Call it the tyranny of choice.

Fifty-two free comic book titles to choose from but each person can select just three. What will it be? Classic heroes like Superman and Judge Dredd, or lesser-known titles like "The Red Ten" or "The Strangers?" "The Smurfs" or the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles New Animated Adventures?"

Such decisions were confronted by hundreds of people Saturday when they lined up at Boulder's Time Warp Comics to observe the 12th annual Free Comic Book Day.

An estimated 3.3 million comics were expected to be given out at participating shops around the world during the event, according to organizers.

"I think it's awesome," 13-year-old Kieran McGill said of the celebration of comic arts after she picked out her trio of freebies -- the Ninja Turtles offering, "Grimm," based on the TV series of the same name, and "The Steam Engines of Oz" -- at Time Warp.

Kieran's, dad, Darrin McGill, and siblings Elizabeth, 12, and Ainsley, 7, have visited the shop, located at 3105 28th St., for Free Comic Book Day for the past three years. McGill, who now lives in Thornton, fell in love with comics and the shop while he was a University of Colorado student in the 1990's, and now the family are Time Warp "file holders" that have select titles set aside for them to pick up during monthly visits.

"They're just so interesting," Kieran said, of comics.

That sentiment was clearly shared by many in Boulder. Time Warp owner Wayne Winsett estimated that 150 people were lined up outside the shop before 10 a.m. waiting for it to open. A line snaking around the interior of the shop and along the sidewalk outside persisted throughout much of the day, with some saying they waited an hour and 45 minutes to get their free books.

"It just seems like it gets bigger and better every year, but this is by far the best one," Winsett said. "I'm blown away to tell you the truth."

Winsett, who actually paid publishers for the books he gave away Saturday, said he ordered triple the number of comics this year that he did last year. In addition to three books from this year's offerings, Winsett encouraged visitors to pick three from stacks of past years' leftovers.

Time Warp spiced up the event by providing door prizes and discounts on store merchandise, and offering photo ops with famous cars including the Batmobile from the 1989 "Batman" movie. Time Warp's landlord, Stephen Tebo, now owns the car.

A handful of local comic book creators were also on hand to sign autographs and distribute some on-the-spot sketches.

Aided by blockbuster movies like the just-released "Iron Man 3," comic book culture in recent years has become far more mainstream -- just ask brothers, Mark and Kevin Robinette. Both in their 60's now, the brothers -- who planned to visit multiple comic book shops in the Denver Metro Area on Saturday -- remember when they were looked down on for being comic book fans as kids.

Kevin Robinette, who now teaches a history of comics class at the San Francisco's Academy of Art University, said he put on a small but well-received comic book convention in Denver in 1981. Now it is anticipated the Denver Comic Con will attract some 50,000 people when it takes place at the Colorado Convention Center from May 31 to June 2.

"We think it's great the world caught up with us," Mark Robinette said with a laugh.

Among those who will attend Denver Comic Con are Matt Bailey and his girlfriend, Lilli Duran. Bailey, 25, stood out as he waited in line at Time Warp Saturday thanks to a high-quality costume of Marvel Comic's mercenary, anti-hero, Deadpool.

Bailey had a theory why comics are enjoying increased popularity recently.

"These characters are so relatable in so many ways," Bailey said. "Everybody can find a character they love."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or