This Saturday, two Oakland comic book shops will welcome aficionados and novices celebrating Free Comic Book Day, an annual event observed by thousands of independent comic retailers around North America.
Participating stores offer a specialty selection from which readers can choose one or more free issues, and since every store offers something different, customers have a good reason to shop hop.
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games (4014 Piedmont Ave.)
Customers will receive up to four free comics at Dr. Comics and Mr. Games on Piedmont Avenue. With new issues featuring industry favorites from both Marvel and DC, the shop will also have a large selection of kid-friendly comics from publishers like Disney and Boom!
Store manager Paula Rodrigues said about three-quarters of the store's giveaway selection will be aimed at younger readers.
"A good chunk of my table is kid-friendly because we really want to encourage kids to read, but there is a good section that is for teens and older," she said. "There's books for every taste."
Among this year's free selection, Rodrigues predicted that the Avengers/Captain America issue from Marvel will do particularly well, especially as the Captain America story is authored this year by social critic Ta-Nehisi Coates and illustrated by Leinil Yu.
For younger readers, "girls really love DC Superhero Girls," she said, a series which posits Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, Catwoman as high school classmates, following the characters as they navigate their superpowers and adolescence.
Rodrigues also expects quite a lot of interest for the Spiderman Infinity Watch series, which ties in to recent movies. For herself, she said she's looking forward to a new issue from the Metabarons, a sci-fi graphic novel series where futurist technology meets European heraldry.
Photo: Dr. Comics & Mr. Games/Yelp
The day is always a popular one for the store and Rodrigues anticipates an enthusiastic community response. "Two years ago, even before we opened the door, we had a line from the gate, up to the corner, and then around the block," she said.
Customers don't need to purchase anything to receive a free comic from any of the participating stores, but businesses still purchase books to give away, though often at reduced rates.
"We really hope that customers keep in mind that we have purchased these books," said Rodrigues. "We give these away all day long in hopes of getting new clientele."
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games will be handing out free issues from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., or "as long as I have books," she said.
Cape & Cowl Comics (1601 Clay St.)
Photo: cape and cowl comics/Facebook
Downtown's Cape & Cowl comic shop has participated in Free Comic Book Day every year since it opened in 2015.
"It's a great time for existing comic fans to celebrate and for new comic fans to come in and give comics a try," said owner Eitan Manhoff.
Cape & Cowl will carry a broad selection of free comics this Saturday, featuring issues suitable for the very youngest, older kids and YA audience, up to more mature content, "stuff that's definitely not for kids," said Manhoff.
Among the more adult selection, Manhoff said he's particularly excited for Barrier, a five-part series by Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Munsta Vicente which tackles violence, immigration, and language with a sci-fi twist.
Cape & Cowl also has an exclusive comic: through DC Nation #0 will be available for free at many participating venues, the shop received a custom cover. Black Panther #1, with an Oakland-themed cover by artist Jamal Campbell, will be available starting May 23rd.
The store will also host a food drive on Saturday in partnership with neighboring business Sacred Tattoo. While all customers can receive up to four free comics, customers who arrive with a donation can receive up to eight free comics.
Photo: cape and cowl comics/Facebook
Customers who arrive with at least $40 worth of goods and a sales receipt can receive up to 16 free comics and a coupon for a free tattoo at Sacred. To redeem, tattoos must be chosen from a selection of preset designs called "flash sheets" and must be received that day.
For those who aren't on the market for permanent or temporary ink, food truck El Super Taco Man will be parked out front, and Cape & Cowl will have free Drake's beer inside for adults.
"We just try to make it a really good time for everyone," said Manhoff.
Cape & Cowl will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.