Bill’s Bullpen Baseball Cards and Comics shop has been in the same spot in downtown Hollister for the past 34 years. Photos of little league baseball teams the store has sponsored of years past still hang on the wall.
The comic book shop is just one of the last ones left in the tri-county area.
“There’s not many of us around anymore,” said Bill Mifsud, owner of Bill’s Bullpen. “We’re a dinosaur, a dying breed.”
However, he’s trying to reinvigorate the love of reading comic books by giving them away to kids and those that are still kids at heart. Mifsud’s shop is hosting Free Comic Book Summer, which includes five to six Free Comic Book Day titles in a weekly shipment for fans to choose from.
The 54-year-old Hollister natvie hands out comic books on Wednesdays from 11am to 8pm at his shop at 207 Fourth Street. Until Sept. 9, retailers can release one free title a day or they can make all of that week’s free titles available at once.
Michael Pressman, a teacher for the Santa Clara County Office of Education, said it’s always nice to get some free comic books. He also mentioned that his daughter has been getting into them just like he did when he was a kid.
“I didn’t read anything before that, really,” he said. “Then I ended up with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and I’m a teacher now.”
Pressman said he came across comic books by accident after he found a beat-up issue of Dr. Strange on the ground. He said within a year he discovered there were comic book shops where he could buy them including his first purchase of an X-Men comic book.
“Now I just have a collection that’s this big, huge stack and boxes of comic books I’ve been collecting my whole life,” he said.
Free Comic Book Summer was an alternative to Free Comic Book Day, the comic book industry’s largest annual promotional event that’s traditionally scheduled on the first Saturday in May each year.
According to the event’s website, Free Comic Book Summer will feature 45 of the previously announced titles from publishers like Marvel Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Dynamite Entertainment, DC and several others.
The 45 titles are designed to appeal to a broad range of tastes and run the gamut from superhero stories, to TV and movie tie-ins, to sci-fi adventures, all-ages tales and beyond. There will also be two educational support titles from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Gemstone Publishing.
“Every year, Free Comic Book Day is our big event to thank current comics fans, welcome back former fans and invite those new to comics to join the fun,” said Joe Field, originator of Free Comic Book Day, on the event’s website.
Field, who owns Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif., said there’s a variety of stories available throughout the summer, which he hopes will draw some attention to local comic book shops.
Jared McDonald said he recently got into comic books about two years ago. He began reading titles such as Darth Vader and didn’t realize how cool the storyline was.
McDonald, 29, mentioned that Free Comic Book Summer helped him and others get through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A free comic book is a great way to find something new to appreciate while you’re at home, social distancing,” he said. “That’s awesome.”
Mifsud said that McDonald falls into that demographic of people he sells comic books to, which is the ages ranging from 18 to 40. He said he’s received letters from parents thanking him for having the event.
Mifsud said overall the best part is he gets to promote literacy, which he firmly believes is fundamental when it comes to one’s future.
“You can’t read an application that someone is handing you or you can’t read something that’s online, you’ll get nowhere,” he said.
A complete listing of all 45 FCBD titles, including the 10 Gold Sponsor and 35 Silver Sponsor comic books, can be viewed online at www.freecomicbookday.com.