Double Midnight Comics has been a staple of the NH comics community since 2002.
Whether it’s providing space for local groups, such a Sketch Club meet-up or the women’s group, the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, participating in the annual Holiday Parade or organizing movie screenings, the folks at Double Midnight place a heavy emphasis on community. The crew also puts together the annual Granite State Comic Con, a family-friendly two-day convention in September.
I chatted with Chris Proulx, co-owner of Double Midnight Comics about this year’s Free Comic Book Day event, which includes cosplayers such as the Ghostbusters of NH and the twenty artists, and special guests including Gail Simone, Marjorie Liu, Alex de Campi, and Sara Richard, and of course free comics!
How long have you been doing FCBD?
CP: This will be year number 11.
What does it represent for you?
CP: It’s a chance for us to show off what we do; we throw a big party to let people know we’re an inclusive community.
When you say show off what you do, what do you mean by “what you do?”
CP: We show off the store itself, ‘cause sometimes it can be, like, a little daunting to come into a comic book store. It’s really a destination, so we kinda wanna pull people in. Yeah we’ve got the free comics, but come check out the store and see how cool it is.
Do you build a larger event around it?
CP: Yes, you could say yes, yes you can.
Like, how large do you think your event is? How many people?
CP: We’re always never quite sure how many people we’re going to get. Last year I want to say we got about 2000ish. When we opened there was a line all the way down our plaza and kind of around the corner. I think this year we had a lot of great coverage with pictures and video, so I think the word of mouth is going to blow it up even further. I hear people are coming from Vermont, NY, all over the place. It’s crazy.
Do you think you have the biggest FCBD event in, like, a 50 mile radius, if you had to guess?
CP: Yeah I’d say it. I mean I know Jetpack out in Rochester [NH], they do a big thing, but ours is a little bit different.
Does FCBD result in a same day sales bump or new customers? Do you get a lot of new sales in addition to new customers?
CP: It’s a little bit of both. So we’ll see, it’s probably our best one day sales day of the year. There’s people that come in and “I got my free comics I’ll see you next year” and there’s also people like “I’ve got this why don’t I try something else while I’m here.” And then there’s also the kind of, like a tail, you might not get someone back for like year and then he/she becomes a regular. We’ve had kids that have come in when they were kids, they got free comics with their parents and now they’re, like, teenagers or twenty-somethings who are like “I got my first comic here.”
If you had to guess what do you think for new customers, do you have a percentage of people who have never come to the store who come to FCBD?
CP: I would say at this rate it’s probably, like, 60/40. We see a lot of new faces that day. And I think a word gets out; I think it’s only going to grow. So we have the regulars that come in and we’re going to try and do something special for them so they’re not, like, standing in line the whole time. We get the regular people come in and try something new, and then the people straight up off the street who are completely new.
Also, for FCBD this is generally a pretty family friendly store, so do you do anything kind of different to let people know? Comic book stores aren’t always known for their inclusiveness or family-friendliness. What do you do to kind of target families and kids?
CP: We do stuff like face painting and coloring contests. and I think the selection of artists that we have and the cosplayers are always a big draw. You know, you put Spiderman or Mister T. or anyone else on the street and it pulls people in ‘cause they’re like “what’s going on here?” So we see a lot of kids on that day. We also do things with schools now. Northwest Elementary, we’re giving them like 500 free comics to give to all the kids and they’re going to let them know about FCBD. So it’s kind of cool.
Do you try to make your shop particularly welcoming on FCBD? How?
CP: Prior to FCBD, we’ll go through and clean everything, kind of straighten up as much as possible. This year we’re going to take out some of the shelves to kind of increase room for traffic, because every year it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and it’s space for people to kind of roam around and shop and check the place out. We clean the carpets, clean the windows, change the posters, and that kind of stuff to make the place look fresh. It’s our chance to make a first impression. We don’t want someone to be like “oh it’s a faded poster” or someone stepping on some chips on the ground.
What do you hope for from future FCBDs? What could they do to make it more special/effective?
CP: You know, I think that just getting the word out there that this is a fun crazy event will draw more people in, and the more people that we get in, the more people we can kind of expose to comics. A lot of people haven’t been in a specialty store, and they have no idea what to expect. And let’s face it, not every shop is, you know, super nice and welcoming, so if [we] can portray that during that day, we might get them back a month from now, a year from now. The store’s really nice, that’s what we’re trying to convey on that day. We put a lot of work into it, a lot of effort, a lot of money, you know, so, it’s not cheap to give out free comic books.
That’s actually a really good point. So in terms of putting on an event like this, do you try to aim for a breaking even type-of thing or do you use dollars from the marketing budget?
CP: We have a plan going into it. We order the comics to give away and with the event growing, we’ve had to put money into getting a tent outside and putting some advertising into it. We figure the more that we put into it, the more that we’ll get out of it. Like I said, it’s not exactly sales on that particular day, but if you can get them back sometime in the future, that’s totally cool.
How important do you think FCBD is just as a community event across all of comic fandom? It seems to be really big, but how important do you think it really is to have events like these?
CP: Um. It’s our biggest celebration, we call it a FCBD party, you know, it’s just celebrating comics and how awesome they are, and, you know, we invite everyone to come experience that awesomeness. They might not have ever read a comic before, or they might be a lapsed reader, but they can see what’s out there and see the diversity that’s in comics. It’s not just Spiderman and Captain America, there’s a lot of different stuff out there.