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Local creators will be at Zone Comics & Games on Free Comic Book Day

Some of Jon Westoff’s comics. (Provided photo)

Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), an annual event on the first Saturday of May, will be celebrated at Zone Comics & Games, 18107 Dixie Highway in Homewood, and other comic shops, on May 4.

Jon Westoff, a Homer Glen comic book writer who self-publishes under his imprint Part-Time Comix, will sell his comic books at Zone. South suburban artist Marcus White will sell his fan-made movie posters and make sketches for attendees. 

“I’m feeling great. I’ve never done a Free Comic Book Day event as a creator,” said Westoff, who’s been writing comics for about 15 years. Westoff’s work includes but isn’t limited to a Simpsons parody comic, a horror comic book about music and a superhero comic.

White has tabled at Homewood’s Artisan Street Fair and Chicago Fan Expo, but this also will be his first time attending FCBD as a creator, he said.

Marcus White will sell prints and make sketches for Free Comic Book Day attendees this year at Zone Comics & Games. (Provided photo)

Dozens of different comic books are printed specifically for FCBD. Most are kid-friendly but those that aren’t will be properly labeled. 

Smaller publishers like Vault Comics and Archie Comics showcase some of their hottest material on FCBD to attract new readers. Larger publishers, such as Marvel and Image Comics, also participate.

“The books might be free to customers but not to retailers. So, publishers must help bolster shops and their events,” said Britta Buescher, creative director and social media manager for Vault Comics. “We’re incredibly excited to share a preview of Dying Inside, a graphic novel coming this year created by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, Hannah Klein, and Lisa Sterle for FCBD. Dying Inside is a story about a depressed teenager cursed with immortality.”

Because each customer can only grab a maximum number of free comic books, many readers stop by multiple shops on FCBD. Some show up in costumes of their favorite characters in pop culture. Others attend FCBD simply for the camaraderie in what can feel like a big party.

“For us funny book guys and gals, it’s Christmas, Chanukah, the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and our birthdays all rolled into one. It allows readers to sample multiple comics from multiple publishers in multiple genres,” said comic book editor, designer and blogger Robert J Sodaro. “Plus, if you’re lucky, you get to meet some very cool and talented comic book creators as well.”

Zone Comics & Games owner Alex Stritar, left, with store clerk Zachary Sanders, right, who holds up the rough sketch of the Star Wars scene that will be on the blackboard on Free Comic Book Day. (Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)

“The comics community is held up by local comic shops,” Westoff said. “I think if you get caught up in just the free comics of it, you miss what it’s about. It’s about bringing people into the shops who do so much for this community.”

The busiest and most profitable day of the year at Zone is FCBD. Store owner Alex Stritar said he hasn’t hosted local talent at Zone since before the pandemic and it’ll be nice doing it again.

May The Fourth, an annual holiday for Star Wars Fans, falls on the same day as FCBD this year. To commemorate it, Zone employee Zachary Sanders drew Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader on the blackboard behind the checkout counter.

Sanders said he’s looking forward to meeting the local creators on FCBD.

“It’ll be good for me to get into the kind of headspace they’re in, so I can become just as successful as them,” Sanders said.

Zone’s hours on FCBD will keep to its Saturday schedule from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. A complete listing of every free comic book available can be found on freecomicday.com.

Correction: This story originally misnamed Zachary Sanders. The Chronicle apologizes for the error.

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