Darth Vader, Han Solo, a Starship Trooper, a TIE-fighter pilot, an Imperial officer and crewman, and a Tusken Raider walk into a comic book shop. Sound like the beginning of a joke? Well, it's not. On Saturday, these denizens of the Galactic Republic paid a visit to the in Scotch Plains on Saturday for Free Comic Book Day.
“The idea is to get people to start reading comics,” Little Shop of Comics owner Steven Olsen said. “Basically the distributors print up some comic books and they sell them to us very cheaply and then we give them to customers.”
On hand to help promote the event were seven members of the "501st Legion: Vader’s Fist," who mingled with fans, posed for photos and signed autographs. The 501st, a charity-based organization with more than 4,600 members in 47 countries, obtained permission from George Lucas to create their own costumes in the likeness of his characters. The organization participates in outings such as children’s hospital visits, parades, sporting events and LucasFilm-licensed promotions. The only way to join the legion is to make a costume yourself.
Free Comic Book Day drew visitors from across the region. Colin Boyle and his son, Joshua, visited from Verona. “We were on our way down to Rutgers and this was the closest place we saw,” Boyle said, adding that he attends Free Comic Book Day every year with his son. “He picked up Batman, Looney Tunes and The Simpsons, and I grabbed ‘The Walking Dead’ graphic novel. I watch it on TV so I figured, 'Why not?'"
The event was first held 10 years ago in California by a man named Joe Field, who then owned a comic book store next to a Baskin Robins ice cream shop. After hosting a highly successful “free scoop night,” Field wondered why the comic book industry couldn’t do the same. Field, who was also working as a columnist for a comic-book trade magazine at the time, reached out to the largest distributor of comics in the world, Diamond Comic Distributors. The rest, of course, is history.
Little Shop of Comics is located at 393 Park Avenue in Scotch Plains. For more information, check out the store's .
Correction: This article was amended to reflect the following correction made May 9, 2011:
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Joe Field, the creator of Free Comic Book Day, owned a Baskin Robins shop. He owned a comic book store that was located next to a Baskin Robins – he did not own the ice cream shop, as well.