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    Wednesday, February 28, 2024

    Free Comic Book Day flying in to local libraries

    Regardless of whether you've seen "Avengers: Endgame," you can get your spoiler-free daily dose of superheroes and more at several area libraries on Saturday.

    Free Comic Book Day is held annually on the first Saturday of May; that it falls on Star Wars Day this year — May the 4th be with you — is a convenient happenstance. It's the collaboration between comics publishers and local comic book stores to distribute free comics. The idea is that the variety of free comics will not only draw people into their friendly neighborhood stores but also introduce readers to stories they may not have considered if they had to buy them.

    Comics and graphic novels may be a far cry from what many readers envision in a library, but Kate Bengtson, a library assistant with the Bill Memorial Library in Groton, said comics and Free Comic Book Day fit in well with the institution's literacy mission.

    "As a library, we want everyone to be excited about reading," she said. "When we have a young patron, who maybe doesn't love reading traditional chapter books, come into the library to pick up a free comic book and he reads it in one sitting, we're seeing a young reader blossoming right before our eyes."

    Jessa Franco, Groton Public Library's teen librarian, concurred, noting that comics and graphic novels can teach visual literacy skills in a way that a book without pictures can't. She said that kids with books at home do better in school than kids who don't have books, and while library books need to be returned, Free Comic Book Day helps give kids access to books they can keep.

    "Especially as all the [superhero] movies start coming out, we're seeing a lot more people become aware that there's a wider breadth of comics out there than Superman and Batman," Zane Graves, manager of Sarge's Comics and Games in New London, said. "And it's a mix of literature and art, so why wouldn't they be in libraries?"

    He said publishers create a list of comics for comic stores to choose from, often a mix of reprinted comics, previews of upcoming releases and single stories. He usually gets a few of everything so area libraries participating in Free Comic Book Day can select comics their readers might like.

    Jennifer Smith, children's librarian at the Waterford Public Library, said the library has partnered with Sarge's for several years for Free Comic Book Day. She said she recently expanded the children's section graphic novel collection, which is very popular among young patrons.

    Each participating library will have a selection of free comics from a variety of sources; Bill Memorial and Waterford ordered theirs through Sarge's, and Groton's comics were donated by the Wonder Woman Family Museum and Boom! Studios. Activities vary by location but will include superhero coloring sheets, crafts, raffles and opportunities to dress up as favorite characters and have pictures taken.

    Citadel Game Cellar also will be hosting tabletop gaming sessions at Bill Memorial on Saturday. CEO Ken Miffitt said he had been connected with Bengtson regarding setting up a regular game night at the library, and she suggested that Citadel start on Free Comic Book Day.

    He said the games will be "one-shots," tabletop lingo for a game played in one sitting, but the system used — Dungeons and Dragons Adventure League — allows players to create a character they can seamlessly bring into any other Adventure League game at the library, at Citadel or at home with friends. The games, with a cooperative goal, also teach players problem-solving skills as a group.

    "I think comics, board games and video games, all those interests and genres, just mesh together and mingle so well," Miffitt said.

    a.hutchinson@theday.com

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