With superhero fans worldwide basking in the afterglow of "Avengers: Endgame," the comic world's annual celebration of the printed medium, Free Comic Book Day, is quick to follow.

The 17-year worldwide tradition began as a way to celebrate comic books as "an original American art form" that captures the imagination of the readers around the globe.

Crash Comics is one of the local businesses that will be hosting celebrations Saturday.

The recent advent of superhero culture has been a boon for the business, as it raises awareness and love for the characters in greater numbers than ever before. The movies, in Crash manager Brent Thurston's opinion, are one of the main things driving interest in the culture.

"The movies are No. 1 with a bullet. It drives interest in comics, too, though maybe not as much as in merchandise, which is a close second," he said. "Now there's merchandise in every gas station on the planet with Hulk and Captain America on it. It has helped business; I do have people that come in and say they saw a comic movie and they want to know more about it."

At Crash, Thurston has come to expect as many as 500 people coming through the door annually on Free Comic Book Day.

"The general lunacy of the day down here brings a lot of people," Thurston said. "It's just a madhouse, it really is -- in a fun way, of course."

While a lot of people come in to get comics for their kids, Thurston hopes that the parents will page through them, as well.

"They'll get as much joy out of this as their child. They're a lot more complex than biff-bam-pow nowadays," he said. "People expect it to be written for a 10-year-old, but the comics have aged as well."

In addition to giving away three free comics per person, the shop plans to have storewide sales, among other festivities, like people cosplaying their favorite characters.

"One of my regulars, for several years, showed up as Captain America. Kids would show up and they've got this Captain America comic in their hand and they'd end up taking a picture with him," Thurston recalled. "Years later, I've had people tell me that experiences like that got them into comics. That they met Captain America when they were 5 and that was real for them. It's inspiring, which is what heroes should do."

Crash Comics will once again be holding a food drive to benefit Paducah Cooperative Ministry.

It's not uncommon, Thurston added, for people to drive down Kentucky Avenue on Free Comic Book Day and drop a bag of donated food to a cosplayer.

"We're more than grateful when they do that," he said. "We have costumed curbside service for all donations."

The store holds two food drives every year, one during Free Comic Book Day and one during October.

"Last year we brought in over 5,000 items, which was a very high record for us, almost doubling the year before's numbers," Thurston said. "That's a record I always want to break."

Anyone wishing to contribute to the food drive may bring canned or dry goods to the shop on Saturday. Donating any item will enter the participant in a drawing for door prizes.

The Kentucky Avenue shop will open its doors at 9 a.m. on Saturday. For details about other happenings at the store, visit their Facebook page.

Paducah's Infinite Collectibles, on the Southside, also will be participating in Free Comic Book Day. To learn more about its event, which will include a Star Wars celebration with cosplayers and cake, visit its Facebook page, as well.

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