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Free Comic Book Day: Q&A with Impact Comics’ Mal Briggs

Impact Comics Entrance.
Impact Comics entrance in Garema Place

Impact Comics is a popular comic book store located in Canberra that has offered its services to the region since 2004.

The store is hosting a Free Comic Book Day event coming up on 7 May.

In the lead up to this event, I had the opportunity to meet with the co-owner of the store, Mal Briggs, to explore everything about the store and what they have to offer.

Co-owner Mal Briggs and Co-Worker Anna Brown showing off children's comics in store at Impact Comics Canberra.
Impact Comics store owner Mal Briggs and with co-worker Anna Brown

Q: Could you tell me a little bit about the history of Impact Comics?

A: We are now coming up to 18 years since the store first opened.

We worked at a previous place called ‘Impact Records’, JB Hi-Fi bought them and decided they didn’t like the idea of selling comics, so, therefore, they closed down the comics section. So, we identified a gap in the market and decided to open Impact Comics within 6 weeks.

We completely named the place (Impact Comics) on purpose that way so we would get some continuity. In hindsight, we kind of wished we made it a new identity, because people still come in and talk to us about ‘Impact Records’ 18 years on.

It is cool, that it has a bit of a legacy like that. But, we’re developing our own legacy which is almost as long now.

All ages books and comics section, located in-store at Impact Comics.
Impact Comics Store: ‘All Ages’ shelf

Q: I was wondering, who is the target audience for Impact Comics?

A: So the target audience for us – we’ve gone away from the traditional concept of demographics. We go more onto the sight of psychographics.

It goes so broad, literally goes from kids who are too young to read, right through to people who are in their 90’s. Males and Females.

The nature of the product is so broad, you know. Comics aren’t just superheroes, there’s drama, there’s biography and there’s adaptations.

Then there’s this whole wave of stuff coming in from Japan. Where you have romance, sports and manga. There’s actually this really popular manga called ‘drops of god‘ which is about wine tasting.

It’s so broad, it is ridiculous. So, it’s really hard to narrow down a specific demographic.

Free Comic Book Day T-Shirt available in-store at Impact Comics ACT.
Impact Comics ‘Free Comic Book Day’ T-Shirt, available in store

Q: So Impact Comics is having a free comic book day event coming up on the 7th of May. I was wondering what the purpose of this event was? And what the store hopes to gain by giving away free comics?

A: For Free Comic Book Day, the whole goal is to give people a zero-cost opportunity to try out comics.

It’s like giving away free cookies outside of a bakery, or free scoops of ice cream at an ice cream place. Better than all of those, once you’ve enjoyed it (comics) you can give it to someone else.

Ultimately, we hope it will get people addicted and get them to come back.

Q: Has the store ever done something like this before?

A: Yeah so, Free Comic Book day is annual, we’ve done it every year except last year. The last two years because of the pandemic, it’s been really difficult to do it.

In 2020 we did a ‘stripped down’ version of it later in the year. In 2021 we were planning on doing another stripped-down event later on in the year but went into a nine-week lockdown two weeks before it was supposed to happen.

We actually have comics that we were supposed to give away last year, ready to go this year. So we’ve got double the range.

Q: Is there anything specific the public should know about this event?

A: So, not every comic is free. Free comics are specially printed for the day, they’re specially marked.

We have to buy them, so they’re not unlimited.

They aren’t all kid friendly either. We break them (comics) up into sections. Some will be a free-for-all for kids, another for adults, and another for older teenagers.

Q: So it’s just the comic books that are free right? Not the figurines or merchandise?

A: No, but we are going to have a sale on the day, for all the other stuff in the store. Because free comic book day is about trying something new but there are so many people who are regulars who don’t need to be encouraged to try something new. So, we want them to have something fun out of the day too. So our regulars can come in and get a sale on something they already knew that they liked.

A wall of POP-Figurines, located in-store at Impact Comics in ACT.
Impact Comics Store: Shelf of POP figurines available in store
In-store view at Impact Comics, displaying the aisles and stacks of comics available.
Impact Comics Store: Aisles filled with stacks of comics

Q: What can we expect from Impact Comics in the future? And are there any new or exciting plans that the public should know?

A: Yeah so, normally we do free comic book day in May. Then in the past 8 years or so we’ve started to do a festival later on in the year where we set up a market out in Garema Place. Again, Covid got in the way of that, right when we were planning on expanding it and making it a bigger deal. Now coming back, there are more conventions coming to town and there are more markets catering to this range.

So, I think we might actually take this year off doing anything ‘extra’.

We are going to go to Gamacon this year, we’re sponsoring all the comics guests at Gamacon which is going to be in July.

But yeah, we’re going to see how the rest of the year plays out with the other markets and hopefully can organise something really cool next year.

Impact Comics Merchandise. A figure of Canberra's famous Owl Statue located in Belconnen ACT. This figurine is available in-store at Impact Comics for $44.99.
Impact Comics Merchandise: Canberra’s famous Owl statue as a figurine is available for purchase in-store at Impact Comics

If you’re looking for something to do in Canberra on the 7th of May 2022, bring your family or friends along to Free Comic Book Day at Impact Comics – located at 16 Garema Place, Canberra. You may be surprised to discover a passion for comics that you were not exposed to before.

Photos by Cara Ginnan