Free Comic Book Day falls on May 5 in the US this year. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, it’s exactly what it sounds like: participating comic stores give away free comics from a specially-published library while supplies last, and often run sales and other adjacent promotional events at the same time to make sales.
I thought I would put together a quick guide a few of the best, well-known, and easiest to find stores to hit on Comic Book Day in Manhattan, though of course these are not the only comic book stores that observe the event.
Forbidden Planet (Off of Union Square, Broadway)
For Free Comic Book Day, this store does the normal handouts of free comic books, though they almost always have a sale table in the front of the store. They don’t necessarily do any additional promotional events, but they have a great variety of rare collectibles and books (as well as more common items) that make it worth the trip.
This store also has the advantage of being very easy to find–taking the 4, 5, or 6 subway to Union Square will almost put you on its doorstep, and if you’re still having trouble finding it, you can always ask locals how to get to the Strand, a well-known bookstore that’s right next door (and also worth a visit!). The only downside is that Forbidden Planet is surrounded by several colleges, so you probably don’t want to hit this store up first. You’ll be stuck behind a long line of college kids that have gathered at ungodly hours.
Kinokuniya (Off of Bryant Park)
What a haul for #freecomicbookday ! Everything to the left of Fresh off the Boat is from Kinokuniya, everything to the right was from Midtown Comics in Times Square. I won the Naruto book at the raffle at Kinokuniya! What year is it!? #kinokuniya #kinokuniyabookstore #midtowncomicstimessquare #midtowncomics #comics #naruto #Manhattan #NYC
I have to admit that this is one of my favorite haunts for Free Comic Book Day. The store itself is impressive; it has three floors of both Japanese and English books and magazines. It also sells items like fine clothing and accessories and stationary supplies, and it has a café set up on the third floor, the rest of which is also a mecca for anime and manga fans.
This store lays the free comic books out on a table and lets you pick out what you’re interested in, which is nice. Last year, the final copies of each comic went into a raffle system, along with some as-is stock materials that couldn’t be sold regularly, and some items that had just been gathering dust in the store’s storage. Every visitor had an opportunity to take part in a trivia game/raffle for these items. A few items that went out were unbelievable: a few signed copies of an alternate-cover version of the final volume of Naruto were some of the biggest wins. The only catch is that you must be present during drawing times to claim items.
There isn’t any word on whether there will be a raffle/trivia contest this year, but Kinokuniya NY has just announced that Katie O’Neill, the author/illustrator of Princess Princess Ever After and The Tea Dragon Society will be present from six to eight PM EST on Free Comic Book Day.
Midtown Comics (Off of Times Square, Seventh Ave)
Midtown Comics is walking distance from Bryant Park and Kinokuniya, so you can pick up your comics at Kinokuniya, put your information in for the trivia game/raffle, and stop over at Midtown before the events at Kinokuniya start (give yourself 45 minutes to be safe–it’s not a long walk, but you’ll want to browse at Midtown, too!).
Midtown gives out their comics on the street below the store, and usually has a tent set up with a table and employees waiting for visitors. They switch things up a little and put random free comics in paper bags, and limit one per visitor. Last year, Midtown had an apparel and accessories sale in their store for free comics day. The tent is usually very close to the store’s entrance (albeit out on the curb), though employees will be happy to help you if you can’t locate the entrance. The store itself is located on the upper floors of its building, so you will have to do some climbing to get to the store and to see everything that’s available once inside. Like Forbidden Planet, it does have more common items, but excels in harder-to-find collectibles like figures and special editions of graphic novels and other comic books.
Other Stores To Check Out:
These two stores don’t always observe Comic Book Day specifically, but they do sometimes carry comic books, and have run sales in the past that happen to overlap with the day. If you’re in the city anyways, you might as well check these spots out.
Nintendo NY is Nintendo’s flagship store, and Toy Tokyo specializes in Japanese figurines and collectibles, past and present, as well as some local designer lines. Nintendo NY is within walking distance of Kinokuniya and Midtown Comics, Toy Tokyo is about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from Forbidden Planet.
As it was said earlier, these are just a few of the best and easiest to find comic book stores in the area to check out for Comic Book Day. Are there any others that have great bonuses for Comic Book Day that you’re miffed we missed, or any stores in the boroughs that are worth making a pilgrimage to? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to check them out.