MANCHESTER, NH – Comic book fans started gathering at the Factory on Willow Street as early as 6 p.m. Friday night for Free Comic Book Day at Double Midnight Comics, which was set to begin the next morning.
While Double Midnight celebrated the event in previous years at their location on Valley Street in Manchester, the store’s smaller location precluded the sort of celebration the owners had always dreamed of.
Early Saturday, a long line of people stretched throughout the property, and down the sidewalk. An adjacent parking lot filled up quickly while a police officer directed traffic in front of the location. Some fans were dressed in cosplay costumes, including their favorite Star Wars character.
Photo Gallery/Winter Trabex
The store itself and the event space beneath were packed with throngs of people. Upstairs, 50 people at a time were let in to take comics the store had purchased so they could give them away for free. In another room, unsorted comics were sold for a dollar a piece – some of which were decades old, some of which were newer. Customers crowded in front of the cash register, making purchases of various types. Boxes of assorted comics had been placed on offer near the front door. As the day wore on, the quantity of these diminished.
“It’s been great,” Chris Proulx, co-owner of Double Midnight, said. “One of the things that drew us to our new location at the Factory was the beautiful facility they have here and all the things that we can do. It’s been a big success.”
In the event space below, vendors had set up stalls offering original artwork, prints, books and clothing items. This space, as with most others, was difficult to walk through for all the people mingling about.
On the far side of the Factory on Willow Street, three food trucks had set up shop near a stage where a live band of cosplayers played hard rock versions of familiar tunes, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme. On the lawn in front of the store, an instructor taught children the finer points of lightsaber dueling.
“We’ve built this event up to be more than just free comics every year,” Scott Proulx, co-owner of Double Midnight, said. “Moving into our new location has allowed us to do even more. It’s nice. We have more room to work with. It’s not as compact as the space has been in the past. Our neighbors and the people who own the building have been fantastic.”
Free Comic Book Day started in 2002, facilitated by Diamond Comics Distributors, located in Hunt Valley, Maryland. The first Free Comic Book Day was held partly as a promotional event for the 2002 film, Spider-Man, which opened the day after. This year, the event was held a day after Guardians of the Galaxy 3 opened in theaters. A total of 17 films have been promoted this way over a 21-year period, all of them Marvel movies.
Despite the large turnout, Double Midnight’s ownership team is already looking to do more and plan on an even grander scale for next year’s event.
“There’s so much more that we can do here,” Chris Proux said. “We have so much more space like the big lawn out front. It’s nice to be able to spread out and offer things. It’s something that we’re going to grow over the next three years.”
A.M. Moura, an attendee, said the annual Free Comic Book Day has become part of the fabric of her life.
“This has been a thing for us for about five years now,” Moura said. “People take a vacation, they go to the mountains, they go to Hawaii. They go wherever. We all met as strangers six years ago, and this is our vacation.”