Tomorrow is the most magical day of the year - Free Comic Book Day!
Even though I'm freshly back from visiting Portland and exhibiting at the Stumptown Comics Fest (and dying to talk about it), I wanted to take a minute to plug how awesome Free Comic Book Day is and the independent comic book stores that support it. Held the first Saturday in May every year, the main mission behind FCBD is to support comics and get new people interested in reading them. Most stores offer free comics, giveaways, fun events, creator signings (I'll be at Collectors Corner in Baltimore - hollah!) - simply check out freecomicbookday.com for a list of participating stores, or just google the closest comic shop in your area!
When I was growing up in a teeny Maryland suburb, I found an amazing comic shop called Zenith Comics. The fact that it was located a couple stores down from a used CD store and next to a 7-11 made it a perfect storm of teenage hangouts. Zenith had a great selection of comics, graphic novels, and anime rentals, but most importantly it had owners who were willing to talk to 15-year-olds and let them lounge about the place for hours, happy to sit and chat and lounge someplace outside of their family homes.
Unfortunately, as is usually the case, Zenith eventually folded and was replaced by a run of the mill "Sports Cards & Memorabilia" shop. But I quickly found another comic store to fulfill my needs at the local mall (now a freestanding shop - Beyond Comics!), and thereafter every place I moved I was able to find a great local comic shop to suit my needs (these days I rely on Collectors Corner, Amazing Spiral, and Atomic Books). Even when I went on family vacations, I insisted on dragging my dad out to thrift shops and comic book stores. There will always be a NEED for these local comic shops and their hard working purveyors. We trust them to scour the distributor listings, get to know the repeat customers, and recommend titles to choose from. They provide a wonderful haven for imagination and lively discussions of what everyone loves - stories.
So as long as we keep remembering to support them in their noble mission (a.k.a. bringing comics to the masses) and don't just buy everything via Amazon, they'll continue to stick around and not go the way of Zenith.