Copyright 2002 Rob Stroud

[ May 1st 2002 ]

Moviegoers are expected to flock to theaters across the country once the Spider-Man movie premieres on Friday. Four rival publishers have decided to use the increased interest in super heroes as an opportunity to bring more attention to comic books. On Saturday, they plan to distribute nearly 2 million free comic books in all 50 states and 29 countries around the world.

Locally, about 1,500 comic books will be available at Midgard Comics in Charleston and at the Showplace 8 theater in Mattoon. The free comics will feature Spider-Man, Star Wars, Tomb Raider Lara Croft, and the Justice League of America with Superman and others. Mike Reinhart of Midgard Comics in Charleston said comic books offer a wide range of stories for children and adults. He also said comic books have played a role in helping many children learn to read, adding that his 6-year-old son is an avid comic book reader.

Assistant professor Janet Carpenter, who works in childhood, elementary and middle level education at Eastern Illinois University, said she tells those who are trying to get into the habit of reading to start by finding reading material they enjoy. She said comic books can easily fit into that category. Comic books can help children and adults transition from text with photographs and illustrations to other forms of reading, she said. "I think any time we can get our young people reading, no matter what the context it is in, we should encourage it," Carpenter said.

Reinhart said the most popular of the four free titles will likely be Marvel Comics' first issue of "Ultimate Spider-Man." He said the "Ultimate" title retells the early adventures of the wall-crawling super hero in a way that appeals to new readers. "We've had a big response to 'Ultimate Spider-Man' at the store," Reinhart said.

DC Comics has provided first issues of its "Justice League Adventures" for young readers, Dark Horse Comics has donated copies of the movie tie-in "Star Wars Tales: A Jedi's Weapon," and Image Comics has provided copies of a "Tomb Raider" story that features Lara Croft's origin. Reinhart said this is the first time to his knowledge that rival publishers have teamed up to give away free comics books. He said the idea was suggested by the owner of a comic book store. "Diamond Comics Distributors kind of picked the idea up and went with it," he said.

Diamond stated on its Web site,, that the give-aways will focus on independent comic book specialty stores. Reinhart said "X-Men" and other super-hero movies have been popular, but their success has not carried over to comic books. He said it is now hard to find comic books outside of specialty stores and book stores, such as Waldenbooks. "A lot of people don't realize those movies got their start in comic books," Reinhart said. "It's kind of a medium that many people overlook."

Reinhart and Mark Waters plan to give the free comic books at Midgard Comics, 102 W. Lincoln Ave., from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and at about 1 p.m. at the Showplace 8 theater in Mattoon.

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