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Free Comic Book Day Finds an Exciting Annual Home at Carol and John's 

Comics for all

It's a big weekend for comic book fans. Not only does Avengers 2: Age of Ultron debut in theaters on Friday, but comic book shops around the country are celebrating Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) on Saturday, May 2.

Carol and John's Comic Book Shop has been celebrating Free Comic Book Day for 14 years. While the event is celebrated nationwide on the first Saturday of May, Carol and John's FCBD event is so big that it begins with a midnight release party at 10 p.m. on Friday that runs until 2 a.m. The fun continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During the two events, Carol and John's plans to give away 25,000 free comics (10 per person). The comics will be split equally between the two events. The first person in line at both events will receive all 50 titles available — including the first issue of Chuck Palahniuk's highly anticipated comic book sequel, Fight Club 2.

The first 200 people in line at the early release event get their choice of one of two graphic novels, either the Astonishing X-Men gifted hardcover written by Joss Whedon or the Avengers Heroic Age graphic novel (a collection of Marvel first issues). Both books have a $24.99 retail value. At Saturday's event, the first 200 people in line will receive one of two all-ages magazines, either Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes or Marvel Superhero Squad. Both are valued at $9.99.

However, free comics are just the beginning.

"On the day, we are not so much promoting comic books, as we are comic book culture and community," explains Carol and John's owner John Dudas. "The values of responsibility, determination, and respect for diversity are integral to comic books, and the chance to hand out 25,000 chances to help kids make that connection is an honor. The selling of our product is very genuine, because we believe in it on many levels.

"The new American business model is to be actively involved in your community on many levels to insure your existence," he continues. "I originally got into comics because my great-grandfather was a Polish immigrant who had a stack of comics that he used to help him learn to read in the 1970s. When he passed away, he left them to me. So to be able to turn that gesture into an event of this size really is a dream come true. A business has a never-ending year-to-year responsibility to improve the quality of life in the community that allows it to exist."

Over the years, FCBD has made such an impact in the community that it was recognized by Cleveland City Council and the Ohio secretary of state as being "a righteous event promoting literacy and creativity through comic books."

Carol and John's Free Comic Book Day features a number of exclusive elements. At both events, more than a dozen local artists and professional illustrators will be drawing and giving away free superhero-themed sketches to guests. Additionally, 26 local artists have created work for a special DC-character-themed exhibition curated by local artist Jeff Hulligan. Limited prints of the works will be available for $5 each, and many are signed and numbered by the artist.

Artists participating in the art show include Sean Burns, Erin Cauruso, Randy Crider, Deanna Piotrowski, Ashley Ribblett, Jeff Ritchie, Aaron Sechrist, Tim Switalski, Shawny Walthaw, Jaine Walland, Robert Walland and Craig Worrell, among others.

"A big highlight of the event is creating interactions between Cleveland's art community and comic book consumers that might not have occurred otherwise," says Dudas. "Our connection to the local art scene began with our sponsorship of two local art groups, Dr. Sketchy and the Cleveland Drink and Draw. I believe what is unique about Cleveland's comic book art community is that it is a culture of support as opposed to competition. I have seen this quite a bit as artists new to the event are counseled by veterans."

Artists drawing live on Friday night include David Balan, Randy Crider, Amalia DeGirolamo, Rev. Jim Giar, Greg Golem, Ben Hale, Ron Hill, Chad "CHOD" Kimes, Clare Kolat, Steve King, Mark Overlow, Len Peralta, Dee Piotrowski, Ashley Ribblett, Erin Schechtman, Shawny W, and Janie Walland, among others. Saturday's artists include Sequoia Bostick, Lauren Chaikin, Amalia DeGirolamo, Ryan Finley, Phil Freid, Brian Gleine, Ryan Kacsandy, Mark Laubenthal, Angela Oster, OK PANTS, Henry Pope, Lindi Rae, Abdul H. Rashid, J Christopher Schmidt and Dave Wendt, among others.

Local artists in the Rust Belt Monster Collective will be collaborating on a live painting again this year. Their 12-foot mural is inspired by the Superfriends Water Ski Show of the 1970s at Geauga Lake and Sea World.

"My first memory as a kid was my mom (Carol of Carol and John's) taking me to the Superfriends Water Ski Show in 1976 when I was 3 years old," says Dudas. "This is also where she bought me my first comic book (The Superfriends Treasury Edition), and where the first brick of the comic book shop was metaphorically set in place. Come see the Monsters put their spin on this great moment in local history. While this show was advertised on the back of all DC Comics in the 70s, you could only see it in two places: Florida and a land-locked lake in Northeast Ohio. This mural will be hung proudly in the shop upon completion.

"We've tried to involve a feeling of Cleveland into this event," explains Dudas, "from our promotional artwork, to the Sea World water ski mural being created live by the Rustbelt Monster Collective, to getting to ride in the decommissioned Euclid Beach Rocket Car. Over 2,000 FCBD events are being celebrated worldwide, but this one stands out as being decidedly Cleveland."

This year, local graphic designer Jameson Campbell has created a custom FCBD 2015 lithograph exclusively for Carol and John's, made to commemorate both FCBD and the release of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. It's a tribute to the classic Avengers #16, but with a Cleveland twist. You can score one of these limited prints on 11-by-17-inch cardstock for $4. Additionally, National Star Wars Trivia Champion Kevin Liell has designed an exclusive FCBD 2015 patch featuring Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. These patches are $5 each, but supplies are very limited. As an additional incentive, all back issues are 50% off all weekend.

Don't forget to dress the part. Carol and John's will have a red carpet-type backdrop with a professional photographer at both events, as well as photographers roaming throughout the shop.

For more info on FCBD 2015 (including all 50 available titles), visit freecomicbookday.com.

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