Downtown Fort Collins is full of college students and families shopping and dining at the myriad of stores, but today is a special day for the shop at 322 Walnut St. It’s the first Saturday in May, also known as Free Comic Book Day, and a special day for Haley’s Comics.
The holiday, in which participating comic book stores give out select free comic books on the first Saturday in May, began in 2002. Various comic imprints, such as DC and Darkhorse, may provide special issues of a series like “Superman” for the event.
In the small anterior of Halley’s Comics, the line of people stretches from the cashier’s desk almost to the entrance. Those waiting stand near a row of black shelves filled with comics and trimmed at the top with blue Christmas lights. These lights snake from the rack of single issues to the arch separating the shop’s front and back, and over to where graphic novels rest on the opposite wall.
The faces in the line vary. Some are college students, sporting beards and t-shirts, to a mom or dad there with their children. Serving this crowd are shop owners Susan and John Bonner. Susan helps her white-bearded husband behind a desk whose wall is filled with various comics. Original issues of well-known titles like “Batman” and cult favorites like “Cerebus the Aardvark” are layered on the wall, creating more varieties of color and shades of color than a Crayon box. Standing guard on these old comics are various figurines of heroes throughout time.
While John is busy with record keeping and helping customers track down certain copies of a comic, Susan mans the cash register.
In the line, one mother and her son get their turn at the cashier’s desk, where the free comics are kept.
“Do you still have any of the free comic books?” the mother said.
Susan said, “Yeah, we have a few.”
Susan asks the woman’s son, small enough to not see over the collectable-filled glass counter, if he would like a “Smurfs” comic. The little boy says no. Susan tells the boy they have a “SpongeBob” comic, but the kid wants none of it. He wants an issue of Batman. Susan says they have one left. As Susan goes into the part of the desk where the free comics are kept, the kid asks if the action figures on the wall are free too. No, Susan says, those aren’t for playing. Those are John’s toys. Then the kid gets it, the last copy of the Free Comic Book Day Batman issue. Just in time, too; a little bit after he leaves with his mother, others will ask about it and be turned away.
As the mother and son head for the exit, various other customers go to and from the back part of the store. Starting behind a cardboard cutout of the Cryptkeeper of “Tales from the Crypt” fame, the rear of the shop is filled with multiple long boxes. Customers bend over these, walking their index and middle fingers across the tops of old comics in an effort to find back issues from up to thirty years ago.
At 3:27pm comes a sign that Free Comic Book Day has been busy for the people at Halley’s comics. Some come in to inquire about the free comic books. Susan responds by telling them they don’t have many left.
Throughout the day’s business which has John hurriedly moving through the shop, and despite all the coming and going people, the shop’s resident cat is not perturbed. It sleeps belly out in the sun by the shop’s one window, surrounded by plants in its own Garden of Eden.
College Avenue reporter Devin O’brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for the Interviewing Guide issue of College Avenue on racks April 23rd!