💥 KA-POW! How to celebrate Free Comic Book Day with Books With Pictures

It’s FRIDAY! And we’ve got a real treat for you.

Today, we’re ducking into a phone booth, tearing off our disguises, and diving into a world of complete adventure and fantasy — a store that will have you wandering wide-eyed through the stacks for your next quest. In honor of Free Comic Book Day tomorrow, we sat down with the owner of Books with Pictures, Katie Pryde and social media manager Kitty McLeod-Martinez to talk about how they’re celebrating and what’s coming up on the horizon.

Got your capes ready? Or if you’re Edna Mode, remember, NO CAPES — whatever, it’s time to be a hero, let’s go.

Tell us a little bit about Books with Pictures — how long have you been around and what’s your mission?

I opened Books with Pictures in the spring of 2016 with the goal of creating a welcoming space for the geeks that society doesn’t traditionally think of as part of the community: women, queer folks, people of color, kids, people with disabilities. I thought carefully about what I wanted from a comic book space, and I interviewed friends with different life experiences about what their needs were, as well. Creating this kind of inclusiveness is always a process, rather than a destination, but five years in I am proud of the ways that we have met those goals for the communities we serve — and I look forward to continuing to grow! 

Why is it important to provide spaces for LGBTQIA+ Portlanders f within comic book and nerd culture? How does Books with Pictures do that?

The trouble with seeking to be a welcoming space for groups that have traditionally been excluded or bullied within geek spaces is that it isn’t enough to just say “everyone is welcome here” — although we do say that, and mean it! It is important to take explicit, proactive steps to show folks with a history of exclusion what we are doing to be different. 

We stock and prominently display work from diverse creators and make sure that our staff is able to make recommendations for books featuring all sorts of protagonists. Genderfluid space lesbians? Cottage witch queers? Sporty gays with feelings? We’ve got you covered! We are mindful of the language we use around gender and love finding supportive titles as folks explore their changing identities. We are also passionate about stocking as much material from Black and Indigenous creators as we can get our hands on, maintaining a robust and friendly kids’ section, and always being ready to connect new readers with their next favorite thing. 

Free Comic Book Day is coming up this week and I know you’ll be putting together an event to celebrate: Tell us what’s going on and how folks can get involved?

Since 2002, Free Comic Book Day has been an international celebration of comic books and specialty comic book stores. Comics publishers make special giveaway comics and sell them to comics shops at cost to make sure that everyone who visits a participating store will go home with at least one free comic. It is a chance to remind people who have been away from the medium for a while how much they (and their kids) love comic books and to give current fans a taste of what is coming next from their favorite series and creators. The draw of free comics also creates a space to celebrate in other ways: creator appearances, costumes, kids’ activities, and more. For many shops, Free Comic Book Day is the biggest sales day of the year!

This shop aims to be as aggressively inclusive as possible and everyone is welcome to start their adventure here.(📸: Courtesy of Books with Pictures)

Why is it important for Portlanders to experience events like these, albeit while we are still in the midst of a pandemic?

This feels like such a tricky question, as we watch the Delta variant change the landscape from day to day. We have been very careful about safety since the beginning of the pandemic. We closed our doors for two months, switching to delivery and curbside pickup only and then spent months with limited hours and staff to better prioritize community health and safety. 

But now, 17 months into living in a world with COVID as a constant concern, we have learned what helps: masks, vaccination, distancing. And we have learned what we all miss: community, connection, and a shared space for comics. 

The event that we are planning for 2021 isn’t “back to normal.” We are requiring masks for everyone regardless of vaccination status, hosting much of the event outdoors, and will have masked and vaccinated staff and volunteers on hand to help everyone remember to give each other plenty of space. We know the pandemic isn’t over, but we also know the right steps to bring back some of what we have been missing.

Anything else (apart from Free Comic Book Day of course) that folks should keep an eye out for?

Remember those book fairs you went to as a kid — they’d set up traveling shelves and book carts in your school’s gym or auditorium, and you’d get a little catalogue to peruse and could pick something out to take home? Our sister store in Eugene did an adult book fair last month, and we’re very excited to be bringing you one here in September. Keep an eye out for more details soon!

Where can people find you on social media and IRL?

Our brick and mortar location is at 1401 SE Division St, and we will be open for FCBD celebrations on Saturday, August 14, from 10 am to 8 pm. Our website is bookswithpictures.com. You can find us on social media at @bookswpictures. 

What is this a crossover episode between BWP and artist Mike Bennett?! (📸: Courtesy of Books with Pictures)

Thank you to our Bridgeliner Unabridged members. Stories like these are made possible with your membership and support.