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Castle Perilous celebrates Free Comic Book Day

On a day meant to bring comic book fans together, one comic book shop looks to bring all nerd cultures together.

Castle Perilous Games and Books will celebrate Free Comic Book Day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. Free Comic Book Day, which started in 2001, is a nationwide day where participating comic book shops give out specific comics and sometimes merchandise to celebrate the comic medium.

There is a limit to what customers can take for free. Everyone who comes in the store gets two comic books, each having to be different titles. There are multiple ways to get more free comics, including wearing a costume and donating usable food.

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The event will have both the Southern Illinois Roller Girls and the Southern Illinois Steampunk Society there to participate. Chicago’s DJ Ghost Head, award winning cosplayer Sarah Exstrand and artist Matt Miller, of Capybara Ink, will all also participate in Free Comic Book Day in some fashion.

Scott Thorne, owner of Castle Perilous Games and Books, said his shop has been active in the event for five years.

This is a day to bring people into the world of comic books, he said.

“We specifically order comics that are good for kids and all ages stuff,” Thorne said. “There are a lot of more mature-like themes out there and comics that are esoteric by nature. But we also want to introduce people to the all ages comics.”

He said the shop has had a line waiting outside the door for the past few years. Last year there were more than two dozen people waiting for the store to open at 10 a.m. Over the course of that day, about 300 hundred came in, which is small when comparing it to bigger stores, Thorne said.

Some people will come in and grab their two comics and leave. Others will come in and linger for an hour or two, he said. It is about appealing to both the typical reader and the new reader alike.

Many people look at comic books as only for kids stuff, but books like “Watchmen” and “The Dark Knight Returns” disprove that, he said. The world of film has seen this potential and that is why there is such an abundance of comic book movies.

“The movie industry looks towards comics because it is a natural progression from serial storytelling,” Thorne said.

Andre Mahdi, a senior studying Cinema from Clarksville, Tenn., founded the Southern Illinois Steampunk Society in 2013.

He said the society’s involvement with this event is to help show support for nerds as a whole, not just one subsection.

“It allows us to jump in and enjoy other costumed capers we wouldn’t normally encounter,” Mahdi said.

The point of the Southern Illinois Steampunk Society is to engage in the idea of steampunk, a genre of science fiction that features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology, he said.

Being that the group’s focus is on a specific type of nerd culture, there can be difficulties in branching out, Mahdi said. A day like Free Comic Book Day helps stop the divide and brings people together.

It offers people the chance to test the waters in comic books and other geek related items, he said. It has people come together and seek out mediums they would have never considered before.

“Come in with an open mind and let your inner child find pleasure where you would least expect it,” he said.

Brittany Hammett, whose Derby name is Cheezus Crust, the sponsorship chair of the Southern Illinois Roller Girls, said the group has had a presence at Free Comic Book Day for some time.

The group will hang around the store in the afternoon, interacting with people participating in the event.

Being a public group, members need to know about the community surrounding them, Hammett said. The Southern Illinois Roller Girls go to many different events like this, even to some colleges, just to get a handle on all different types of people.

People not inside the different types of nerd culture can be intimidated by the other sections, she said. With something like comic books, there is so much to deal with for a newcomer. This gives them a chance to see where to even start, Hammett said.

“It is a really heavy art form to undertake,” she said. “Free Comic Day helps put feelers out of what people would like to read.”

The Humane Society of Southern Illinois will also be involved, bring a pet to the store from noon to 4 p.m. and 5 percent of sales will benefit the Human Society.

Jacob Pierce can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325

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