It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s ... Free Comic Book Day!

“Superman” will be among the thousands of free comic books given away today at participating comic book stores in Western New York as part of Free Comic Book Day, a national promotion that takes place each year on the first Saturday of May to “[spread] the good word of comics to potential readers everywhere.”

“It’s a great way to get comic books into people’s hands,” said Don Wynecoop, owner of Don’s Atomic Comics & Collectibles on Transit Road in Lancaster. “It’s a smart promotion. It gets people excited.”

Here’s how it works: Sponsoring publishers offer 50 different comic book titles at drastically reduced prices – around 20 cents to 50 cents per copy. Store owners order and pay for the reduced-price comics, then hand them out free to people who visit their shops.

All of the most popular titles, such as “The Walking Dead,” “Batman,” “My Little Pony” and “Star Wars,” are on the list. Any other given day, the comics would retail for up to $5.

Wynecoop spends a “couple hundred” dollars on a variety of comics and lets people take three titles each. It’s a small price to pay for the free advertising and buzz that surround the event each year – especially since many patrons linger and shop, even though no purchase is necessary to snag the freebie.

“I sell easily four or five times what I do on a regular day,” Wynecoop said.

The promotion also brings in lots of new faces, many of whom become regular customers, store owners said.

Sales of comic books have fallen since their heyday in the 1960s, competing for attention with television, computers and video games. Comic book stores have struggled as more readers begin viewing comics digitally on e-readers and the Internet.

Free Comic Book Day drives traffic to stores and introduces new generations to printed comics. Many of the free titles are geared toward young children, such as “Sesame Street,” “Spongebob” and Disney’s “Tinker Bell.” Indeed, store owners say they see more children in the store on Free Comic Book Day than they do all year.

“It’s a good way to introduce people to comic books, to remind people that comic books still exist,” said Paul Bene, owner of House of Fantasy Comics and Games on Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls.

In addition to Wynecoop’s and Bene’s stores, participating shops include Queen City Bookstore on Main Street in Buffalo, Seeley & Kane’s on Elmwood Avenue in Kenmore, Collector’s Inn on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore, and Halley’s Comics and Games on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.