CINCINNATI - Perhaps reading comic books was once a niche hobby, but judging by the amount of Free Comic Book Day events in the Tri-State this weekend that's not the case anymore.
What is Free Comic Book Day ? If you ask Kendall Swafford, owner of comic book shop Up Up and Away in Cheviot, it's a "celebration of the art," when anyone can go to a participating shop and pick up a free read. It's been going on since 2002 and traditionally happens the first Saturday of May.
"There are millions of people nationwide that enjoy superhero movies but have never opened a comic book," Swafford said.
The cool factor
Thanks to movies, it's become more "socially acceptable" for adults to read comic books, Swafford says, and the graphic stories have something for everyone.
Comic book fans are notoriously passionate, possibly because it's easy to get attached to the characters.
"The sky's the limit," Swafford said. "There's no limit to the kinds of stories that can be told in comics."
Up Up and Away is celebrating the event Saturday with sales, celebrity sightings, face painting and of course, free comics.
"(We have) 52 free comic books to choose from," Swafford said. "The Walking Dead, the highest rated show on cable, (was a graphic novel first)."
Walking Dead fans have the chance to meet co-creator Tony Moore twice this weekend: at Swafford's shop on Saturday and the Cincinnati Public Library branch downtown on Sunday. Moore will be part of a panel at the debut of Cincinnati Library Comic Con Sunday.
"It's a four-hour event, it opens at 1 p.m.," said Lee Ann McNabb, a reference librarian and event organizer.
Comic fans have the opportunity to attend a comic creators panel, participate in a drawing contest and see a small display of comics dating back to 1887.
A good read
Growing up a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, McNabb said her love for graphic storytelling reminds her of childhood.
What's more, she also sees the value in this version of storytelling as a way to get kids interested in reading.
"Sometimes it's a way to bridge a gap," she explained. "If children aren't big readers and teachers notice, comic books can be a way to get kids interested. It's not just words, it's visual materials. They can look at it and understand the context of the situation."
According to FreeComicBookDay.com, the following local stores are participating in free comic book day Saturday: