This weekend represents a conjunction in the geek universe that is seismic in its proportions. Back-to-back days that might as well be high holy days for those of our particular faith. One where we congregate in our respective places of worship to receive offerings, another where we ponder the sacred texts.
Today is Free Comic Book Day. Tomorrow is Star Wars Day.
I don’t even collect comics anymore. I’ll wait until I hear a particular storyline is good and wait to pick up the trade paperback when it comes out. I’m making an exception for Neil Gaiman’s new Sandman series because, hey, it’s Neil Gaiman. But my days of packing long boxes with bagged and boarded back issues are long over. But every year on Free Comic Book Day I trot out to my local comic shop (or in today’s case, three of them). It’s not so much to get free comics — although I do, make no mistake — it’s to be around the crowds that inevitably gather. You’ve got old fans and fans in the making, all excited about the flashy four-colored bundles of happiness spread out on tables. You’ve got people in super-hero costumes, and kids staring wide-eyed at them, wondering if they’ve somehow leapt off the pages. It’s a feeling of the geek torch being passed, and a reminder of being that age and that sense of excitement when my parents revealed a few comic books had somehow slipped into the grocery bag (back when they still sold comic books in grocery stores, that is).
As for Star Wars Day, I initially hated the pun-based decision to place it on May 4th. May 25th is when the movie was released back in 1977; surely that would be a better day to celebrate the films than making some lame joke. But over time it’s grown on me, and it’s just as much a chance to commune with my fellow geeks as Free Comic Book Day. It’s not like I couldn’t watch the movies any day of the year, but again, it’s the sense of the shared experience, the idea that thousands, maybe millions are doing the exact same thing.
Because that’s the real power of things like comic books and Star Wars. It’s the idea of liking something that makes you part of a vast community you may not even be aware of when you open your first issue or see that opening crawl for the first time. But over time, you realize you’re not alone, that you’re part of a larger world, if I may be allowed the Obi-Wan-ism. And for a young geek, knowing you’re not the only one who likes what you like is a powerful thing, one those of us who grew up in the pre-internet days had a much harder time discovering.
So yeah, maybe historical accuracy is taking a back seat, and maybe the free comics are just there to get you to come back and buy some. But none of that mattered to the happy, smiling crowds I saw today. And even I’m not enough of a curmudgeon to rain on that many parades.