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Rochester fans marvel at comic books during annual celebration

ROCHESTER - Superheroes of all shapes and sizes swarmed the city Saturday to help celebrate Free Comic Book Day, which is held in many comic book shops in New Hampshire

Held on the first Saturday in May, the annual event has taken on a life of its own, turning Rochester into a crossroads of comic storylines where the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel could be seen walking past a wookie from Star Wars as a team of Ghostbusters crosses the street.

Meanwhile, spontaneous light saber duels between Jedi masters and Sith lords erupted throughout the downtown.

The event was both "crazy and awesome," according to Ralph DiBernardo, owner of Jetpack Comics.

"It's even busier than last year," he said, adding he estimated more than 7,000 participants took part in the event.

For many, the event was a family affair, much like Halloween.

James Naumes, of Durham, was dressed as Hellboy, was accompanied by his wife Daisy and their two sons. Hunter, 5, who came as Sonic the Hedgehog, and Auron, 2, who was clad as a padawan youngling from Star Wars.

"We love Jetpack and we love Comic Book Day," Naumes said, adding this year was even better than previous incarnations.

Rod Knowles, 50, of South Berwick, Maine, said he was thrilled that so many young enthusiasts share his passion for comic books.

"It's good to see a new group of collectors out," Knowles said, adding he feared it would be lost to other activities.

"I was surprised at the turnout," Knowles said, adding it was such a nice day and there is so much to do in the area.

Knowles, who has collected more than 27,000 comic books, said he's especially proud of some early issues of the Fantastic Four, which are very rare in any condition. Nonetheless, he added, any comic can be considered valuable in the eye of the beholder.

"Each one usually has a story," Knowles said.

For Rochester stores, the surge of people is a long-awaited infusion of customers.

"We've actually been booming today," said Becky Maloney, of Skele-Tone Records & Alternative Fashions.

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