More than 51 comic book titles were available for free at The Golden Age, 1942, as part of the national Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) event, held every year on the first Saturday of May. It was also the three-year anniversary of the Maryville-based comic shop.

“We opened three years ago on (FCBD),” The Golden Age manager Stephanie Lyons said. “We had a giant birthday cake for attendees. There were several new faces at The Golden Age today. The shop is gaining customers all the time. I think our (key to success) is that we offer a wide variety. We have comics, collectibles, statues, board/card/roleplaying games, a classic Amazing Spider-Man pinball machine autographed by Stan Lee, a vintage juke box, and more. The Golden Age isn’t just a comic shop — it’s a destination.”

Hundreds of people visited The Golden Age on Saturday’s FCBD.

“I know we had over 300 people by noon,” Lyons said. “The line was wrapped around the store inside. It was so crowded that you could barely move. Even when the line died down, we still had a continuous flow of customers buying comics and other items.”

Christian Chavarria is from Oak Ridge and has visited the business at least five times since last year. “It is one of my favorite shops in the Knoxville area,” he said. “I really like comics published by (independent companies). It is nice to mix it up with different books instead of having a constant diet of tights and capes. My favorite indie title is “Goon.” They always have new ‘Goon’ books. Most comic shops do not keep a regular run with independent comics. The Golden Age tries to keep indie titles in stock instead of just selling what they have and that is the end of it.”

Guest artists were at the event, featuring talent such as Mike Grell (“Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters,” “The Warlord” and “Jon Sable Freelance”) and Tom Nguyen (“Green Lantern,” “JLA” and “Superman: The Man of Steel”).

“This is my third year at The Golden Age at FCBD,” Nguyen said. “The first year went well enough that the owner wanted to book me for the next few years. I always look forward to returning to Maryville for FCBD.”

Vincent Goldsby lives in Chattanooga and drives for hours to meet the guest artists at The Golden Age.

“Tom Nguyen is a great artist,” Goldsby said. “He drew Ms. Marvel from The Avengers for me last year. The art is still hanging in my living room.”

Nguyen said the fans he meets at The Golden Age are the very backbone of the comic book industry. “The fans make events like FCBD possible,” he said. “Individuals like Vincent Goldsby are very loyal and will travel great distances to obtain art from their favorite artists.”

Grell’s biggest seller was anything connected to the character Green Arrow, yet he also sold other prints of fan favorites such as Batman and The Warlord.

In the past, Grell has been criticized by some critics for the use of excessive violence in his work.

“I don’t condone violence in my comics,” he said. “I do report on violence and other horrible things which occur in our world. Just because you discuss something doesn’t mean you are for it. Rather, it shows an awareness that things such as violence happen whether we like it or not. I am asking why certain things happen in society, and some people don’t like the questions because they don’t (want to think about) the answers.”

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