WILLOW GROVE, PA (AP).- Fans of comics basked in a bounty of free issues as retailers from Los Angeles to London handed out thousands upon thousands of free copies Saturday for the 10th annual Free Comic Book Day.
Some stores opened early while others arranged for artists and writers, including top names like DC Comics' chief creative officer, Geoff Johns, Marvel writer Jonathan Hickman and IDW's Joe Hill, to not only show off their own titles but autograph and chat with fans on hand.
"I think it's the single best thing retailers and publishers are doing to bring new fans to the medium," said Joe Brusha, who writes the titles "Grimm Fairy Tales" and "Neverland" for Zenescope Entertainment.
He spent Saturday visiting several comic shops in Pennsylvania that were participating in Free Comic Book Day.
"I'm really looking forward to it this year because we have our Discovery Channel books that will really appeal to younger readers and I can't wait to see their reaction which I'm hoping is overwhelmingly positive," Brusha said.
In England, about 75 people lined up outside the doors of Forbidden Planet in London's theater district on the edge of the trendy Covent Garden shopping quarter.
After the doors swung open, the crowd grew to more than 200 to collect their free issues with staffers pulling titles from boxes on a wheeled, metal cargo crate by the counter.
"It's brilliant. It's such a great way to bring new people and to thank the fans who are already supporting the companies," said Daniel Dovi-Dotse, 24, who bought his first comic book when he was 7 years old. "I'm only really here for Spider-Man but there's always a surprise there, one of the indies. There's some great stuff out there."
Teacher Martin Fuller brought his nearly 3-year-old son Logan, who wore a hoodie with the Superman "S" emblazoned on the front.
Fuller said Free Comic Day was the reason he had brought Logan along, carrying him as fans jostled to grab the books.
"I don't bring Logan down that often because it's hard with the pushchair, but you can see he loves looking at all the things in here," he said. "I'm a primary school teacher, too, and comics are a brilliant way of getting kids interested in reading, particularly boys who aren't always that easy. They find it much easier to follow things when they're storyboarded out rather than just written."
At Brave New Worlds in Willow Grove, not far from Philadelphia, Chris Yu, 19, along with his father, Greg, picked up copies of Mike Mignola's "Baltimore" from Dark Horse and Archaia Entertainment's "Mouse Guard Dark Crystal Flip Book," all at no charge.
"For us, it's a good time," said Greg who, like his son, was visiting from the Philippines. "We're going to miss it in Manila so we decided to come by here."
A rack of assorted comics, ranging from an issue of Green Lantern with a preview of the upcoming "Flashpoint" mini-series to Image's "Super Dinosaur Origin Special" No. 1, was set up on a wall with many people, including some with younger kids in tow, plucking issues of interest.
The store's manager, Eric Loyack, said that was a key part of the event: bringing in new and young readers.
"It's to bring them in," he said, adding that in addition to the crop of issues printed for the event, they were also giving away copies of other series, including first issues.
"Somebody gets a No. 1 and if they like it they'll come back," he said.
At New Dimension Comics in Cranberry, Pa., 9-year-old Grace Mitchell was one of those young readers. She picked up a copy of "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse," a collection of classic 1930's comics by Floyd Gottfredson and reprinted by Fantagraphics.
Free Comic Book Day was begun in 2001 by Joe Field, who owns Flying Color Comics in Concord, Calif. The event has evolved from four publishers to more than three dozen this year and expanded beyond the U.S. to 40 countries, including Australia, Germany and Singapore.
Speaking from his store, where the line was 100 people long, Field said the impression from talking to other retailers nationwide was that this year's event was just as strong, if not stronger, than ever.
"Everyone here is getting the Green Lantern comic, so that's the one that's been given away the most. Beyond that, the Captain America/Thor is doing very well," he said of demand at his store, an unsurprising nod to the fact that all three heroes are poised to be summer blockbusters at movie theaters.
Field said there was also interest in Liquid Comics' "Silver Scorpion" and Boom! Studios' "Darkwing Duck" and "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers."
But, he added, another popular item besides the free comics were "my wife's crème de menthe brownies," which were also being grabbed up, too.
"It's such a party atmosphere," Field said.
Condie reported from London.
Matt Moore can be followed on Twitter by searching (at)MattMooreAP.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.