Comics, games make Free Comic Book Day

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  • Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Attendees of all ages rummage through the titles at Free Comic Book Day Saturday.

  • 1

    Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Stacey Dzbenski (right), with Andy Kroupa, shows off the RetroPi arcade simulator she made at Free Comic Book Day on the BBCC campus on Saturday.

  • 2

    Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Gamers Mahayla Roberson (left) and Ella Neef finish a round of Mario Kart at BBCC on Saturday during Free Comic Book Day.

  • Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Attendees of all ages rummage through the titles at Free Comic Book Day Saturday.

  • 1

    Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Stacey Dzbenski (right), with Andy Kroupa, shows off the RetroPi arcade simulator she made at Free Comic Book Day on the BBCC campus on Saturday.

  • 2

    Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Gamers Mahayla Roberson (left) and Ella Neef finish a round of Mario Kart at BBCC on Saturday during Free Comic Book Day.

MOSES LAKE — The little black box with joystick and the buttons on it doesn’t look like much.

But it’s a labor of love, this little homemade machine, and it has enough games on it to fill an entire 1980s arcade.

“I call it a RetroPi, I got into it back at Christmas,” said Stacy Dzbenski, who made the little console that sits in front of her. “This is fun, and I can have all the emulators on it I want.”

When Dzbenski says she made the device, she isn’t fooling around. As a librarian with the Othello School District, Dzbenski also teaches students how to code and create things with 3-D printers.

Like the plastic panels on her RetroPi, which she said took about 30 hours each to produce. At its core is a small Raspberry Pi, a little $35, easily-customizable computer no bigger than a pack of playing cards.

And she was here in Moses Lake showing her tiny little machine off — as well as providing a number of the video games — in the Big Bend Community College’s ATEC building as part of gathering marking “Free Comic Book Day” on Saturday, which brought people of all ages together to play games — video games and board games — and sort through a table of free comic books.

“It’s an opportunity to hang out with some friends, people are having fun, and it’s free,” said Dawna Haynes, the dean of student services who also described herself as something of a geek.

“There’s space for everyone to be here,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

Free Comic Book Day was started in 2002 as a way for comic book dealers to honor and recognize the success of films based on comic books and how that was helping comic book retailers, and has been held on the first Saturday of May since 2005.

At BBCC on Saturday there were video game tournaments, free comic books, card games, and prize drawings, as well as Dzbenski’s little arcade game box.

“It brings together my different passions — programming, 3-D printing, making things, and playing games,” she said.

Dzbenski said she hasn’t considered selling the RetroPi game boxes — it takes too much time to make them.

“It’s a labor of love,” she said. “I’m designing a Raspberry Pi laptop. I could just buy one, but I want to say I made it myself.”

At another table, Elizabeth Neef sits with her two daughters and a family friend as they all get ready to play Mario Kart.

“We saw the Facebook post, and you know, it’s free comic books, and the kids love comic books,” she said.

“We are having a super time,” said her daughter Ella, who then plays excitedly through a level of Mario Kart.

And then the next level comes up — Rainbow Road.

“I love Rainbow Road!” Ella says excitedly as her avatar sets out.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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