When I first started getting into comics as a young teen (Astonishing X-Men, anyone?) it required knowing exactly which comic book or graphic novel I wanted to read and purchasing it online. Don’t get me wrong. I read some great comic books that way, but as a newbie comic enthusiast without a local comic book store to guide me, it definitely slowed down my descent into total comic book assimilation. I mostly discovered new storylines through authors/artists I liked or wanting to dig deeper into MCU characters and plots. Over the years, I’ve found so many more resources to discover and read new comics. And the best part? Many of these resources are completely free!
Whether you’re a longtime comic book aficionado or just dipping your toes into the world of comics (don’t be intimidated! lots of us are nice!), you might be surprised by how many resources there are to read comics online for free. Free and legal, that’s what we like to hear!
I stumbled across this site recently by chance and was floored by the amount of comics and graphic novels I recognized from my own TBR — including some, like Steampunk Snow Queen, which I was unable to find through any other legal comic sites. A number of Boom, Valiant, and Dark Horse comics are available on Graphite for free reading. Get started with your free comics reading with Slam! The Next Jam, Divinity, Ladycastle, Lumberjanes, or Goldie Vance.
Got a library card? Well then chances are you have access to an incredible database of comics and graphic novels (not to mention ebooks, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, and music) from Hoopla. This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to reading comics because the app is so easy to use and has an absolutely massive database of comics and graphic novels to search through. I’m not even going to bother listing suggestions on where to start with Hoopla because chances are if you’ve got a comics TBR list then you’ll find one of your picks here.
If you’re experience with reading comics comes primarily from the major publishers like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, etc., you might not have tried your hand at webcomics. But you should! Independent and up-and-coming creators publish their comics online on places like Tapas.io, giving readers everywhere a chance to fall in love with their work. It’s not uncommon for stories that begin as webcomics to be published in physical form later on, too. Think Nimona, Mooncakes, Fangs, and Heartstopper.
Where should you start? A few of my personal recommendations for great webcomics on Tapas include Cosmoknights for sci-fi fans, Gutless for some mermaid/princess/knight fantasy romps, and Underforest Tales for some adorable slice-of-life comics with a cottagecore aesthetic. You can find lots of recommendation lists for specific genres online like spooky SFF webcomics, LGBTQ webcomics, and webcomics for newcomers. You can also sort comics by genre to find exactly what you’re looking for on the Tapas app/website. Basically what I’m saying is, what are you waiting for? Go on over and start exploring.
Get access to first issues of a number of Marvel comics for free over on this section of Marvel’s website. If you’re looking for an introduction to Marvel series, this could be a good place to start. Certainly not comprehensive, but you can find a number of great issues of Immortal Hulk, Uncanny X-Men, Shuri, The Might Thor, The Life of Captain Marvel, and Venom just to name a few. Not as comprehensive as some of the other sites and apps mentioned on this list, but if you’re a Marvel fan it’s still worth checking out.
Under the “Free to Read” section of DC Universe Infinite, you can find issues new and old releases alike. The list of available comics seems to change, so keep an eye on the site to see what’s available. Right now you can check out the first issue of Sweet Tooth as well as CatWoman/Tweety and Sylvester. It may not be a vast selection, but hey it’s free!
Exactly as advertised: this is a section of the Barnes & Noble website where you can find a selection of their nook ebook comics and graphic novels available for free. That’s not a bad deal! A surprisingly large number of DC works are on offer including Superman Smashes the Clan, Supergirl: Being Super, and DC Universe Rebirth Batman. Other imprints like IDW and First Second appeared under the Graphic Novels & Comics Ebooks tab. Most of the downloads are just sneak peaks or previews, but others include an issue or two so it’s definitely worth checking out. You just have to be willing to do some scrolling to find the hidden gems.
Even more free webcomics to keep you busy and entertained! Like Tapas, WEBTOON can be accessed through the web or through an app and boasts a variety of incredible comics you can read online for free. Be sure to check out Lore Olympus, which is also being published by Del Rey Books later this year.
I’ve grouped these two together because though they may contain slightly different content, their selection is aimed at the same thing: to provide access to a huge variety of Golden and Silver Age comics in the public domain. Will you recognize most of these titles? Probably not. But if you’re looking for some lesser-known vintage comics reading or in search of a particular out of print issue, you might just find what you’re after here.
Although Comixology is a paid comic subscription database through Amazon, the app also offers a number of comics and graphic novels for free download. A quick perusal revealed a number of gems like Lady Mechanika, Black Panther, Faith vol 1, and The Walking Dead available for free.
Did I already mention how useful it is to have a library card? In addition to the comics and graphic novels you’ll find on the shelves at your local library, most libraries also provide patrons with a number of other apps and databases you can access from the comfort of your home. Like Hoopla, Libby is an app offering countless ebooks, audiobooks, and comics to check out through your phone. You can even save and tag titles you want to read later for easy searches.
The selection changes based on the specific database used by your local library, but every single one I’ve used has kept me entertained with great new (and old) comics and graphic novels to read. And it’s all available for free! Thank goodness for libraries.
These are some of my favorite resources to read comics online for free. They’ve served me well over the years, and now I hope they’ll help you dive even deeper into the world of comics and graphic novels, too. Happy reading!