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YOUNGSTOWN Free comics coming soon



Published: Sun, April 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A movie tie-in is designed to bring customers to comic stores.

YOUNGSTOWN -- It's a childhood dream come true: free comic books.

Whoa there, Flash! Free Comic Book Day only includes selected comics.

But those comics feature some of the most popular comic heroes ever, and it's happening May 4 at vendors in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

Spiderman's "web-head" fans know that's one day after the opening of the new "Spider-Man" movie staring Tobey McGuire.

Already a draw

Interest in the movie is drawing more people to the store already, said Joe Rudloff, assistant manager of Rainbow Comics & amp; Cards across from Southern Park Mall in Boardman.

Owners hope to build off the movie, which could rival the "Batman" movies from the 1980s, according Greg Bartholomew, who owns the All American Cards and Comics stores in Boardman and Warren and kiosk in Eastwood Mall.

So Marvel is reprinting issue No. 1 of "Ultimate Spider-Man" as one of the comics that will be given away. The other four are:

UA DC Comics' reprint of the first issue of "Justice League Adventures," which features Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and is a Cartoon Network series.

UDark Horse Comics is publishing the new "Star Wars Tales: A Jedi's Weapon," which is set shortly before the events of "Episode II: Attack of the Clones." "Episode II," the latest movie in the franchise, will open later this year.

UImage Comics' version of "Tomb Raider" with Lara Croft, which was a movie and is scheduled for a sequel.

UPossibly other comics from lesser-known publishers will be available, according to www.freecomicbookday.com.

The national campaign has a searchable database that indicates Perkins Art & amp; Sign Supply in Youngstown, Bennie's Comic and Sports Cards Shop in Sharon, Pa., and New Dimension Comics in Ellwood City, Pa., are also taking part.

The idea was started by Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif., who noticed that a nearby Baskin-Robbins offered free ice cream, and SHAZAM! -- lots of people showed up.

Good news for industry

The good news is that the comic book industry isn't in the financial straits it was not too long ago due to legal and creative problems.

"Comics are a lot better than they were three or four years ago," said Rudloff.

At Rainbow, the customers are teens and young adults, and the "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Ultimate X-Men" are the top sellers. Classic characters, such as Batman and Superman, continue to do well.

All American's customers are guys in their early 20s and up, said Bartholomew. But the industry has changed, with more mature stories and a host of independent companies that have sprung up in the last 20 years that many people don't know exist.

And there's more merchandise, from role-playing games to toys to compilations of special, limited editions of comics. Those can cost upwards of $15.

Comics may have cost 10 or 12 cents in your youth, but they now sell for $2.25 to $6.95.

The world of comics is a break from sitting in front of the television or computer, said Bartholomew.

"It's fun. It still is," he added.




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