Another Free Comic Book Day has arrived! The first Saturday in May is an annual holiday, in which comic fans young and old, new and seasoned, can head to their local comic shop to check out some of the various offerings from a slew of publishers, all for free.
If you’re new to Free Comic Book Day, or if you just need a refresher, here's how it works. There are 52 books available as part of the offerings, coming from major publishers and smaller houses alike. Among these books, you will find selections from every genre, and for all age groups from children (labeled as “All Ages”) to Teens, older Teens and Mature audiences. These books come in a couple formats. First, there’s the Sampler, a selection of bits and pieces of a bunch of stories from the publisher, designed to give you a quick overview of what they have to offer. There are the books with complete short stories, usually tie-ins to larger franchises. Then, there are books that offer a complete single issue of a comic, usually the first issue of a new or ongoing series.
When you walk into your local comic shop, a few things might happen. You may be handed a pre-selected packet of free comics, or you could be offered the chance to pick and choose from the available books. If the latter, your store may limit the number of books you’re allowed to take so as to make sure there’s enough for everyone. If you’re not sure how your store is doing things, just ask! Not every store will have all 52 books, so if there’s one you’ve got your heart set on, you might have to go to a few places to find it, if you find it at all.
Speaking of which, while you’re at the store, BUY SOMETHING. Buy literally anything as long as you buy something. FCBD is free for you, but not for the shop. They have to buy all the free comics they offer you and the whole event is an attempt to get new readers into the shop. There’s a nice tradeoff though, as many stores will offer Free Comic Book Day deals on everything from individual issues to graphic novels and even toys and figures.
To find a participating comic shop near you, just go here.
And now that you’re ready to head out and grab a bunch of free comics, allow us to narrow that selection for you. 52 comics is a lot to consider, so here are the genre selections featuring badass female characters that you’ll want to keep an eye out for on your FCBD adventures.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Marco Martin and Muntsa Vicente
There are few must-haves on FCBD, but this is definitely one of them. Barrier was originally released in an all-digital format from PanelSyndicate.com and has been picked up for print at Image Comics, starting with this 53-page first issue. A sci-fi twist on the immigration debate, the bilingual comic follows Liddy, who is being used by a Mexican cartel to smuggle people over the border, and Oscar, a Honduran man who is, himself, making the treacherous journey. Vaughn is always amazing. The artwork is gorgeous. If you can get this one, do get this one.
Comics Friends Forever
This is a sampler of five different comics from First Second, looking at stories about (mostly) female friendships. Samplers can be hit or miss, but they’re not a bad way get an idea of what a certain publisher has to offer, especially if you’re looking for books that, like this one, are great for kids.
Do you love Overwatch? Then you will probably want to pick this one up. If you don’t love Overwatch, then you probably won’t have any idea what’s going on. Technically, there are a few stories in this issue, including one featuring The Quantum League from Black Hammer, but only the first part includes backstories for Overwatch’s Zarya and Sombra.
DC Superhero Girls
Writer: Shea Fontana
Artist: Yancy Labat
If you or someone you love already likes DC Superhero Girls, or if you’re looking to introduce your daughter or niece to the series about a younger set of DC’s most popular female heroes, then pick this one up. This FCBD installment follows the ladies of Superhero High as they investigate an explosion at STAR Labs while also dealing with the knowledge that Batgirl’s dad, Commissioner Gordon is DATING (GASP!).
Disney is putting the focus on Ariel for this selection of new and old comic strips about the beloved Disney princess. Follow Ariel on adventures to find sunken treasure and figure out gadgets and gizmos, featuring Sebastian and Flounder, of course.
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Ross Maxwell, Will Ewing
Artist: Joe Eisma
Okay, technically this isn’t about a female character, but, unlike the cover suggests, it’s actually Betty who instigates all the action. She heads over to Pop’s to interview the proprietor about some of the crazy stories he’s heard running the local malt shop, and he delivers, offering up four vignettes that give you a glimpse into the strange and paranormal side of Riverdale.
A Brief History of Tank Girl
Writer: Alan Martin
Artist: Brett Parson
I mean, it’s Tank Girl. If you know this character, then you’re interested in picking up this book, but just in case you don’t know anything about her, allow me to explain. Actually, allow the comic to explain. This book includes a bunch of little stories that work to illustrate moments from the character’s crazy past. If you’ve been thinking of getting into this series, this is the best way to do it.
Die Kitty Die
Creators: Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz
A bright and colorful comic with a more adult vibe than its art would suggest, this excerpt from Parent and Ruiz’s graphic novel follows the recently departed Kitty, a witch whose publisher is capitalizing on her death. Kitty gets some help from her ex-husband the warlock, who sends her hurtling through the pages of other comics. Lots of jokes, none of them kid appropriate so be warned, but it does seem like a good time.
World’s Greatest Cartoonists
Fantagraphics has put together exactly what the title promises, a collection of stories from a bunch of writers and artists, crossing genres and tones. They’ve assembled twelve short comics allowing their creators to give you an idea of what their work is like. If you’re looking for something with a lot of options, then check this one out.
Ghost in the Shell
Writer: Max Gladstone
Artist: David Lopez
There’s a brand new anthology on the way, with stories set in the cyberpunk universe of Ghost in the Shell. This FCBD offering gives us a look at just one of those stories in which Major Kusanagi runs into an old wartime enemy and an old friend, and has to grapple with the fact that she and the city have changed.
Writer: Joe Benitez, M.M. Chen
Artist: Joe Benitez
In this book, you get two short stories set in a steampunk Victorian London, as a cyborg hunts for clues to her origins. The first short story comes from the beginning of Lady Machanika’s graphic novel, while the second is a brand new story. Lots of corsets and guns and mechanical things.
The Legend of Korra
Writer: Michael Dante Dimartino
Artist: Jayd Ait-Kaci
Do you miss The Legend of Korra on Nickelodeon? Have you not had the chance to pick up the comic yet? Well, here is your chance to get an idea of just what the hell is going on in that series. While this doesn’t give you all the Korrasami goodness you’ll get in the main series, it does offer a short adventure in which Korra recruits Meelo for a journey to track down lost pets.
Malika: Creed & Fury
Creator: Roye Okupe
Get this. Just do it. It’s a sci-fi/superhero story set in 2024 Nigeria, in which Malika, a warrior who has been under a spell for the last 500 years finally wakes up in a world very different from the one she left. But it is similar in one particular way: it’s on the brink of war once again. She has to team up with her ally, Fury, a speedster with a lot of information about Malika, in the fight against terrorist organization Creed. Seriously, go pick this up. It’s about female African superheroes and its free and those are two things everyone can get behind.
Another sampler of stories, though these all take place in the same universe. That universe is the world of Miraculous, a French cartoon about teenage superheroes. This book, though, dumps all that superheroing for stories about superheroes dealing with teenage strife.
Writer: Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt
Artist: A.C. Zamudio
Supernatural western? Yes, please! This collection of short stories is part of a new series that takes place in the aftermath of the writers’ previous The Sixth Gun series. It takes place in both the Old West and Victorian England and follows Gord Cantrell, a Native American protagonist who assembles a team to fight the forces of darkness at the crossroads of the universe.
Creator: Stephan Franck
If you’re a fan of vampires — and especially Bram Stoker’s Dracula — then you might want to pick up this book in which a group of hapless thieves attempts to rob the mysterious Harker Foundation, only to be thrust into a modern world of vampiric intrigue and action. One of the characters is, naturally, Rosalynd “Sledge” Van Helsing, so you know there’s gonna be some serious slayage.
Street Angel’s Dog
Writer: Jim Rugg, Brian Maruca
Artist: Jim Rugg
Another one that you should definitely grab if you have the chance. This book has so many things we love. It is relentlessly cheerful even while it’s action-packed and full of monsters. Jesse “Street Angel” Sanchez is the “deadliest girl alive.” No, seriously. She’s a homeless street ninja on a skateboard and in this offering, she rescues a dog and they go on adventures, fighting monsters and ninjas and racing robot cars and learning the value of friendship and family. It’s her fourth best day ever!
Worlds of Aspen
Writer: J.T. Krul, Jordan Gunderson
Artist: Alex Konat, Jordan Gunderson
Aspen Comics is celebrating their 15th anniversary this year, and this book is part of that celebration. They’re offering fans a first look at two of their upcoming series, including Nu Way and Dissension. Nu Way is about a young fighter in New Sheng fighting his way up the ranks of society. Dissension, though, is the reason we’re here, as it follows a young woman with a dormant ability, who must take on a group of fallen angels out to get their revenge on Earth.