Proud Lion Moved, Cheltenham, 2014Ben Fardon, Proud Lion, Cheltenham

Proud Lion is technically my LCS, although I’m not able to visit all that often. I like it a lot, though. UPDATE: new location! I hope to make it down there on Saturday, but if I don’t, I won’t let the three hundred and sixty four Fully Priced Comic Book Days of the year put me off. Free is good, but it’s not the only reason to visit Proud Lion.

 

How long have you been doing FCBD?
Proud Lion has been involved with Free Comic Book Day since we opened in 2008, but I’ve been involved in almost every Free Comic Book Day since it started in 2002, from my associations with various comic shops over the years, from the large chains to the small start ups.
What does it represent for you?
Free Comic Book Day is a celebration of the medium and the industry as a whole. It’s the most exciting day of the year, seeing faces old and new, all excited at the prospect of picking up some free comics! It’s a chance for comic shops like Proud Lion to thank established customers for their support, whilst also welcoming newcomers to the hobby.
It’s particularly gratifying to see so many kids coming in for Free Comic Book Day, as I know it’s not as easy for younger readers to get into comics as it was when I was a nipper. It’s a great shame, and one we’ve started trying to take steps to address with our dedicated kids section and supporting The Phoenix, but Free Comic Book Day is our best chance to encourage kids to read comics. Thankfully the National Curriculum is also coming around to the idea of the benefits of comics in helping kids to develop a love for reading. In the coming years, I’d love to see us partner with local schools to get Free Comic Book Day material into their school libraries.
Do you build a larger event around it?
We combined it with our Grand Opening back in 2008, so it’s always been our official birthday every year, but really Free Comic Book Day is a huge international event and it’s enough to be part of that! We’re hoping to move this year in time for Free Comic Book Day, so it will become a bit of a rededication ceremony for Proud Lion in 2014.
Does FCBD result in a same day sales bump or new customers?
Free Comic Book Day is the biggest sales day of the year, bigger than any single day of trading over Christmas. It’s so lovely that most people are so grateful for the free comics that they want to buy something and show us their support. It’s certainly not a requirement! We definitely also meet new customers on Free Comic Book Day every year, which is truly wonderful.
Do you try to make your shop particularly welcoming on FCBD? How?
I like to think we are fairly welcoming as it is, as I’ve tried lay out the store in an accessible way (in as far as the limitations of the building allow), so Free Comic Book Day becomes about adding extra hands to help people find what they’re looking for and decorating the place with Free Comic Book Day balloons. The beauty of comics is that the product is so colourful, it normally speaks for itself! It’s why I cultivate neutral store decor of white, black and natural wood.
What do you hope for from future FCBDs? What could they do to make it more special/effective?
I think the people who organise Free Comic Book Day do a fantastic job. I’m delighted to see both Marvel and DC are doing original material for FCBD this year, rather than falling back on reprints. So I’d be happy to see more of that; striving to create something original and fresh for the day rather than rehashing older material.
I’d also like to see more from Image, who are doing amazing things at the moment, but seem under-represented this year. I’d be happy to see a little less licensed tie-in material from some publishers and I’d love to see the small press and indie publishers creating more accessible stuff for Free Comic Book Day, as a lot of their offerings seem to miss the mark. I’m very impressed by the work Archaia and Red 5 put into FCBD and the other publishers could certainly stand to take a cue from their fine examples.
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