Updated on April 23, 2022
Reading comics isn’t always the cheapest means of entertainment. Recently, I wrote about how much prices have risen in recent years for single-issue comics. At $4 for what amounts to a 10-20 minute read, virtually any other medium or form of entertainment is more cost-effective than the stereotypical, traditional single-issue comic book.
Fortunately, there’s various ways to save money on comics reading. Below are some of the best ways to enjoy comics on a budget. (No, piracy isn’t an option.)
Buy trade paperbacks and graphic novels
Trade paperbacks offer a number of advantages over single-issue comics:
- They’re cheaper than buying the individual issues.
- Each volume usually contains a complete storyline.
- You can easily store trades on conventional bookshelves.
- Hardcover volumes in particular are sturdier (hard covers, nicer paper).
- They’re easier to find at “conventional” bookstores, or through online stores like Amazon.
- They’re often on sale below cover price (especially via Amazon), making them even more affordable.
The downsides of trades:
- Waiting for the story to be collected/trade published. For some publishers, it might take awhile for the story to be collected.
- Fans who want to immediately discuss the latest installment (usually of DC/Marvel books) won’t find trade waiting appealing.
- The fact comic publishers put more emphasis on single issue purchases for counting sales.
On the third point, much has been written about whether or not comic fans should trade wait. A few books have supposedly been axed because fans didn’t buy them the “right” way (as far as the likes of DC and Marvel are concerned, anyway). The “right” way being to trudge down to a comic shop every Wednesday and pay $4 an issue. (Or pre-order the book in advance.) This seems to ignore that everything about comics’ business model’s changed since the days when singles were the only comic format available.
Check out trades and graphic novels from the public library
An even cheaper option to buying trades is checking them out from the public library. Lots of libraries carry graphic novels and trade paperbacks.
Trades, of course, have the same upsides and downsides as any other library material; popular material might often be checked out. However, it’s easy to use the library’s website to reserve books.
Most libraries set a monthly checkout limit on the number of items read through Hoopla. Thus, reading trades over singles is advisable when possible.
Hoopla offers a variety of publishers, including Boom, Image, IDW, and Archie. Both of the “Big Two” are available, though DC seems better represented.
Use digital comics subscription services
Digital comics subscription services are another excellent way to save money. I’ve written more about these services here, but I’ll summarize some of the options below.
I’ve written before about Marvel Unlimited, Marvel’s Netflix-like comic reading service. At $69/year or $10/month, it’s a very cost-effective way to read Marvel’s comics, if you don’t mind the three month delay on new issues.
DC Universe Infinite
DC Universe Infinite is DC Comics’ answer to Marvel Unlimited. New issues arrive on the service after six months. The back catalog of classic and modern DC titles is available for $8 a month, or $75 a year.
For manga fans, Viz Media’s Shonen Jump digital service offers current and back catalog material for a dirt-cheap price of $2 a month.
Wait for digital comic sales on Comixology
Comixology often offers sales on its books, to the point there’s a dedicated section on its store. The books offered on sale can vary.
Humble Bundle deals
Humble Bundle offers a rotating selection of trade paperbacks, all at various set-your-own-price tiers starting at $1. The publishers offered vary, rotating among different ones every few weeks. Part of Humble Bundle’s proceeds go to various charities.
You’ll need a stand-alone comic reader for Humble Bundle comics, which come in PDF, EPUB, and CBZ formats; I favor CBZ. My recommended readers:
- Windows, Linux: MComix
- MacOS: Simple Comic
- Android: Perfect Viewer
- iOS: Panels
Finally, there’s webcomics, which are free to read. They range from the traditional newspaper-style gag-a-day format to ongoing storylines like their comic book counterparts. Since there’s no gatekeepers involved, they can offer a diverse range of creators, characters, topics, and so forth.
Some webcomics creators do make their money off of merchandise, book compilations, or funding services like Patreon or Kickstarter. These provide various ways for readers to support creators they enjoy.
Most of the above advice boils down to “trade waiting,” going digital, using the public library, or switching to webcomics. That said, those looking to save money on reading comics shouldn’t mind.
How do you read or buy comics?
Photo by emiliefarrisphotos (Pixabay)