Free Comic Book Day arrives in Culver City with a BANG, POW, ZAP

By Michael Aushenker

A special Spider-Gwen image created by artist Siya Oum, appearing at Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day celebration in Culver City Image courtesy of The Comic Bug

A special Spider-Gwen image created by artist Siya Oum, appearing at Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day celebration in Culver City
Image courtesy of The Comic Bug

With this weekend’s opening of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” ushering in a summer blockbuster season that will also see Marvel’s “Ant-Man” come to life on screen in July and a “Fantastic Four” reboot in August, so returns Free Comic Book Day.

The annual nationwide comic book shop holiday started 13 years ago in the Bay Area with “the Big Two” among comics publishers, Marvel and DC, offering free issues of their latest superhero fare to entice readers.

Mike Wellman, co-owner of The Comic Bug in Culver City, has ambitious plans to turn Free Comic Book Day 2015 into something more like “Free Comic-Con Day.”

He’s upping the ante with deejays, food trucks, face painting, costumed characters and appearances by several pen-and-ink luminaries from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Culver City Teen Center on Overland Avenue.

Headlining the event are “Spider-Gwen” artist Robbi Rodriguez, “Lola XO” artist Siya Oum, “Deadpool” artist Scott Koblish and “Batman” inker Danny Miki.

Several indie cartoonists are also set to appear, including Westchester’s own Richard Starkings, creator/writer of “Elephantmen,” and Rafael Navarro, the magic hand behind the “Sonambulo” series of luchador detective comics.

Miki appears just in time for this week’s major DC release, “Batman” Issue No. 40, featuring the death of Batman and the introduction of Commissioner James Gordon as Gotham City’s new Dark Knight.

Portland-based Rodriguez used to live locally and participated in past Free Comic Book Day events at Wellman’s original The Comic Bug store in Manhattan Beach. He finds himself suddenly in the industry’s limelight with “Spider-Gwen,” an alternate universe re-imagining of Peter Parker’s girlfriend as a spider-powered heroine.

“This thing exploded last fall,” Wellman said.

The success of Marvel’s “Spider-Gwen” drives home how much female comic-book fandom has grown in recent years.

Wellman said “Spider-Gwen” has become a “Star Wars” comics-level seller. Meanwhile, female takes on Thor, Captain Marvel and even comics’ first major Muslim heroine, Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms. Marvel), have become hits. DC Comics’ Batgirl is also currently enjoying a huge revival.

Not only is Spider-Gwen appearing in person at the teen center — alongside Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and other cosplayers — The Bug and Marvel are also giving away free special-edition reprints of the inaugural issue of “Spider-Gwen.”

“It’s a great introduction to the character,” said Wellman, who has experienced both the creative and sales sides of the comics equation.

He’s collaborated with “Sonambulo” artist Navarro on several series, including the recent “Guns A’ Blazin’,” and has a new book —a biographical comic about alternative rock band Faith No More, drawn by Matt Jacobs — out on June 24.

Free Comic Book Day 2015 marks the first year that Marvel and DC will give away copies of the first issues of two new multi-series directions —“Secret Wars” and “Divergence,” respectively — instead of reprints.

For eager new readers, “this is a great way to jump in,” Wellman said. “Most of the stuff is free. You’ve got nothing to lose.”

The Comic Bug’s Free Comic Book Day event takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Culver City Teen Center, 4153 Overland Ave., Culver City.
Call (310) 204-3240 or visit the comicbug.com.

Dream World Comics (12402 Washington Pl., Culver City; 310-390-7860, dreamworldcomics.com) and Geoffrey’s Hi De Ho Comics & Books with Pictures (1431 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-394-2820, hidehocomics.com) are also having special events and giveaways to mark the occasion.

michael@argonautnews.com

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