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Where to read comics and comic books for free online

Free comics are everywhere online. Save money AND expand your digital to-read pile with our guide.

Image credit: Marvel

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Ok fine, twist my arm, let's address the elephant in the room: It has never been easier to read comics online for free. Legally, yes, but especially illegally, as a proliferation of sites offering pirated comic books have made virtually any series you can think of naught but a Google search away from instant access. So if you're wondering where you can read comics online for free there is an immediate choice in front of you: Would you like to do so via an "approved" resource, or through pirated work in which publishers, creators, and the medium as a whole sees no financial gain?

I'm not here to judge your answer - at least without context! - but we have to be honest about the reality and ease of pirating comics in the present day.

At the same time, it's actually incredibly easy to gain access to more comics than you'll ever reasonably complete (finally, a challenge!) through above-board channels, and for free at that! We'll point you in that direction first, then more thoroughly address the comics pirating landscape.

Your Local Library

Advertisement that reads Marvel now available on hoopla in white text on red background. Next to the text, we see a collection of covers of Marvel Comics at an angle.
Image credit: hoopla

There are few things I love more than walking into a public library and perusing the available collections of graphic novels and manga. The temptation to leave the library with substantially more reading than I have time for hits me every single time. Just ask the complete run of Ranma ½ sitting behind me for proof.

Throughout the 2010s, US libraries increasingly got on board with digitized, e-reader options for their collections. For comics, this has predominantly occurred through partnerships with the Libby (formerly Overdrive) and Hoopla apps, with new players like ComicsPlus entering the market as recently as last year. Creating an account is free so long as you have an active library card with a library included in Hoopla and Libby's partnerships.

There's variance in each app's catalog, but if you haven't been using them, I guarantee you'll be impressed by how many comics are available through Hoopla and Libby. Name a publisher - Image, Marvel, DC, Silver Sprocket, Fantagraphics - and there's a great chance one or both of the apps have a wide variety of their collected editions available to borrow. With Hoopla, you'll even see publishers like BOOM! or IDW experiment with releasing single issues of comics shortly after release. My recent Hoopla reads include Rare Flavours #1 (a great first issue by Ram V and Filipe Andrade released in September 2023), Ice Cream Man Vol. 9 (Image), The Complete The Killer (BOOM!), The Chromatic Fantasy (Silver Sprocket), and Blame! Volumes 1 through 5 (Kodansha). And in the rare cases where I can't find a comic on Hoopla, I'll usually find it on Libby (for example, Darrin Bell's excellent 2023 autobiography The Talk).

The biggest knock on Hoopla's catalog had been an absence of almost any manga and popular graphic novels for young readers, and both of those limitations have been drastically improved in 2023, with the addition of Kodansha manga and Scholastic hits like Dog Man and the works of Raina Telgemeier. Likewise, the variety of comics you see will depend on your library's relationship and deal with each digital distributor, meaning its possible that all my talk of a robust catalog will seem preposterous to certain regions of America.

My pro-tip is to try and connect with family and friends who may live across the US, and sync your library cards to one Libby app. According to Libby's website, you can add as many library cards as you have access to, which can greatly increase the number of comics you can check out!

As far as the reading experience, neither Hoopla nor Libby's in-app reader is as smooth as the artist-formerly-known-as-Comixology, instead approximating a closer version of mid-2010s Marvel Unlimited. With Libby, you can choose to read via your Kindle app, which is my preferred choice.

All in all, if local libraries are an option, I cannot recommend them enough for free comics. I'd guess I read half my comics through libraries and related apps, and it's wonderful.

Marvel’s Infinity Comics: Start Scrolling

Image credit: Marvel

Here's a brand new one - in March of 2024, Marvel's digital subscription service Marvel Unlimited unveiled their Start Scrolling digital program. This service allows anyone to access a crop of about 100 comics from Marvel's digital-first Infinity line, absolutely for free, with no login required.

And get this: according to the House of Ideas, this list of comics will be refreshed throughout the year. So while you won't be able to forever access each comic made available here, your digital pull list will be updated with more titles the longer you use the platform.

Get started with Start Scrolling by visiting Marvel.com/infinitycomics.

Webtoon

Large green banner with a white logo with a speech bubble that reads WEBTOON
Image credit: Webtoon

This tremendously accessible vertical-scrolling comics app is completely free, with readers only encouraged to monetarily support creators and comics they love with coins granting them fast pass early access to new episodes. The only real barrier to reading comics for free on Webtoon is choosing from the increasingly massive catalog and figuring out what genres and creators you want to obsess over for 4 to 6 hours every night as you keep saying "Ok, fine, just one more."

For the totally unfamiliar, it's important to point out Webtoon does not carry licenses to any other well-known publishers like Marvel, DC, Viz, Image, etc. That said, they have entered into partnerships with DC for Batman: Wayne Family Adventures, and Rachel Smythe's Lore Olympus has been so successful that it has crossed over from Webtoon into print runs via Image Comics.

If you like this style of manhwa, you'll find a comparable selection via the Tapas app, also for free. Fortunately, we also have a guide to getting you started with the most popular Webtoon and Tapas selections of 2023.

Webcomics

Cropped greyscale Check Please panel
Image credit: Ngozi Ukazu

In 2023, comics readers don't obsess over free online webcomics the ways they used to (oh to be young in 2008), but the internet is still full of a treasure trove of free reading. You can dig into the decades-long archive of daily uploads from all-time popular works like Dinosaur Comics, Achewood, John Allison's Scary Go-Round, xkcd, Hark! A Vagrant, Ngozi Ukazu's Check, Please!, and so many more, right now. Prior to interviewing their creators, I was able to enjoy Blue Delliquanti's O Human Star and Gisele Lagace's Pixie Trix Comix via their original webcomic runs, and this year have enjoyed Cosmoknights, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, and The Property of Hate.

Now, the big downside, especially for a "history of webcomics" deep dive, is that the tablet reading experience can pale in comparison to a freshly digitized new issue from a top-tier publisher. Plus, the need to load a new page for every page of the issue feels like an eternity compared to the lightning-fast scrolling of the likes of Webtoon. (The fact that I used to do this on a dial-up connection is truly the stuff of miracles.)

Much like Webtoon, the biggest barrier is simply knowing where to start.

Publisher Sample Platters

Promotional image featuring manga characters for Shonen Jump
Image credit: Shonen Jump

Most of the well-known publishers who feature their own streaming service also offer a sampling of free comics in their catalog. Below you'll see a list of some of the most popular, as well as where to find them since the freebies are often a bit hidden. This is a less comprehensive way to enjoy free comics online, instead built more to help you determine whether or not you want to commit to a publisher's paid subscription option.

Marvel Comics: Marvel's freebies include this past year's Free Comic Book Day issues, a series of promotional works, and their Marvel Unlimited Infinity Comics version of Loki: Agent of Asgard.

DC Comics: DC currently offers the past 6 year's worth of Free Comic Book Day digital issues.

Dark Horse Comics: Dark Horse's free comics include their FCBD issues, some previews, and longer runs of video game tie-in comics for Overwatch and World of Warcraft.

Viz: Viz offers the best free reading options among the publishers listed here, as you can read the first three and three most recent chapters of long-running manga for free. So if today's the day you're going to start Tatsuki Fujimoto's Chainsaw Man (that's a great idea!), you can read chapters 1 to 3 and chapters 147 to 149. The intent here is of course to hook you on a series and make you want to read the rest - and you probably will!

2000 AD: By signing up to the 2000 AD newsletter you’ll be sent an email which links you to 450 pages of free digital 2000 AD comics.The publisher of Judge Dredd is also kind enough to provide free access to their Rogue Trooper Primer issue, with contributions from Garth Ennis and Dave Gibbons.

Depending on your definition of free comics, there are even more options from places like Panel Syndicate, individual comics creator Substacks, and following creators posting their work panel by panel on Instagram (for example, Aminder Dhaliwal has done great work this way).

Popverse (Yes, the site you're currently reading)

What's that? Do we have free comics for you, you're asking? Well, click here to read the complete first issue of AHOY Comics' Con & On to answer that question. And don't be surprised if more are to come...

Arrrrr, Mateys

Pontius Pirate from DC Comics' Rorschach
Image credit: DC Comics

Which brings us, finally, to our elephant with a peg leg and parrot on their shoulder. Media piracy is as old as media and obviously accelerated with the rise of high-speed internet (thanks a lot, Justin Timberlake's Napster!). It will always affect comic books and is even more pronounced in the Japanese manga market where recent years have included a manhunt for the webmaster of the most popular piracy site, court orders to Google questioning how they serve Manga piracy sites to searchers, and reported losses of billions of yen.

Despite the ethical concerns and illegality, it does seem that piracy is only getting easier. The need to find and torrent questionable files that might leave your device wracked with viruses has given way to robust websites that require nothing more than an internet connection to stream all the market's latest releases and a wealth of comic book history. And search engines like Google are all too happy to prioritize pirate websites when searchers enter a phrase like "read comics online" or "free comics."

It's not like comic book publishers are unaware, either. According to 2000 AD, "We’re aware that our comics – like all comics – are pirated online." This is a big reason why 2000 AD offers DRM-Free downloads from their digital comics store: "We’ve always been a publisher looking to the future, and as Digital Rights Management clearly does not stop comics piracy, we believe the best way to reduce piracy is to give our readers the best deal possible when they choose to buy The Galaxy’s Greatest Comics."

Admittedly, I've encountered instances where slices of comic book history were only available via pirated scans, but that's just a vainglorious attempt to talk around the vast majority of piracy of books that are perfectly available through legitimate means. I've also spoken with comics fans who wonder if pirating works is all that different from reading free through a local library, which feels like another form of rationalization that willfully ignores the fact that libraries pay for both physical and digital copies of loaned comics (and that requesting material from your local library supports its continued existence and budget; pirating comics merely supports the ad revenue of the site owner).

To my mind, the only reasons preventing piracy are individual convictions that this is bad for comics, and the people who make them. Tim Seeley's worked on a wide variety of creator-owned and licensed comics throughout the 2000s, including Hack/Slash, Revival, Grayson, Nightwing, and more, and he's definitely felt the impact of piracy: "I first started noticing comics pirates within weeks of the very first Hack/Slash book being released in 2004. It's been 20 years, and those people are still stealing my comic. Every issue, every month. Millions stolen. Fifty times as many stolen than have ever been purchased."

This has a tangible human effect, as Seeley admits, "I won't lie, that absolutely hurts my bottom line, hard. I could get better insurance for my kid...I could make more comics, if everyone were honorable about these things." The longer you're a fan of comics, the more you realize this is not a get-rich-quick medium, and that creators quite earnestly rely on financial support to continue their professional passion. Plus, as Pornsak Pichetshote, creator of The Good Asian and former Vertigo comics editor, adds, "Every book purchase helps me keep making a book you hopefully like. It sounds like Pollyanna to say, but every dollar you spend on a book is one vote shaping the kind of books you want to exist. As a reader, you're part of the solution as to what kinds of books you want the marketplace to bear. And piracy at the end of the day dilutes your power."

That said, both Seeley and Pichetshote accept the realities of piracy in the comic book market. "I'd prefer to think (although I have no idea if this is true) that piracy might open my work up to new readers and tempt them to buy physical copies," said Pichetshote, supporting a common fan assertion that if they enjoy a comic they've pirated, they will, in turn, buy a physical version. Seeley acknowledges the potential for audience growth, stating "I implore those who do steal to remind themself they aren't entitled to my work, and if they enjoy it, they should buy something, or at the least recommend it to someone who might."

Even understanding the relative ease of comic book piracy, hopefully, this guide has made it clear how many other legal options exist that will support both your own enjoyment and the health of the medium.


Comics aren't just a medium, they're a large. Get into the vibrant world of comics with our guide to buying digital comics, how to make the most out of comic shops, comic shops, and our comprehensive guide to the upcoming comics, manga, and graphic novels you should be looking for.

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About the Author
Dave Buesing avatar

Dave Buesing

Contributing writer

Dave is the founder & editor-in-chief of Comic Book Herald, dedicated to helping all kinds of readers enjoy comics. He hosts Krakin' Krakoa on Youtube, and a Marvel reading club podcast called My Marvelous Year. He's written about comics for CBR, Ranker, and unsolicited text exchanges with his wife. Dave was the only kid in his elementary school wearing a homemade Nightcrawler costume for Halloween, and can be seen most evenings in Batman pajama pants.
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