This post was written by Keith Reid-Cleveland.

For more than 10 years, the first Saturday in May has been marked as a day for comic book fans to come into participating stores and claim their share of a select group of free comics. This year, that day will be May 3.

Last year, I headed to Rock Bottom Comics on Walnut Street. A line of more than 40 people filed outside of the store early on a Saturday morning.

Everyone from toddlers that had just learned to read, to lifelong comic book fans, came to the store for the ten ‘o’ clock opening. Throughout the day, over 400 people came and left the store with at least five of the allotted free comics they were allowed to have that were on the back shelves.

Conversations between people waiting in line revealed that comics mean completely different things to different people. John Reynolds, a former employee, answered questions to pass the time and handed out free comics, posters and buttons.

“There’s something for everybody here,” he said. “If you have an interest, there’s usually a comic book that can tie into it. If you like sci-fi, there’s plenty of things that can tie into that. If you’ve got little kids, there’s lots of good things to get kids into reading.”

Reynolds, also a teaching candidate at Columbia College, has been trying to bring attention to the idea that reading comic books can improve literacy among children.

“Comic books, as a whole, can get struggling readers to read,” he said. “They can follow inferences a lot better with the story and they actually have an interest in what goes on.”

Once inside, child-friendly books were on the bottom shelves. Those with more adult content were found on the higher shelves, out of children’s reach.

The staff only allowed six to ten people in the shop at since the free comics were all on a shelf in the back. Everyone that came in could get up to five free books, only one from each title.

Last year, some comic book aficionados came dressed in Jedi-inspired attire to celebrate another holiday that day. “May the fourth be with you,” they’d say to each other, a play on the classic “Star Wars” line because May 4 is an unofficial “Star Wars” holiday.

(Photo on the homepage: Jen Pircon)

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