WICKER PARK — It's a big weekend for comic book fans with the opening of "Iron Man 3" and Saturday's Free Comic Book Day, with local comic book stores getting into the action.
Wicker Park's Brainstorm Comics at 1648 W. North Ave. and Ukrainian Village's Vigilante Press at 1931 W. Chicago Ave. are among hundreds of other small comic book shops across North America participating in Saturday's giveaway, which aims to boost interest in comics.
In celebration of the 11th annual holiday which falls on the first Saturday in May, publishers have selected 52 titles for shops to give away while supplies last.
On Saturday, Vigilante Press will be hosting local artists Hilary Barta, Andrew Kudelka, Jim Terry and Britton Walter, along with offering free face painting by Crystal's Creative Faces from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
At Brainstorm Comics, which is nearing its 10th year in business, co-owner Matt Fagan will be signing the latest issue of "Monster Dude," a comic he co-produced with Dave Scheidt.
Other local Free Comic Book Day activities include:
Challengers Comics and Conversation at 1845 N. Western Ave. will host Jamal Igle and Chris "Elio" Eliopoulos, creators of Molly Danger and Mr. Puzzle comics in addition to appearances by Superheroes Spider-man, The Challenger, Storm and The Ultimate.
At Lakeview's Chicago Comics, 3244 N. Clark St., a photo of the comics planned to be given away was posted to the shop's Facebook Page and will be available "until supplies run out."
Likely among the topics of conversation for comic book fans on Saturday: the long-awaited debut of "Iron Man 3," the latest installment in the wildly popular series starring Robert Downey Jr. as the cocky but vulnerable billionaire Tony Stark.
"Fans of comics are notoriously hateful of movies that fall short of the comics. People really want these movies to succeed," said Brainstorm's Fagan.
Fagan said there's always an increase in sales in any title that has a related film coming up or in theaters, but "the movie has to be good" to appeal to the masses who wouldn't otherwise purchase a comic book.
Thankfully for Fagan, "Iron Man 3," based on a Marvel comic book, hit theaters to rave reviews this weekend. "Iron Man 3" is expected to bring in $150 million in sales in its opening weekend, according to reports.
Fagan said Marvel Films has "done an excellent job in the past several years of making its comics appealing to the masses on screen."
Sean Funston, owner of Vigilante Press, echoed Fagan.
"Movies help our sales in the sense of when the first "Iron Man" movie came out there were quite a few people that didn't even know there was an Iron Man comic book," said Funston.
While traditional Superheroes get people in the door of shops — and some retailers like Challengers Comics + Conversation in Bucktown are even hosting superhero appearances Saturday — Funston said that "nowadays there's all kinds of stuff beyond superheroes."
Funston said he particularly enjoys the "Walking Dead" comic books, which have seen sales spike due to the AMC television series based on the books, which are about a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse.
Another of Funston's favorite comic books is Locke & Key written by Joe Hill, novelist Stephen King's son. Funston said the books have "a supernatural vibe" and are "well written with artwork that's fantastic and a plot that keeps you guessing."
In recent years graphic novels have sold well at Vigilante Press, too.