Reading the Spider-Man story from this year’s Free Comic Book Day 2023: Spider-Man/Venom #1, I have to admit that I was… “bored” isn’t the right word for it, not really; I was overcome by the feeling that I’d seen it all before, and the story was going through the motions. Seeing Spider-Man manipulated into a fight by a hidden foe watching from the shadows is something I had read countless times, and the two villains who’re revealed to be behind the scenes have both had no small amount of appearances across the past few years. And then, I realized that any such complaint was missing the point of Free Comic Book Day entirely.
Don’t get me wrong; the Spider-Man story still feels tired to me, but I’m saying that as someone who’s read, honestly, probably too many Spider-Man comics in their life (I’m still reading both Amazing Spider-Man and the adjectiveless Spider-Man series currently, in fact). I wouldn’t call myself a Spider-Expert, because there are plenty of fans out there who know far more about the character than me, but I’m certainly a Spider-Veteran, at the very least.
All of which means that, when it comes to this Free Comic Book Day issue, my opinion is pretty much meaningless.
The entire purpose of Free Comic Book Day, after all, isn’t to serve the existing customer base — or, at least, it shouldn’t be, although previewing hot new launches is just as guaranteed to get existing customers picking up the issues as anyone else; I’m looking at you, Marvel, DC, IDW, and, honestly, countless others, this year — but to reach the people who aren’t reading these comics. The audiences who, for want of a better way of putting it, wouldn’t know whether what they’re reading is old hat or something that’s never happened before.
Bearing that in mind, why not go for the Greatest Hits with the Free Comic Book Day releases? If you’re past worrying about the complaints of old, cynical readers who’ve seen too much — and, again, you should be, and I say that as a prime member of that demographic — then why not go back to the storylines, the characters, and the ideas that have been proven winners time and time again? Why not go with the best chance of hooking newcomers and getting them to stick around?
While comic stores deserve every single customer they can get — and then some — and, yes, while Free Comic Book Day is an event open to all that everyone should enjoy, it should be an event where whatever I want to read is pretty low down on the list of priorities. I’m already a comic book fan for life, for better or worse; let’s see what it takes for others to say the same.
(For what it's worth, even if I didn't like the Spider-Man story in that issue, the Venom story more than makes up for it. Add the issue to your pile, anyway.)
Read up on what's actually available this Free Comic Book Day and ignore my complaints about the Spider-Man story.