Free Comic Book Day returns with slew of titles for all ages

There aren’t many places that feature free comic books, comic book artists and people dressed as “Star Wars” Stormtroopers all at one time. But State College’s Comic Swap will be that place this weekend.

The Comic Swap will participate in the 12th annual Free Comic Book Day, a day designated to do exactly what it says — give away free comic books to anyone who enters the shop. The Comic Swap will open at 10 a.m. and will be giving out its supply of free books until it runs out. People are free to take as many as they’d like but are encouraged to take only those that interest them.

“This year we’re going to give away 4,000 comics, which is the most that we’ve ever given away,” owner John Secreto said. “For the most part, we give everything away.”

Secreto said Free Comic Book Day started as a small promotion but has grown into a community event. Thousands of shops around the world have participated and millions of comic books have been given away since the event kicked off in 2002.

As proof of the event’s growth, Secreto pointed to the costumed Stormtroopers, known as the Garrison Carida, and the local artists who will be doing sketches and signing books. One artist, Jay Hosler, is a professor at Juniata College, and another, Jarod Rosello, is working on his doctorate at Penn State.

“It’s not just people grabbing a bunch of things, it’s about being a part of a community,” Secreto said. “People look forward to it. They look forward to seeing us.”

Jason Lenox, another local artist, will give away his comic book, “The Painted Ladies of San Quentin,” at the America’s Most Wanted Collectibles in Williamsport.

He said that part of what makes Free Comic Book Day so much fun is being able to discover new comic books that you might not otherwise read. He’s become a fan of things he would not have seen if not for the event, he said.

“I can think of about four or five things that I’ve gotten over the years at Free Comic Book Day that have gotten me into different stuff,” he said.

“How do you find that guy that you don’t know? Part of it’s taking a risk,” he added. “What Free Comic Book Day has done is try to eliminate risk and say, ‘Hey, try this out.’ ”

Secreto said the Comic Swap’s customer base is fairly diverse, but the event, combined with his staff’s expertise, has helped to foster new readers.

“I always tell people, ‘If you like to read, I can find a comic book for you to read. Just tell me what you like,’ ” he said. “If you’d like to read something, tell me what TV shows you like, tell me what music you listen to, tell me what movies you go see. And I can guarantee you I can find you a book that you would like to read.”

“It’s Christmas for comic book people all day,” Lenox said.

“Between the employees and the customers and the volunteers ... the energy can’t be replicated,” Secreto said. “I think it’s something that people should want to be a part of.”