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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: April 30, 2018

Get in line for Free Comic Book Day on Saturday

Written by: Ray Routhier

Comic heroes are bigger than ever, what with blockbuster movies about Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Batman and many others drawing millions of people to theaters.

But sometimes people need a little reminder that all those superheroes were born in the pages of comic books, not in the minds of studio executives. And that’s one reason for Free Comic Book Day, scheduled for Saturday.

“I think this event just helps keep the momentum going, it reminds people that print comics still exist and all those movies come from somewhere,” said Rick Lowell, an owner of the Casablanca Comics stores in Portland and Windham. “Creating a comic book is an art form, and it’s good to remind people of that.”

Comic book fans and collectors probably already know that. But Free Comic Book Day is open to everyone and anyone, people who already love comic books, people who read them as kids decades ago and people who’ve never picked one up. The idea came from comic book store owner in California, and Saturday will be the 17th annual Free Comic Book Day. More than 2,200 stores are scheduled to participate, giving away up to 50 different titles.

Besides the two Casablanca Comics locations, other Portland-area stores participating in the event Saturday include Coast City Comics in Portland, Newbury Comics in South Portland and The Complex in Scarborough. All stores are required to choose from a list of 50 titles. Not all stores will carry all titles, though most usually have 30 or so. Though the comics are free to customers, they are not free to the stores, who buy them in order to give them away.

Most of the comics retail for about $3 to $4. Last year Casablanca gave away at least 5,000 comic books, Lowell said.

Some of the titles being given away this year include “Avengers/Captain America,” “Spider-Man,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “Riverdale.”

One new comic that will be available is called “Barrier” by Brian K. Vaughan (known for “The Private Eye”) and deals, at least partly, with illegal immigration. For a complete list go to FreeComicBookDay.com

Unlike Record Store Day, where a lot of rare music is for sale, Free Comic Book Day doesn’t focus on hard-to-get collectibles. It features stuff you could get anyway, but on this day it’s free.

Some stores will set a limit on how many free comic books you can take and others will just ask that you be reasonable and take only what you’ll read. At Casablanca, people will be limited to three free comic books unless they bring a non-perishable food item, Lowell said. Then they can take as many as they want. The food will be donated to the Wayside Food Programs, based in Portland.

Free Comic Book Day comes just as Lowell, who has been selling comics for more than 30 years, plans to more than double the size of the Portland Casablanca store. The 950-square-foot store on Middle Street is moving into the basement of the building, and will take over the space once occupied by the city’s most iconic movie store, Videoport. The new space will be about 3,000 square feet, but some of it will be used for office space, Lowell said. He hopes to move in by the end of May or the beginning of June. The larger space will provide more space for displaying comics and will allow the store to buy and sell more vintage comics, Lowell said, and perhaps add gallery space for comic book art.

And having a bigger space means he can cram a lot more people in for Free Comic Book Day next year. Because it always gets crowded.

“We’ll have lines of people all day long,” Lowell said.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY

More than 2,000 comic stores nationwide are participating in Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, making up to 50 comic book titles available for free all day long, as supplies last. In Greater Portland, participating stores include:
Casablanca Comics, 151 Middle St., Portland
Casablanca Comics, 778 Roosevelt Trail, Windham
Coast City Comics, 634 Congress St, Portland
Newbury Comics, 364 Maine Mall Road, South Portland
The Complex, 717 Route 1, Scarborough
For more info and a list of free comics available, go to FreeComicBookDay.com

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