You don’t have to know how to draw to participate in Free Comic Book Day, and you don’t have to be a kid. Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 4, from 2 to 5 pm at Alex’s Place at the YMCA is an extension of the Y’s Ryan Barr’s love for all things comics since childhood. It’s a natural extension of the workshops he has done with kids in hand and computer-drawn cartooning. Barr gave me the lowdown on the event and his involvement.
How did nationwide Free Comic Book Day originate?
Free Comic Book Day started out as a way for the big publishers (Marvel and DC) to put out special free editions of comic books to hopefully get potential new readers to read their books. It was also a way to get folks who wouldn’t normally go to brick-and-border comic shops to see what the comics medium had to offer, and create new fans. I learned about FCBD as a kid when my local comic shop put posters and signs up advertising it.
How did you start the event here on the Island?
When I came to Martha’s Vineyard, all of the kids told me that they had wanted and wished for there to be a comic book store on the Vineyard so they could participate in the day. I’m a comic book collector, and had a few dozen comics I no longer needed to keep, and that’s how it all started. My process to setting one of these up was pretty simple: Get a bunch of comic books, put them on a table, and draw a cool poster to advertise. I wanted to give kids of all ages an opportunity to get into this reading material and art form that they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to be exposed to, living on the Vineyard. (And anything that gets kids reading, especially it being free, is always a plus.) In the past two years of doing this, the turnout has only gotten bigger. Our first event had maybe 20 to 25 people, and last year we had maybe 30 to 40.
Where do the comic books come from?
Luckily, the inventory I use for this event is pretty diverse. All of what is given away on FCBD are books from my personal collection that I either have had for years or pick up in bins at local thrift and hobby shops. Some are specifically targeted to young kids, while others target teens and adults.
What can people expect at the event?
They can expect free comics, posters, to meet and draw with local artists, and watch the amazing movie “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
How did your own love of comics develop?
A lot of my passion for comics comes from childhood. My dad and I used to go to the comic shop around our house every weekend. Through that exposure and the movies all being as great as they are, one can’t help but want more. So, I went to comics as a way to learn more about characters I love, like Batman. The amazing thing about comics is that there’s no limit to the genres that they can be. I love crime-noir type of stories and some sci-fi/fantasy, but since there are so many different kinds of stories, my interest has never faded.
You conducted a cartooning workshop in January at Alex’s Place. Is there anything else like this coming up for young people?
With the Saturday workshop being over, I wanted to come up with new programming that was more casual, less curriculum-based. So we’ve just started what I’m calling “TOONS and DRAW,” in which we watch cartoons and draw whatever we want. If kids want to draw comics, cartoons, if they want to paint, it’s all on the table. And I’ll be there to assist anyone who wants to ask me any questions about anything art-related. I’m hoping it will bring new kids in who want to maybe continue on and be part of the curriculum class I’ll be continuing next fall.
What about after the FCBD and your “TOONS and DRAW” offering? Are there other opportunities for folks interested in cartooning?
For anybody who finds out through this event they want to continue an interest in comic books, my suggestion is to pick up a graphic novel. If they have an interest in a specific character, probably a good idea is to hop online and Google-search “Good place to start reading (comic character) comics.” Marvel and DC also both have online services that will let readers read comics digitally. If any kid has any interest in actually drawing comics, they can absolutely take my class in the fall, where I talk about how to draw them.
Free Comic Book Day will be at Alex’s Place at the YMCA on Saturday, May 4, from 2 to 5 pm.