Be Heroic! It’s International Read Comics in Public Day!

It’s International Read Comics in Public Day! Learn why the comics community heroes up on this day every year.

Display rack filled with comic books.
Comics on display. (Shutterstock)

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Read our article, 10 Comics You Should Read in Public Right Now

Comic book movies rule the world. Comic books, on the other hand, still carry a bit of social stigma that was already old in the 1950s. In 2010, Brian Heater and Sarah Morean of the now-defunct alternative comics site Daily Cross Hatch came up with the idea of International Read Comics in Public Day. Their plan was to promote comics and shake off any embarrassment that one might feel by reading comics in public by turning it around and celebrating the act. The chosen date, August 28th, is also the birthday of The King, Jack Kirby.

Photo portrait of Jack Kirby
Hail to The King: Jack Kirby, comics genius. (Photo by Susan Skaar via the Kirby Museum, Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

For those unaware, Kirby’s birthday might be the most appropriate day possible. Born in New York in 1917, Kirby grew up to be a working comic artist by 1936. Collaborating with Joe Simon in the 1940s, he co-created Captain America. With Stan Lee, he co-created the foundation of the Marvel Universe, including the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men, Doctor Doom, the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, Black Panther, and dozens more. Kirby would later work for DC Comics in the 1970s, where he created familiar characters like Darkseid, Mister Miracle, the New Gods, Kamandi, and The Demon, Etrigan. His mind-bending designs and panel-breaking art style seemed to erupt through the page, influencing generations of artists and filmmakers that followed in his wake. Nicknamed “The King” by Lee, Kirby worked in comics, animation and film, including a number of creator-owned projects, until his death in 1994.

Cover of Avengers #1, with Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Loki.
The first issue of The Avengers from 1963, with art by Jack Kirby. (©Marvel Entertainment)

Kirby and Lee’s Marvel work helped repopularize comics in the 1960s, with Lee undertaking many speaking tours and appearances to evangelize for the form. Readership hit massive sales highs in the late ’80s and early ’90s before a speculator bust (caused when a number of new publishers and big events from established publishers saturated the market, allowing collectors little to no return on investment) crashed the back-issue market. Since then, comics have retrenched and conquered popular culture through mass media. Though comic-based films like 1978’s Superman The Movie would occasionally appear, the modern age of comic-based films didn’t begin in earnest until Blade staked out more mature territory in 1998. Today, super-heroes rule the box office, run rampant on television and streaming services, and have significant presence in the toy, video game, and apparel sections of mainstream stores. The comics form itself continues to thrive, having battled for acceptance (and frequently winning) in libraries, school curricula, and booksellers outside the comic shop. As Harvey Pekar, creator of American Splendor, once noted, “Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.”

Logo for Molly Danger, featuring the character in a heroric pose.
Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger. (Published by Action Lab Entertainment; ©Jamal Igle and Company).

Current comic book professionals regard Read Comics in Public Day as an important yearly event. Jamal Igle, creator of Molly Danger and co-creator of the upcoming series, The Wrong Earth, says, “When I was a kid, I had a Spanish teacher who said ‘It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you’re reading.’ It’s something I like to keep in mind as a creator and as a father. Reading comics in public day is a great way to encourage literacy in general. Selfishly, it’s also great to remind parents that comic books still exist, and are an excellent tool to get reluctant readers into the fold.”

If you’re curious if there’s a comic out there for you, the short answer is YES. Comics aren’t just bound to the super-hero genre. There’s horror, mystery, biography, comedy, and more, with as many books for mature readers as there are for young ones. You’re not bound by print, either, as you can buy digital comics from the likes of digital shop Comixology and find many independent webcomics online. A good pair of places to start is the Comic Shop Locator Service, which will lead you to a store near you, and the site for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, aka The Eisners (basically the Oscars of comics), which contains a list of all the past winners so that you can start with the best. So get out, enjoy your day, and don’t forget the comics.

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