Libraries partner with The Dark Side for Free Comic Book Day

The Dark Side comic shop owner Brian Polizzi and his favorite hero, Captain America pose outside the shop on Free Comic Book Day. Photo by Kim Doleatto  

The Dark Side comic shop owner Brian Polizzi and his favorite hero, Captain America pose outside the shop on Free Comic Book Day. Photo by Kim Doleatto  

Pop! Pow! Crunch! Bang! No one got hurt, it’s just the pixelated pages delivering chaos. But never fear, Captain America is here. And the sun is beaming on the Batmobile parked out front. Yes. The original Batmobile from the 1960s Batman TV show is here.

And capes and masked faces of all ages dotted the line spanning the next three shops down from The Dark Side, where on Saturday anyone could claim a free comic book or two.

Brian Polizzi, owner of The Dark Side, has owned the comic book shop for about 10 years, and has since taken part in International Free Comic Book Day on the first Saturday of May. And while it attracts up to 1,000 people each year, giving out free comics isn’t a marketing strategy for his shop, Polizzi said. It’s mostly about encouraging children to read. 

“If something is free they’ll try it out, and it can be a gateway for kids to read and help push literacy,” the father of three said. 

That’s why libraries take part too.

Free Comic Book Day comes at the right time. As the school year ends and summer begins, so too does summer learning loss, according to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading. 

That’s why Polizzi, with the help of nonprofit Friends of the Library, supplied free comic books for Manatee and Sarasota County libraries. Kids between the ages of 5-18 can each choose one to take home from their neighborhood library. It’s just one of the the many programs put forth to stem summer learning loss and encourage youth literacy. 

“We want to make sure in the summer while they’re out of classes, they stay interested. If they don’t keep it up, they slip back,” said Sarabeth Kalajian, Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources Director. Each library expected to give away more than 200 comics.

This year, The Dark Side staff distributed about 4,000 comics. Theonly restriction was that each person or family not choose more than one free comic with the same title.