Free Comic Book Day, taking place on the first Saturday of May, is an annual promotional effort by the North American comic book industry to help bring new readers into independent comic book stores. Retailer Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, California brainstormed the event in his "Big Picture" column in the August 2001 issue of Comics & Games Retailer magazine. Free Comic Book Day started in 2002 and is coordinated by the industry's single large distributor, Diamond Comic Distributors.
In its first six years, more than 2000 retailers in more than 30 countries gave away more than 12 million Free Comic Book Day special edition comic books. The success of the promotion rests with each participating retailer. Most participants agree that Free Comic Book Day has been part of a healthier comics market and growing comic book sales over the last several years. Free Comic Book Day has also garnered press coverage in the news media. In 2014 the free publicity for the Free Comic Book Day event, and the comic book industry, from Facebook, Twitter, over 1000 television news stations, and over 4000 online news outlets was estimated at $3.4 million. In 2015 the number of shops participating in Free Comic Book Day increased 8% over how many participated in 2014 and the number of comic books ordered increased by 21%.
In some communities, the day is more grandly organized such as in London, Ontario, Canada where most of its major comic book retailers, such as Heroes Comics, as well as the London Public Library's Central branch participate. On that day, these establishments cooperate in a major cross-promotion in which visitors are invited to collect stamps of each participating establishment for entry in a prize draw upon completion as well as various other activities. The 2013 event collected over 2000 such completed ballots, which does not account for more casual visitors.
Some stores have treated FCBD as mini-conventions complete with artist alleys, contests and cosplaying fans. FCBD also has a positive impact for independent artists as it became an opportunity in marketing their works.