The recent string of successful Marvel and DC movies coupled with an increase in the availability of digital comics has helped fuel the revival of the comic book industry. More people are reading comics, they’re available more widely, and they’re finally starting to get the recognition they deserve as part of the literary canon.
Unfortunately, going down to the local comic shop to pick up your favorites can be quite expensive, with single issues costing $10 or more. When you’re only getting a small portion of a larger story, the sums involved can really add up fast.
However, there are plenty of places you can read comics for free online. You can use these eight websites to get into comics for the first time, catch up on older issues, or just to poke around looking for hidden treasures.
Whether you’re looking for comic books from Marvel, DC, Image, Vertigo, or other publishers, Hello Comic! is a great place to start. With comics dating from the 1980s through to very recent releases, you can find all of the heroes that you’ve seen on the big screen as well as discover new favorites.
It’s not just superhero comics that you’ll find here, though. You can also read all of The Walking Dead to hold you over until it’s back on TV, check out Neil Gaiman’s very popular Sandman series, and explore the popular dystopian Y: The Last Man. This is a great place to start if you want to see what the comic book world has been up to for the past 30 years.
Though it’s not quite as easy to navigate as Hello Comic!, GetComics.info is a great place to find back issues of Marvel and DC comics as well as issues from smaller publishers. You can browse around the Marvel and DC category pages to find something you’re interested in, or use the search function to see if the site has what you’re looking for.
One thing that sets GetComics.info apart from other online comic book sites is that you need to download any issues to read them. It’s nice to be able to just read a comic online as soon as you find it, but because you can easily download an issue, you can keep it and read it whenever you’d like.
If you want to read comics online, comiXology is tough to beat. It’s primarily an online comic shop (and one of the best ways to read digital comics), so its guiding purpose is to get you to buy issues, but they do provide a large collection of frequently updated free comics as well.
In addition to Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and other big-name publishers, you’ll find manga, independent releases, and issues from smaller publishers as well. Start with the free issues on comiXology, and you may find yourself hooked!
You won’t find the big names here: Marvel and DC are absent from the list of publishers on DriveThru (though 2000AD’s Judge Dredd is available). However, this is a large collection that contains a huge variety of comics that spans genres and styles. Many first issues are free, and if you decide that you like the series, you can buy and download subsequent issues from the store.
The filters in the search menu on DriveThru can be used to browse genres, formats, publishers, and prices. Use them to narrow down the selection of comics and start exploring. You might find something that you really like that would be hard to find elsewhere.
You might not think of Amazon as a website offering free things, but there’s actually a surprising amount of free content available if you know where to look for it. The Comics & Graphic Novels Best Sellers list also contains the Top 100 free titles available for download.
You can of course see the Top 100 comics and graphic novels that are free, but you can also filter the list by genre on the left, helping you find the type of comic that you’re interested in. The list is updated hourly, so you should check back regularly for new titles.
An award-winning independent comic, ElfQuest has been running since the late 1970s, and every issue released before 2014 is available for free on its website. If you like fantasy worlds, you should definitely check it out.
The site also includes a number of comics and stories from the world of ElfQuest. The series has now concluded with the Final Quest story arc, which can be purchased from Dark Horse, which is also publishing the complete ElfQuest series in collected editions.
If you want to see where today’s comic books got their start, you should check out the Digital Comic Museum and its huge collection of Golden Age (1930s–1950s) comics. You won’t recognize many of the titles or characters (though Captain Marvel does show up), but you can see how the Golden Age books had a strong influence on today’s works.
If you’re looking for modern comic books, you won’t find any here. But it can be awfully fun to browse through some of the classic titles from 60+ years ago and see just how far the artwork and storytelling have come.
With over 10 petabytes of data, it’s no surprise that the Internet Archive has over 15,000 comic books and graphic novels in this collection (and possibly more elsewhere). From the Golden Age to today, just about everything is represented in the Archive. While it can be difficult to navigate, if you spend some time looking, you can find almost anything you want.
Because of the huge amount of material and inconsistent labeling, searching for the name of a comic or a character is probably your best bet. But if you’re just getting into comic books and you want to see what’s out there, away from the mainstream, scrolling through the Archive and clicking on a few random comics might be a good tactic.
Comic books are enjoying a resurgence, and you can take full advantage of it if you know the right websites to visit. These eight sites will help you find new comics to read, let you revisit your favorites, and give you a glimpse into the past to see what the Golden Age was like. Although you won’t get the very latest issues on these sites, you’ll have more than enough comics to keep you busy for months.
What are your favorite places to read comics online? Do you prefer to buy issues or read them for free once they’ve been out for a while? How do you think reading comics online compares to reading paper issues? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Image Credits: retro woman via Shutterstock