Whilst most of the city is still asleep on a cold Saturday morning, a handful of loyal fans have already set up camp outside of Nexus. Undeterred by the elements, they wait patiently and count down the hours until the twelfth annual Free Comic Book Day starts. Gísli Einarsson, the owner of Nexus, tells us the store has participated in the international day from the beginning and the number of attendees increases year by year.
Traditionally a niche market, Gísli says comics are becoming more and more mainstream. “The comic business,” he says, “has gone through a lot of growing up in the last decades.” In addition to classics such as ‘Batman’ and ‘Spiderman’ becoming more mature, new material like ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim’ has expanded on the traditional comic format with themes like dark political drama and wacky teen romance.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT QUEUING UP FOR FREE STUFF
Half an hour before the doors open, the line has grown from a dozen to well over a hundred, and is the only time you will see Icelanders queue in an orderly fashion. Most of them seem to be in their late teens and early twenties, with equal numbers of boys and girls. Many have come year after year, and they drag their friends along to introduce them to the hobby.
Once the clock strikes one, the fans burst in, eager to get comics from their favourite lines. This year the store offers seven thousand free comics from fifty different lines featuring themes and stories that appeal to all kinds of readers. Gísli tells me the free comics are appreciated by enthusiasts, but also bring new readers into the hobby. They are often excerpts from larger books, and make for an easy transition to established series. “The appeal of the day isn’t lining up for free comics as they are relatively cheap to buy,” Gísli says. “It brings together people with shared interests and offers a validating experience.”
For the third year in a row, a free Icelandic comic called ‘Ókeipiss’ is distributed. It features a collection of short stories and ads from 21 artists and writers, including Hugleikur Dagsson who is known for his dark humour. Whilst ‘Ókeipiss’ is bursting at the seams with quality amateur submissions, the domestic comic book scene has had difficulty publishing, and there are few who can make a living from making comic books.
BRINGING DIVERGENT HOBBIES TOGETHER
Nexus goes above and beyond what many European stores do for the day, making it into a fan celebration, Gísli says. In addition to offering a range of TV series, films, books and, of course, comics, Nexus is a hub for fringe interests. “It brings people together to develop hobbies like roleplaying, collectible card, board and war games, which don’t translate to other mediums like computer games,” he says. On occasion, they also have special film premieres like for the latest Star Trek and nerd films.
Three hours after the event has started, at least a thousand fans have gotten what they came for, and most of the free comics have finished. The few fans that trickle in just before the store closes blame exams, hangovers, or unfortunate working hours for their tardiness, but they are all happy to get their comics.
Free Comic Book Day is held on the first Saturday of every May, so keep your eyes open for it next year.