Record numbers of fans, young and old, swarmed comic book retailers around the world today as the comics industry celebrated its most important holiday, Free Comic Book Day. To celebrate the event, publishers printed special comics sold to shops at discounted rates, which the shops then gave away to customers for free to promote awareness of comic books and hopefully create new fans. In addition, many stores set up other festivities, liks parties or signing events featuring local comics creators. But as the world reveled in the enjoyment of comic book excess, political prisoner Cormac McBuch sat alone in tiny cell and wept, forgotten by the world for the past three decades.
In 1984, Irish-born McBuch was visiting West Germany during the summer of his sophomore year of college. After a few too many beers at a weiner festival in downtown Berlin, McBuch decided to take a cab home and left his car parked in a two hour zone next to the Berlin Wall. The following day, when he returned to collect his automobile, Soviet police arrested McBuch and took him to police headquarters in East Berlin to pay the ticket. However, due to a clerical error, McBuch was accidentally sent to a Siberian gulag to serve out a life sentence instead. He's been there ever since.
"Aye, twas a wee mistake, laddie, but here I still am," McBuch told The Outhouse in his first contact with the outside world in more than three decades. "I'm beginnin' ta think they'll never let me out of me cell, boyo."
Ironically, McBuch should have been freed years ago, considering the amount of support a holiday devoted to his cause has acquired. Unfortunately, the meaning of the holiday has been lost, and Cormac McBuch has been all but forgotten, as the sands of time wash away the memory of collective conciousness. "Isn't that a kick in the arse?" McBuch sighed.
Of course, by now you realize we're talking about Free Comic Book Day, and that probably comes as quite a shock. Few people remember the origins of what is now a lighthearted celebration of consumerism in a niche industry populated by geeks. Free Cormac McBuch Day was started in May of 1990, less than a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the wake of that historic turning point signaling the coming end of the Cold War, protestors gathered in Germany to call for McBuch's release and swear to return each year until he was set free, remembering the famous speech given by U.S. President and jelly bean aficionado Ronald Reagan just three years earlier.
In the speech, Reagan memorably said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall, and release Cormac McBuch, who was wrongfully imprisoned and got a raw deal." Unfortunately for McBuch, the phrase was shortened by the media to nearly no one remembered the name Cormac McBuch, and the annual meetings faded away.
Then, in a cruel twist of fate, a highly coincidental printing error at a major comic book publisher in 2002 caused an advertisement for the film Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which was scheduled to run in the entire line of comics for April, to be replaced by a flyer for one of the early "Free Cormac McBuch" protests with mildly illegible typeface. A minor mass misunderstanding later, and thousands of eager fans showed up at shops expecting free comics on the first Saturday of May, and they've been doing it each year ever since, with absolutely no recollection of the original event that inspired it or the plight of the man who still waits in a decaying Russian prison, the victim of a long-dead bureaucracy with little hope of ever seeing the green hills of his beloved Emerald Isle again.
"Just tell me one thing, boyo" McBuch begged us as stone-faced guards escorted him away, our time for the interview expired. "They still haven't rebooted the Marvel Universe, have they? Tell me, laddie!" We looked away and clutched our copy of Marvel's FCBD offering, Secret Wars #0, which we didn't have the heart to show him, as Cormac McBuch was led silently back to the cell that will likely serve as his home until the day he dies.
Happy Free Comic Book Day, everyone! Tell us what you picked up at the shop today in the comments!