Halloween isn’t exactly around the corner, but it’s never too soon to start planning. Diamond Comics just announced the freebie lineup for this year’s Halloween Comicfest, the equivalent of Free Comic Book Day for the fall. HCF hasn’t quite gotten as big as FCBD yet…but hopefully it’ll get there, as going a full year between FCBDs is painful. Now entering its sixth year, HCF is another opportunity to put on the cosplay and get some free stuff (with the added bonus that Diamond puts out bundles of mini-comics for sale which can be given to trick-or-treaters).
Anyway, here’s this year’s lineup, with this author’s take on whether these are good picks for HCF 2017 or not.
Black Betty #1 (Action Lab): Well, off the bat, I have no idea what this is. At least it has Action Lab’s trademark Zombie Tramp and Vampblade on the cover, so maybe this is some kind of anthology book, but the Betty character dominates the lead image. So, there might be some Halloween goodness in here, but it’s hard to tell. Verdict: Maybe.
Babyteeth #1 (Aftershock): This is a new title which is apparently a mashup of Rosemary’s Baby and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a teenager raising a little Antichrist. Sounds like some Halloween silliness, so what the heck, I’m curious. Verdict: Get it.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2 (Archie): Oooh, you’re walking a delicate line here, Archie. The Sabrina horror book just literally restarted this month, so you’re talking about reprinting a title that will probably still be sitting on stores’ shelves when HCF happens. This is good stuff, but Archie’s horror titles have been painfully slow in coming. Verdit: Get it, with reservations.
Choose Your Own Aspen Adventure (Aspen): I have never read an Aspen comic outside of flipping through the freebies on FCBD and HCF. This has a bunch of cute animals on the cover and, presumably, is exactly what the title says. Still, nothing here grabs me, but maybe my kid will like it. Verdict: Pass
Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte #1 (Benitez Productions): Again, I haven’t read any Lady Mechanika, but this one is at least explicitly tapping into the Latinx aspects of the Halloween season, so it may appeal to somebody who likes both steampunk and the Dia de los Muertos. Verdict: Not for me, but maybe it’s for you.
Hellboy and the BPRD: 1953 (Dark Horse): I’ve not read any Hellboy, but I’m aware that he’s a cultural staple now and the freebie presents an opportunity to give him a try. Verdict: Get it.
Batman: Night of the Monster Men (DC): This is mostly likely a reprint of the first point of one of the earliest “Rebirth” crossovers. I thought it was tolerable, but not a particularly important part of Batman’s current status quo. But the monster theme is clearly meant to tie into Halloween, so it’s a good pick for DC, who’s pushing Rebirth in trades right now. Verdict: Get it.
DC Super Hero Girls: Past Times at Superhero High (DC): This will mark DC’s fourth time pre-printing a Super Hero Girls story (including two FCBDs, last year’s HCF, and this year’s Wonder Woman Day). Clearly, it’s hit a winning formula for the young readers crowd, because they keep doing this. Verdict: Get it.
Ghostbusters: Dia De Los Muertos (IDW): Well, it’s a Ghostbusters story, so it’s the right time of the year for this. IDW seems to have a handle on the license, so this is an opportunity to get your feet wet and see it for yourself. Verdict: Get it.
Battle Angel Alita/Sailor Moon Eternal (Kodanasha): It’s manga. I have no idea. The cover is pretty nondescript and gives no indications if it’s Halloween themed or just taking advantage of the marketing opportunity. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
Runaways #1 (Marvel): Marvel’s learned to use Halloween Comicfest as a springboard to new series (see last year’s Doctor Aphra), and we know there’s a new Runaways title coming. What better time to reprint the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan’s original run? Verdict: Get it.
Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 (Marvel): It’s Star Wars, it’s Halloween, so of course, it’s the Satanic-looking Darth Maul. Makes sense. This book is OK, but the choice is clearly intended to get you curious enough to buy the Darth Maul trade which will come out in September. Hey, it’s free Star Wars, and you’ll be in a mood for The Last Jedi by then. Verdict: Get it.
Thor by Walt Simonson (Marvel): Ugh…it’s frustrating that Marvel dominates HCF for the second year in a row. Last year they had four titles; this year, they’ve peeled it back to three. But it’s a sampler from Simonson’s Thor run and probably intended as a promotional link to the Ragnarok film, so…yeah, all is forgiven. Verdict: Get it.
The Tick #1 (New England Comics): Here’s another one where the cover gives no indication of whether it’s Halloweenish. The Tick is good silly fun, but we have no idea what the content will be. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
Junju Ito’s Shiver (Viz Media): Junie Ito returns for another Halloween story, and whatever it is, it’s bound to be creepy. (2015’s Fragments of Horror was particularly creepy.) We can’t tell exactly what this is going to be from the cover, but it’s worth trying based on past years. Verdict: Get it.
Malika: Nightmare of Dragons (Youneek Studios): Malika is a new title with a female person of color lead, so while it may or may not be Halloween-themed, it’s an opportunity for this fledgling title to get itself out there. We’ll just have to see how this is if you didn’t get the sampler issue on FCBD this year. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
The Mortal Instruments (Yen Press): I guess this is piggybacking off Cassandra Claire’s line of young adult novels. Whether it’ll be a worthwhile read in comic form is anyone’s guess, but maybe it’s an avenue to get YA readers into the shops. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
Grimm Tales of Terror (Zenescope): This is at least the third time Grimm Tales of Terror has appeared at a HCF, so again, there must be something to this book. It’s explicitly horror, so there’s that, but whether the chosen story is good is a crapshoot. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
And now the mini-books, which aren’t full-size or full-length comics, but are an opportunity to get comics into the hands of your trick-or-treaters.
Casper the Friendly Ghost: Halloween Treats (American Mythology): What is it with American Mythology bringing back long-defunct properties that kids aren’t into anymore? Between this and FCBD, they’ve done The Pink Panther, Underdog, and The Three Stooges. I guess this appeals to somebody, but Casper? OK, then. Verdict: pass.
Gao #1 (Antarctic Press): It’s a cute lizard thing, clearly aimed at the kids, but it also appears to be a new property. No idea here. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom (Arcana Studio): Again, I don’t know a lot about this one, except that it’s H.P. Lovecraft for kids and Arcana’s previously pushed this at FCBD. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
Archie’s Madhouse (Archie): Yes. You can always count on Archie to put out a “house” style comic on Halloween which doesn’t involve zombies or teen angst. The classic stuff needs to live on and this is where it should be done. Verdict: Get it.
Boom Box’s One En-Haunted Evening (Boom! Studios): The title is lame (previous years have called it “BooooOOOOoooom Box”), but the sample content of Boom’s diverse range of titles has always been a treat. Verdict: Get it.
Donald Duck’s Halloween Special #2 (IDW): This one’s a little goofy since the 2015 Donald Duck Special was a full-size book, not a mini. Who knows, maybe someone slipped the editor a mickey. Anyway, kids still like Donald Duck, right? By the looks of the cover, it looks like Donald is dealing with some undead, so hopefully he won’t be pushing up daisies by the end. Verdict: Get it.
Wrapped Up (Lion Forge): Looks like it’s about a cartoon mummy. Appropriate for the season, but who knows if it’ll be any good. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
Hotel Transylvania (Papercutz): Oh, franchises. The first Hotel Transylvania was cute, but the second was trying too hard to keep the momentum going. And there’s a third coming, I think. Sure, your kids will probably recognize this property, but this doesn’t scream “sustainable comic.” Verdict: Pass.
Stitched (Papercutz), The Witch Boy (Graphix), and Moonlighters (Space Goat): I hate to lump these three together, but they all seem to have the same theme: kid-friendly monster books, but not ones that I’m familiar with. Verdict: Get at your own risk.
Pokemon: Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphine (Viz): It’s Pokemon, which is amazingly still very popular after close to 20 years. Sure, the kids will probably like this. Verdict: Get it.
And that’s it. Hopefully as HCF 2017 approaches, we’ll get more details on the actual content of the books, as a lot of them are not very descriptive from the cover alone. But hey, in the end, it’s free comics. Support your shops by getting into some cosplay and using HCF as an excuse to buy something, especially if it stems from one of the freebies.