This past Saturday, PopCultHQ made our way to Concord, CA for Free Comic Book Day 2016. Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff was hosting FCBD by giving away comics, specials throughout the store, and guest artists Brandon McKinney and Brian Hess. But even greater than that is Flying Colors owner Joe Field is the founder of Free Comic Book Day.
Joe proposed the concept of FCBD in a column he wrote for Comics & Games Retailer magazine (you can read the original column HERE!). The comics industry had never done anything of note where all the major players came together for the benefit of all comic fans.
Joe felt what was needed was someone outside the publishing scene to propose the right vehicle for everyone to come together. Here we are 15 years later and Joe couldn’t be happier with the success of the annual event.
Joe took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with PopCultHQ regarding Flying Colors Comics, the history of Free Comic Book Day, and a look at FCBD 2016.
PopCultHQ: Over the years, we’ve seen a number of comic book retail locations fold or go out of business, mostly due to competition to online retailers and digital comics. You opened Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in 1988. Now in your 28th year, to what do you attribute your success and longevity in lasting as a brick-and-mortar comic book shop?
Joe Field: When we opened all those years ago, our primary competition was other comic shops and at that time there were nearly a dozen others in this area. Some went out of business by over-buying and under-selling, meaning they bought hoping for increased back issue values in comics instead of nurturing readers. Some went out of business because they tied up their working capital in product that wasn’t selling fast enough. Some went out when they “fad-surfed” from sportscards to comics to pogs to Beanie Babies to Pokemon, etc.
One of our strengths here over the years is that we are, and always will be, primarily a comic shop. We emphasize the entertainment and downplay the stuff that isn’t comics or graphic novels.
Our competition in recent years has moved from other comic shops to big box stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes & Noble, mostly due to the convenience of those big box stores being everywhere. But recently we’ve seen Barnes & Noble pull out of this area and frankly, the other big box stores just don’t offer what we do.
I firmly believe that every small business has a life-cycle. Maybe that cycle can run on inertia for a few years, but to keep anything alive and vital, you need to keep working at it and doing healthy things for it. That’s how I’ve looked at Flying Colors— we constantly do new and different things within the scope of being the best comics shop we can be.
PopCultHQ: How many years have you held Free Comic Book Day at Flying Colors?
Joe Field: 2016 was the 15th annual FCBD.
PopCultHQ: Getting the opportunity to spend Free Comic Book Day at Flying Colors was a great experience for me. The number of people showing up for the event was crazy. Now that you survived FCBD, what was the general response or feel from the customers and attendees? And how did this year’s event compare with previous years?
Joe Field: Since I’m the founder of Free Comic Book Day, it’s really a must that we make it as big a party as we can, with guest creators, entertainment, refreshments, prizes, contests and just a huge buzz of fun activity all day.
The event this past weekend was all of that and more. We wound up with over 1200 attendees, we did some nice business, made some new friends, attracted nearly 200 people here who had never been to Flying Colors before and we hope to see many of them again soon— like every Wednesday for New Releases Day.
PopCultHQ: One of the attractions for your location hosting Free Comic Book Day was having guest artists on hand to sign their FCBD offerings. Have you had creators attend an FCBD event at your store before? How difficult, or easy, was it to line up these illustrators?
Joe Field: Since the first FCBD in 2002 when we had artists Mick Gray and Jason Dube here, we’ve been proud to host creators every year. Among our guests in past years are Jim Lee, Bill Morrison, JH Williams III, Jeff Bonivert, Glen Brunswick, Eric Jones, Landry Walker, Erik Larsen, Steve Moncuse, Zack Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Gene Yang, Matt Hawkins, Vicki Scott, Alexis Fajardo, Justin Thompson, Ted Naifeh, Evan Stanley, Jimmie Robinson, Tom Beland, Liam Sharp…and more!
It’s always something of challenge to line up the best guest for FCBD since so many other shops also have guest signings. But I think it’s important to get all facets of the comics business involved in FCBD. It really is our industry’s “Best Foot Forward.”
PopCultHQ: You mentioned to me that Brian Hess has been coming to your store for years as a customer. Now he’s doing big things with Action Lab Entertainment. How far back does your relationship with him go? What is it like seeing him from younger customer to artist in comics being sold in your store?
Joe Field: Brian is what I refer to as a Flying Colors Faithful, so it’s a great feeling to see someone with long-time connections to Flying Colors do some really good things in the comics’ field as a professional.
Our other guest artist this last weekend, Brandon McKinney, also has some local roots. Some of his high school friends knew he was going to be here so they showed up. Brandon did a signing event with us back in 1999 for his Journeyman graphic novel. I always love to see all the things that these artists and writers do with their careers…and Brandon has done a lot!
PopCultHQ: I noticed on your flyer that you have more artists making appearances at Flying Colors. What can you tell us about who we can expect at your store in 2016?
Joe Field: We do a fair number of events here. Here’s a few things we have lined up right now:
Saturday June 18 is our Father’s Day Saturday event with the debut signing for DC Comics new Superman #1 with artist and long-time FlyCo friend Mick Gray. What better weekend for Superman #1 to debut than Father’s Day, so we’ll be asking everyone to bring their dads with them. We can honor all the “Supermen” in our lives.
Saturday June 25 we’re very pleased to have the debut signing event for DC Comics new Wonder Woman #1 with series artist Liam Sharp. Liam has done so much in comics, but most of it has been out of the mainstream for too long a time. I am sure this will be a huge break-out hit for Liam that fans are going to love, so we’re very honored to have this opportunity.
PopCultHQ wants to thank Joe Field for the incredible Free Comic Book Day event he held at Flying Colors last weekend. Also we appreciate his taking the time for this interview.
The Geek Speak Show’s Henry San Miguel spends the weekend before Free Comic Book Day 2016 at its birthplace, Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff. You’ll hear the origin of FCBD from its founder, Joe Field and you’ll also hear from members of the Flying Colors Retail Brigade as well as cartoonist Jeff Bonivert and a member of the FlyCo Faithful.
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