Friday, August 21, 2015

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 198

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 48
Mal Howley: age 48
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
Ken: the manager of our comic book/collectibles stores
Dave: comic book expert


                        “The first Free Comic Book Day event!”

   Our collectible stores were gearing up for two huge events; the special screening and ticket-giveaway for the Spider-Man movie and the very first “Free Comic Book Day.” Free Comic Book Day was conceived by Joe Fields, a comic book retailer, who thought that it would be beneficial for the comic book industry to band-together to promote the comic book art-form. Since this was going to be the first Free Comic Book Day, we had no idea what to expect but we did the best we could to purchase the kind of comic books that might encourage people to try reading some! (Contrary to what many people think, although we give the comic books away for free, we PAY for them all.)

   Dave and Ken wrote the following text to inform the media about the event:

      That’s Entertainment celebrates an American art-form with free comics for everyone!

      On Saturday, May 4th, That’s Entertainment at 244 Park Avenue in Worcester will be giving everyone who visits a free comic book---with no purchase necessary.

    Why? That’s Entertainment is one of over 2000 comic book shops worldwide participating in “Free Comic Book Day.”

   “The goal of Free Comic Book Day,” said David Hartwell, assistant manager of That’s Entertainment, “is to introduce, or re-introduce everyone to the joys of comic books.”

     “Comic books are an original American art-form created in the depression era as affordable entertainment for the masses,” Hartwell continued. “In the decades since, comics’ unique blend of words and pictures has grown, matured, and changed with the times, while providing us with some of the most enduring characters and stories in our popular culture. Also, comics have been an idea-factory for Hollywood---Superman, Batman, The Crow, Spawn, X-Men, Ghost World, and now Spider-Man.”

      Over the course of Free Comic Book Day, participating stores will give away close to two million comic books, ranging in subject matter from high-flying super-hero adventures to intense slice-of-life to crime noir to kid-friendly humor and more. Visitors to That’s Entertainment on May 4th will find a variety of free comics to choose from, including ‘Star Wars Tales,’ ‘Justice League Adventures,’ ‘Tomb Raider,’ ‘Ultimate Spider-Man,’ and many more.

       Hartwell went on to explain why May 4th was chosen as the date for Free Comic Book Day. “With the Spider-Man movie opening the day before, public awareness of comic books will be high and we think Free Comic Book Day will build on that momentum.”

     “We’re also bringing in some comic artists to the store just to make the day even more special,” said Hartwell. “Paul Ryan, who has drawn the Spider-Man comic strip, as well as dozens of other major characters, will be here to chat with fans and sign copies of his work. We’ll also host creators Andy Fish, Tony Antetomaso, and Scott Hamilton, who will all give demonstrations on how comic books are created. It’s called ‘The Pro-Am Comic Jam.’ The creators will be on hand from 3PM until 6PM.”

     “Along with our fellow comic book retailers around the world, we at That’s Entertainment want to spread the word that comics are alive and well in 2002,” Hartwell continued. “That’s Entertainment is one of the largest comic stores in the country, with about 10,000 square feet of display area and we’ve won the industry’s national retailing award. We invite everyone to come to That’s Entertainment on May 4th and see for themselves how vital, relevant, powerful, and just-plain cool comic books are. Best of all, they’re FREE---and we hope to give away a lot of comics!”

Next Chapter: The Spider-Man movie ticket giveaway.

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