Zombies, ponies and superheroes come together for annual free comic extravaganza

Courtesy Photo: Steve Becker, left, and Jeff McComsey pose with freshly printed copies of "FUBAR, Vol. 3" just in time for Free Comic Gook Day on May 4.

It’s just a few weeks until the rollout of volume three of his ongoing comic series, “FUBAR,” and editor Jeff McComsey is rallying his troops.

“When the sun rises on May 4, over 20 intrepid men and women of FUBAR will lace up their boots all over the country to take part in the most sacred national comic book holiday: Free Comic Book Day,” he said with a distinct tone of authority.

It would make perfect sense to accompany the above statement with military drums and gentle, manly humming, since “FUBAR” is a retelling of American history with zombies as an ever-present threat.

Since he graduated from art school in 2005 McComsey has been immersed in the world of self-published comics, starting with his “American Terror” series in 2006.

Shortly thereafter the Oxford native, who now calls Lancaster home, started playing with stories from WWII, using zombies as a shared antagonist for both the Allied and the Axis powers to deal with.

Now, just six years later, the series has expanded to include all of American history, with dozens of different contributing writers and artists and a third volume due in stores in time for Free Comic Book Day this May 4.

The self-proclaimed “Supreme Commander, Allied Forces” and “Killustrator” is proud of the upcoming volume (with over 40 stories and a gut-busting 400-plus pages), particularly for a contribution by writer Chuck Dixon.

Dixon is renowned for his longtime run as head writer on the “Batman” series during the introduction of Bane, the villain otherwise known as “the man who broke the Bat” that was brought to life by Thomas Hardy in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

For Free Comic Book Day, the industry’s ongoing worldwide celebration that tries to hand out as many free comics as possible, McComsey and “FUBAR” partner/art director Steve Becker are sending out 20 emissaries to various comic shops to sign copies of their FCBD selection.

The free offering, McComsey said, is essentially five stories compiled from the third “FUBAR” volume, including Dixon’s story, which tells the tale of a young George S. Patton hunting a zombified Pancho Villa in the early 1900’s.

“One of the stories even takes place at Valley Forge – in fact, the cover is of George Washington … fighting a zombie,” he said.

McComsey said that creating his “American Historical Zombie Anthology” series has allowed him to look in-depth at American history – a lifelong interest of his – and from different perspectives.

It’s also granted him insight into that eternal question: zombies versus vampires – who wins?

“Vampires. More organized.”

For his FCBD assignment, McComsey will be entrenched at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Del. – a distinct honor for the “FUBAR” commander, since the shop was his old stomping ground as a young buck private.

“Jeff’s been here before, and we’re excited to have him back,” said Blue Hen owner Joe Murray.

McComsey is an example, Murray said, of the rise in “geek culture” that is now returning to its roots and sharing those experiences with another generation.

“We’re dealing with people who grew up in a post-‘Star Wars’ universe, since their parents grew up with ‘Star Wars,’” Murray said. “And the whole sort of geek thing started with ‘Star Wars,’ so now it becomes this generational thing. And Free Comic Book Day is about making memories for the next generation.”

Located in downtown Newark, Capt. Blue Hen has become one of the area’s largest contributors to the yearly comic giveaway, with over 2,000 people stopping out last year for their free title and to pose with the costumed characters who invariably show up.

This year, along with the revolving door of characters, a replica of the 1966 Batmobile will be on hand for people to admire, along with food carts, sketches from “Zombie Row,” and other fun stuff to keep families entertained while they wait for their freebie.

“It’s our biggest party, and it’s certainly gained enough momentum that it’s become a known thing,” Murray said of the event. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds, and new stuff gets added every day t seems.”

Never one for the violent bloody comics himself – his favorite title is called “Love and Cakes” – Murray isn’t sure why zombies continue to be so popular in modern culture.

“They work cheap, cheaper than reality TV producers, it’s the only reason,” Murray said.

McComsey’s reasoning, however, was somewhat more visceral.

“I think they strike mortal terror in people, especially in parents,” he said. “Suddenly it becomes, ‘I have to save for my child’s education,’ to, ‘I have to save my child from being eaten by a zombie hoard.’ It changes the perspectives a little.”

Free Comic Book Day promises a free comic, provided out of a list of specialty titles, for everyone who shows up at a participating store. At Blue Hen, a canned good for the local food cupboard and a student ID gets you one extra title each.

For a complete rundown of Free Comic Book Day events at Blue Hen, visit www.captainbluehen.com.