Free Comic Book Day

May 2, all day

Captain’s Comics and Toys

1209-D Sam Rittenberg Blvd., West Ashley

(843) 766-6611

Green Dragon

7671 Northwoods Blvd., North Charleston

(843) 797-2052

Soundwave Music & Movies

2139-B N. Main St., Summerville

(843) 821-8810

Dave McDonald is planning to bring more than just free samplers featuring Hamster Sam with him to Free Comic Book Day this year. He’s also bringing the message that comic books and graphic novels are a great way to get kids interested in reading.

The Fort Mill, S.C.-based artist has been proving that point with a public school program that uses his award-winning graphic novel, The Secret Adventures of Hamster Sam: Attack of the Evil Boll Weevils, to teach children not only about the history of the textile industry and its contribution to the growth of the American South, but also about using pictures to tell a story.

Being a self-described “visual learner,” McDonald believes that the comic book/graphic novel format has great potential as a teaching tool and especially as a way to encourage creative thinking in the classroom.

“Kids come up to me afterwards and show me their own drawings and stories,” he says. “I’m always amazed at the ideas they come up with and how they are able to put those ideas into practice creatively.”

As this year’s special guest at Captain’s Comics and Toys’ annual Free Comic Book Day celebration, McDonald discusses his Hamster Sam education program with fans. He’ll also demonstrates some of his sketching techniques.

Every year since 2002, North American comic book publishers have coordinated efforts with Diamond Comic Distributors and independent comic books stores to invite new and old readers to see what is on the shelves by offering free special-edition comics on the first Saturday in May.

That the day generally follows the release of a blockbuster superhero movie is not a coincidence. In 2008, Free Comic Book Day caught an especially hefty boost from the opening of Iron Man.

This year the trend continues with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, featuring the long anticipated big-screen debuts of fan favorite characters such as Deadpool and Gambit, opening on May 1. Accordingly, a special-edition Wolverine comic book will be among the free choices available this year.

There will also be free comic books featuring Green Lantern, The Simpsons, Star Wars, Archie, Sonic the Hedgehog, NASCAR Heroes, a 25th anniversary reprint of the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (note to Gen Xers who grew up with TMNT: We are officially old), and much more.

“We’ll be giving away three free books per family while supplies last,” says Mike Campbell, owner of Captain’s Comics and Toys. “We’ll also have a DJ playing music and a big sidewalk sale with over 50 percent off graphic novels.”

Local artist Vernon Washington will also be on hand to sketch favorite characters for fans.

For those with more of an interest in gaming, Green Dragon in North Charleston will offer free game pieces and miscellaneous gaming items in addition to the free special-edition comic books.

Over in Summerville, Soundwave Music & Movies is planning a cookout at the store, with free food and drinks as well as a coloring contest for the kids.