Saturday, May 2, 2009


Today is Free Comic Book Day at Heroes Aren't Hard To Find! We've got the tents set out, Seth's put out his magical dollar stock--25 boxes of dollar books, all in order, tons of gems--and fans are already lining up in front of our door! Matt Brady, Newsarama's Editor-In-Chief, is here and will be live-blogging all day long, and if you follow our Twitter stream, we'll be tweeting all day as well! With thirteen special guests signing autographs (from 1-5pm) under four tents, something is bound to we worth talking about!

To review: this is what you get when you're a customer of Heroes Aren't Hard To Find on Free Comic Book Day:

TWENTY-SOMETHING DIFFERENT COMICS, which you can have absolutely free. No catch, you don't have to do or buy anything, although we hope you will. Our buddy Rich Barrett posted a great list of suggestions of things to buy related to the Free Comic Book Day books right here.

THIRTEEN (or more) GUESTS, including Mark Brooks, Chris Brunner, Ian Flynn, Sanford Greene, Cully Hamner, Matt Herms, Adam Hughes, Jason Latour, Budd Root, Chris Schweizer, Andy Smith, Allison Sohn, and Brian Stelfreeze! Whew! They'll be signing and doing sketches from 1-5pm! NOTE that previously announced Laura Martin, Doug Wagner, and Karl Story will be unable to make it this year, but all three will be at HeroesCon next (gulp!) month!

FOUR TENTS set up in front of our store and down its side, which will not only contain our many guests, and their many fans, but also:

MANY DIFFERENT ITEMS including a ton of dollar boxes, as always COMPLETELY IN ORDER and containing tons of hidden gems. AND a selection of half-off trade paperbacks, deep-discounted statues and other stock.

Okay, Happy Free Comic Book Day and we hope to see you here!


Brandon said...

Thanks for being so supportive of this great day. It's always fun to visit your store and see so many people. But...

I was not terribly impressed with how the books were set out this year at Heroes. I think it created a large part of the hassle and massive line problems experienced throughout the morning. I waited in line about forty minutes to purchase something. The idea of having a second cash register was a no-brainer, but wasn't thought of until I was literally five people away from the register. I've been to all but one FCBD at Heroes and hope you folks will improve on the management of the event for next year. It was definitely the worst experience as a customer I've had at that store.

Justin M... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin M... said...

I agree with Brandon above. I’m a long time customer and have attended Free Comic Book Day at Heroes before, but today was a mess. As oppose to last year where the free comics were laid out in neat stacks along the counters this year they were spread throughout the store on the shelves with the regular books. My friends and I showed up at noon and I still had to literally fight my way through people to try and grab a free Dark Horse Alien comic and one of my friends was unable to get the Free Star Wars comic period. I’m certain people were grabbing multiple copies of the same free book. I had also planned on purchasing some items but the lines were so long and the store so crowed that we decided to just pass and leave. I’m glad that Heroes puts so much effort into Free Comic Book Day but it doesn’t have to be a mini-convention, I suggest you guys tone things down a bit and next year reconsider how you distribute your free books.

Dustin Harbin said...

Thanks for the input, guys--we're really sorry you had problems with the way we gave out the books. I can definitely see (as someone who had to explain it over and over again all day) how it would be frustrating to have to fight down the aisles to get books that previously were laid out in a neat stack.

The idea this year was--since we see so many new faces who have NEVER been in our store before--to place the books so that a customer needed to actually move through the store, getting an idea of the kind of stuff we carry, the layout et cetera. I know this doesn't do anything for longtime customers except complicate getting the free books, especially the ones with all new stuff you were waiting for. But we spend so much money actually buying all those free comics, which cost between 15 and 45 cents APIECE, depending on the publisher, that we wanted to get the maximum use out of them.

Like I say--this doesn't do diddly for your complaints, but I didn't want you to think we just arbitrarily wanted to make things harder. Next year we'll work on smoothing this system out. I do think that having ALL the guests outside really cut down on the traffic in the store once the signing started, so at least there's that. I'd love to hear any suggestions you guys (and anyone else) might have--while Free Comic Book Day is designed to bring new customers into comics shops, we don't want to marginalize our existing loyal customers in the process. You guys are what makes it POSSIBLE for us to make our Free Comic Book Day blowouts so big!

Brandon said...

Thanks for responding! I get what you were trying to do, and believe me, if there were more space to negotiate the aisles, that would be perfect. However, there was limited space, no clear flow to the ordeal, and lots of bodies moving in different directions.

If you want my suggestion (which is worth far less than 15 cents and issue), I think having the free book on top of the shelves in the back, where the action figures and Marvel hardbacks are located, might help cut down on the stress. It would also be easier to monitor the books that are being taken. Like Justin, I observed many people taking multiple issues of the same free comic. I literally saw one guy in particular grab six or seven copies of several titles as I walked around the store. I don't think it would take Batman to realize those bad boys will end up on eBay or some like-minded website.

In the end, I don't have a solid idea of how to change things, but something more efficient has to exist. OI know as a retailer, it's great to have customers ogle the mind blowing variety you folks have at your store while browsing for the FCDB titles. This is a big PR day for you, I can understand that. As I said earlier, thanks for what you do at Heroes! You provide a great comic book cultural mecca for fans in the Charlotte area. Being from just across the border in SC, we have no comic shops that even get close to your quality and influence. Thanks for listening!

Brandon/Big Dog said...

I think the primary goal of FCBD is to attract new fans/readers and help grow and strengthen the industry. As a longtime customer and reader I realize that if I want to continue to read comics, we're going to need this kind of help to ensure comics stick around!
By placing the free issues as they did it created opportunities for people to discover new titles similar to the FCBD books. This not only boosts immediate sales for the LCS, it also attracts future sales which keep shops like Heroes open.
I realize that as mentioned, the lines could have been handled better, but you can't please everyone and hindsight is always 20/20. I think they have (and will continue to) adapted over the years to bring us THE premier FCBD event in the country.
I'm sure they appreciate their current customers more than they let us know, but FCBD isn't just about us. It's also about the future of our industry.

Brian said...

I think the staff at Heroes does an amazing job with all of their events and this year's FCBD was no exception. Days like this are not easy or cheap for them but they give it their all and do a great job because they love comics.

With all of the books given out for FREE and all of the great creators all doing great FREE sketches, everyone should be thankful for all of the time, money and effort HAHTF and their staff put forth to try to make it a great day for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I want to say how much I appreciate the fact that you folks participate in FCBD, and how much you do to get the word out on comics in general. You are doubtlessly the best there is at what you do. That said, there are a couple of things I beg you to do differently next year. Firstly, I was there for FCBD next year, and there was a HUGE line to the register all day, even though the free books were all on the counters, so I just can't belive that this year was a good deal more profitable for the shop than last year. Maybe I'm fact I hope I'm wrong b/c that means better profit for you folks and ultmately better things for fans in the future. I'm not sure how feasible it would be, but I'd like to see the non mature comics bundled together w/ one of each comic..and seperate packs of the mature stuff. Since we know that people are taking multiples, I'm thinking this might be a good way to go. Maybe some folks cherry pick, but I've yet to see it, I always see everyone taking some of every thing. As far as buying something goes, I gave up on even getting all the free books after a few minutes in the store. Any opportunity there would've been for me to make a purchase went out the window b/c things were just too crazy. I finally decided to give up and line up for art.

Which brings up my big issue. PLEASE give out tickets for the individual artists and call ticket numbers. Hand a person a ticket and say "who is it gonna be?" when the time comes up, say "Brian Stelfreeze #5" over a PA that can be heard inside and outside the store. They don't show in three calls, move on. I was in the first 30 or so people to line up on the left side of the store. The line started getting long, they doubled the line back, and things fell apart. At no point did the system make any sense at all, and at no point did anyone announce that we werent still in one big line. Individual lines for each artist started splintering off, and after driving 4hrs there, standing in a line that lost all meaning for around 2hrs or more, and looking forward to a 4hr drive back, everyone I came with except for one guy who left the line altogether (and found poor one artist who was completely obstructed behind the Sonic the Hedgehog mob), came back with one sketch each. Was it more than we would've gotten at our local shop? Sure. Were they great artists? You bet. Was it free? Except for the cost of gas it didn't cost any money, but a heck of a lot of time and trouble went into it, and as perhaps the top shop in the nation, you should expect that people will travel, and that things should have rhyme and reason. Was it like a boot to the throat to watch people who showed up an hour after you walking away with sketches from the main folks you came to see? Oh yeah. So again, thank you very much for all you do, and please realize that this is constructive criticism and nothing more. I'll still be back, I'll still spend a wad of dough at the big show and do all my graphic novel buying at the shop whenever I'm in Charlotte and can get to the register. I would be happy if you went back to the system you used last year, but I think the ticket system would work better for everyone involved. Thanks for reading.

Dustin Harbin said...

Great comments, guys. Anonymous, I'm sorry you had such a hard time in the lines for the guests. We'll have to put our heads together at the shop and figure out how to handle that line better. I think the first and easiest thing would be to have the signs for each guest set up a good bit before the guests actually show up so you can plan which line you want to get in, and have that line actually not fall to pieces and reconstitute itself with you at the back! Good suggestion--with most of the staff inside all day wrestling the 10,000 or so free books, we're not always as aware of these problems.

Everyone else--thanks for the input and the compliments! We did indeed experience a MUCH increased incidence of new customers buying comics, but we'll definitely be trying to smooth these kinks out!

Brandon said...

I think the idea of giving out line tickets for the art sketches is a good one. I'm a teacher and know that crowd management is wonderful thing. I wish I had time to stay for the sketches this past weekend, but I just couldn't swing it!

As for the role of FCBD, I have to respectfully disagree with some of the writers/fans that say FCBD is mostly for new fans. I think FCBD's goal is an even 50/50 split between news fans and fan appreciation. Sure, getting news fans into the medium is awesome! I don't think anyone wants to see the comic book fanbase become stagnant. That just doesn't service anyone well.

However, I think FCDB is a great day where publishers and shops show appreciation to the lifeblood of the medium, its longtime fans. You can't possibly have old fans just shrug off the fact that there are new stories published in these editions. I don't see old fans saying, "Oh, those are for the new guys; hands off!" The free part of the equation is great, but there are some great new stories there that I would probably even purchase if they were on the stand. Anybody read the Love & Rockets book? That was awesome and new. As a longtime L&R reader, I definitely wanted to read that!

Shawn Reynolds said...

We really hate to hear when people have bad experiences at the store. But we appreciate the criticism because we use it to make Heroes and Heroes related events better.

I'm disappointed to hear that people were taking multiple copies of books. We had people in place to try and prevent that, so hopefully most people didn’t get away with it. I’m sorry that the store was so crowded and the lines were so long. We honestly weren’t anticipating the huge crowd. The number of people who showed up to support us was incredible. We hoped to spread the crowds out by putting the books throughout the store. Last year there seemed to be a log jam around the counter. We also put the books around the store in order to group like books together, especially the kids books.

We strive to make each event better than the last, so hopefully next year we will take what we have learned here and make FCBD '10 run smooth as silk.

And I wanted to publicly thank Matt Brady from Newsarama for coming down. He is always so nice and helpful. He ends up helping a lot customers and answering a lot of store related questions. We really appreciate him being so awesome.