Alexis Schantz, an employee at Muse Comics, chats with a customer on Thursday evening.

Time to celebrate your inner nerd. Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, where they — wait for it — give out comic books! For free!

“'Free' is one of the most powerful words in the English language,” said Joe Field, Free Comic Book Day founder. “If you throw in comic books after that, who wouldn’t love it?”

The idea behind the day is to celebrate graphic novels. A slew of sponsors such as DC Entertainment and Marvel, along with creators, publishers and retailers donate to put together special editions of popular comic books. Comic book stores around the United States and the world open their doors for eager readers and swag stealers. And that’s great, Field said.

“We still haven’t reached everybody,” he said. “There’s still room for (Free Comic Book Day) to grow.”

Field got the idea to give away free comic books after he saw a line going out the door of his neighborhood Baskin Robbins for Free Scoop Day, and he said the idea could transfer over to comic give aways. He said he saw it as a good way to encourage people to get interested and read comic books and graphic novels.

“I believe for everybody who likes to read, there is a comic book or a graphic novel out there for them,” Field said.

The first year Free Comic Book Day was celebrated in 2002, there were fewer than five special editions and participating publishers. This year, Field said there are at least 40 publishers and more than 50 special edition comic books available, and they’ll go out to some 2,100 comic book stores in 65 countries. Field said last year an estimated 1.2 million people celebrated Free Comic Book Day.

“I expect that number to go up this year,” he said.

Alexis Schantz, who works at Muse Comics and Games in Missoula, said they usually run out of free comic books, so the shop has saved back issues to give away when the free stock is spent.

“They bring loads of stuff to give away,” Schantz said. “There’s usually a line out the door. This is the closest thing we’ll ever get to Black Friday.”

Comic book fans aren’t the only ones who are going to flock to the store tomorrow. The Timberline Garrison of the 501st Legion, Montana’s StormTrooper battalion, will be there to make sure things don’t get out of control and to up the enthusiasm.

“This year, we’re expecting a lot more people,” Schantz said.

Jim Daniel, Dwayne Harris and Tony Gregori, local comic writers and artists, will also be there to celebrate. Gregori worked on and released three titles last year, Harris has helped design for "Game of Thrones" and Daniel made his debut as a graphic novel writer last summer with "Enormous," a 64-page post-apocalyptic illustrated tale.  

Gregori said they will be there to sign posters and draw sketches, but the real reason for Free Comic Book Day is to celebrate the art and to keep it alive.

“Comics have been around since the caveman days. It’s a cultural art,” Gregori said. “We need people to keep reading comics to keep it evolving.”