

  18. 18
    LG says:

    @Gail – Isn’t Lovers in the Night one volume? I second that rec – just finished it today and I loved it. It was part of my “omg, Tokyopop is shutting down?!” haul.

    I’ve heard good things about The First Class Is Civil Law. I don’t have it yet, but it’s on my list.

  19. 19
    CarrieS says:

    Yes yes yes Girl Genius!  Have been meaning to review it or nominate it for it’s very own link or something because it is so so so cool!  I got a Girl Genius coffee cup for my birthday.  I love it THAT much.

    Could go on and on about romance and comics, and Romance and comics, but other people are saying everything so well I’m just going to bask in the Girl Genius love (and also, my very first comic, Elfquest, of course).

  20. 20
    Aziza says:

    Another recommendation for Fables. DC/Vertigo has afree download of issue #1 available on its website.  Please note that Fables, like all comics in DC’s Vertigo imprint, are marked as “mature” (for the 18+ audience).

    Like many comics nowadays, after being printed in the traditional comic book format, comic book stories are reprinted in a bound format. Very convenient, and usually a good $ deal, too.  Lots of libraries carry these reprint books, as do garden variety book stores. The Fables reprint books have numbers on the sides (not all do) so you can easily read them in order. If you want individual volume titles for catalog searching, they are available on this DC/Vertigo page (scroll down to the Fs).

    I haven’t tried the individual digital editions available for sale, but there they are.

  21. 21
    JemmaP says:

    Hooray! I do love comics and yes, my first real ‘ship was comic-related. Scott Summers and Jean Grey to be exact! (X-men).

    Most of the great comics have long, ongoing story lines – like soaps, really, with fewer cast changes. Superman has been in love with Lois Lane for 80 years.  Some of my favorites are Nightwing/Oracle, Gambit/Rogue, Scott Free/Big Barda, and Green Arrow/Black Canary.

    Fables is great because unlike many of the listed books, it’s complete and finished. It’s a good starting place if you’re interested!

  22. 22
    Sally says:

    I missed out on Free Comic Book Day! I haven’t attended the event in years (American comics aren’t really my thing), but I checked out the offerings on their website and there were some comics I wanted to check out.

    I also agree things like this creates business. I remember in at least two occasions, I bought something from the comic book stores because I felt bad if I just got the free comics. XD

    I found my way to the wonderful world that is romance novels through Harlequin manga! But I agree, they’re not that good, although they might have potential if they were more than 120 pages long. :P

    If anyone is willing to look up OOP manga, I recommend Red River. It’s and epic 28-volume long manga set in Anatolia, present day Turkey. It has time travel, history, adventure, fantasy, lurve…stuff….

    Sorry if my comments seem choppy. I need to sleep soon.

  23. 23
    Gail says:

    @LG Truly Kindly has more with Claude and Antoine (although it’s a collection of different stories so I probably shouldn’t have labeled that a dualogy).

  24. 24
    Kathleen says:

    I was never into comics of any kind.  However, I had an au pair for my kids when they were younger who also had dyslexia.  She adored them and one of the reasons was that while she had trouble reading a standard text format, the comic format of short sentences in discrete groupings worked well for her.  Go figure!

    Also, I did not realize that you and I are practically neighbors, Sarah!  But if Cedar Grove is your nearby comic shop then we are indeed.  Totally cool.

  25. 25
    LG says:

    @Gail – Thanks for the info! That’s not one I managed to get, although it looks like I can still get it at an affordable price. More Claude is a good thing, even if it’s only one story out of several.

  26. 26
    Gail says:

    @LG No problem, I’m always happy help other peoples TBR piles grow.

    @Sally I just looked up Red River and most of is in print (better yet my local library has lots).

  27. 27
    collecting says:

    I’ve been collecting since i was a little kid- around 40 years worth. And yes, they are insured, believe me.
    beautiful website templates

  28. 28
    Batwater says:

    Three words for you… Strangers in Paradise. The series is by Terry Moore and it’s been completed so you can purchase and read it in it’s entirety. The story follows three friends who are involved in a love triangle. One of them has mob ties. All of them are likeable.

    I finished the series in two weeks. Read them straight through and was sad so see it end. In fact, I’m a librarian and I just bought these for my library. Warning though, while they aren’t pornographic, they are intended for adults.

  29. 29
    Elizabeth says:

    I was a big comics fangirl in high school and my undergrad, but kind of tapered off or a while after that, so I am not up on the newest stuff.

    Elfquest—Cheesy title, yes, but fantastic. All available online, and one of the early (maybe first major?) comic book series written by and intended for women (although boys can like it too).

    Kare Kano (Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou)—The main characters get together in the first book, and the rest is all about their relationship growing and maturing, which you rarely see in manga, romance, or anywhere really. The emotions felt very real to me, and the characters are FANTASTIC. Shoujo (girls) manga is full of absolutely adorable sweet little darling girls, OR crazy, obnoxious, annoying, whiny, useless chicks that EVERYONE IN THE STORY IS IN LOVE WITH. The main character in Kare Kano is smart, REALLY smart, but still works very hard to be top of the class. She’s sarcastic and funny, and while it may take her a little time to figure out the best course of action to deal with it, she doesn’t take shit from anybody. The romantic interest is as smart as she is, and isn’t a total douchebag like a lot of manga heros (Ok he’s kind of a jerk in the first book, but it is explained, no that’s not really what he’s like). He’s a sweet, smart guy who plays the straight man throughout (comedically speaking, not that he’s secretly gay), and I loved seeing both of them figure out who they were and watch them grow up. The comic makes a lot of jokes about itself and doesn’t take itself too seriously, either.

  30. 30
    Elizabeth says:

    OH! Also, check out Gokusen. It’s a manga about the female scion of a mafia gang who becomes a teacher in a seriously delinquent boys school. Yes, it sounds awful, but it’s more a parody of the mafia manga genre. The first several books have ben translated and published in the united states, but if you can’t wait for the rest to come out, they have been scanned and translated online at http://bishounen-project.blogspot.com/

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