If it's the first Saturday in May, it must be Free Comic Book Day.
Now in its 12th year, the event has participating shops in the United States and around the world giving away more than 3.3 million special-edition comic books. Many shops also have special attractions, such as costumed characters, and other giveaways.
Locally participating stores include Bonanza Books & Comics, 2308 McHenry Ave., and Krier's Cards & Comics, 3900 Pelandale Ave., both in Modesto; Red Sky Comics, 617 W. Main St., Merced; and Comics Plus, 1305 Center Ave., Los Banos.
The event regularly has Bonanza hopping, said store owner Jeff Allen, who counts on help of family and friends to serve the crowd it draws. His shop goes all out to ensure a fun experience for visitors, including for several years now having "Star Wars" characters from the 501st Legion Central California Garrison on hand. Darth Vader and Princess Leia will set aside their differences for a couple of hours, as will bounty hunter Boba Fett, Jedi knights and various forces of the empire: clone troopers, sand troopers, snow troopers and storm troopers. They'll be meeting fans and posing for photos from 10 a.m. to noon.
From noon to 3 at Bonanza, four comic artists will demonstrate their work, autographing books and answering questions from fans and aspiring artists.They are:
Ethen Beavers, an artist on "Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures," "Indiana Jones Adventures" and other titles
Patrick Barr, artist on "Sun Wukong: The Journey Continues"
Jeremiah Perkins, artist on "Son of Lar"
Chad Pickrel, Internet artist
The event at Bonanza runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Comic titles vary by store, but among the books listed on the Free Comic Book Day website as giveaways are "Star Wars," Superman, SpongeBob SquarePants, "Walking Dead," Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Smurfs titles.
To learn more, visit www.freecomicbookday.com.