Comics biz jumps on ‘X2’ bow

Publishers offering free wares to pique interest

Timed to coincide with the release of “X2: X-Men United,” Free Comic Book Day opens its pages this year on May 3rd.

The event, which piggybacked on last year’s “Spider-Man” release, aims to bring more readers into the industry by offering one title from each of over 30 participating comic book publishers.

“Last year, we ended up giving away more than 2.5 million comics in over 2,200 stores in 29 countries around the world,” said Barry Lyga, marketing communications manager of Diamond Comic Distributors and Free Comic Book Day Committee spokesperson.

International participants in last year’s event included shops in Scotland, Trinidad and South Africa.

One of the biggest supporters of the effort is the Sci Fi Channel. During the month of April, the cabler is featuring “banner ads” during its top-rated show, “Stargate SG-1,” which airs Monday evenings . The ads direct viewers to “get a free comic book” by browsing www.FreeComicBookDay.com, where the FCBD store locator will point new customers to local comic book stores.

SCI FI will also be creating custom-printed comic book bags and backing boards for stores to give out. The bags and boards will promo the season 7 launch of “Stargate SG-1” on June 6 and tease the mini-series event, “Battlestar Galactica,” in December 2003.

“This year, the Channel takes its support of Free Comic Book Day to a new level. The bags and boards are great, practical gifts that also happen to be collectible. And the banner ads will attract more attention than any single commercial possibly could,” said Lyga.

Comic book storeowners like Bill Liebowitz of the popular Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood, see and seize the opportunity presented by Hollywood’s current fascination with comic book-based projects.

“People seeing the movies may want to extend the experience by going deeper into the characters and stories,” said Liebowitz. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this collaboration between the creators, distributors, publishers, and retailers.”

Along with the SCI FI Channel, the Cartoon Network and the New York Post are among the media promoting and participating in the event. The Post went beyond the promotion by offering its readers a copy of Ultimate X-Men #2 (The first issue is being offered everywhere) in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.