First off, let me go ahead and point out that the title of this article says “read” comics, not collect them. These are two very different things. Comic book fans can often be lumped into two separate categories: readers and collectors, with an offshoot group that does both. Readers are fans who simply want to read everything compulsively, regardless of the prospect of buying issues that will increase in value over the years. Collectors are a group of fans that carried over from the days of 90s marketing that believe comics aren’t entertainment so much as they are investments. Hearing of how early issues of Superman and Spiderman have sold for millions, collectors tend to snatch up whatever special issues they can in hopes that one day they’ll be worth something. This means even buying alternate covers or special collector’s editions. As for the offshoot I mentioned earlier, I’ve often seen people at comic book stores buying two issues of every comic they want–one to keep pristine in a mylar bag, and one to read. As you can guess, collecting can be ridiculously expensive.
Reading comics on the other hand is relatively cheap, especially if you’re not too particular about reading entire storylines. After reading tons of comics, I’ve come to expect cliffhanger endings, and have grown to live with them, meaning that just because an issue ends with a character in danger, I don’t necessarily have to rush out and buy the next installment. If you’re okay with that (and comics just about always have cliffhangers anyways) then here’s some ways to read tons of comics on a miniscule budget.
1) Always check out bargain bins. Some comic book stores accumulate so much overstock they’re eager to get rid of whatever they can to make room for the new, even if it means knocking down prices considerably. I once went to a sale where a comic book store was offering 300 back issues for $70. Also, some stores have comics that aren’t selling well at all and are trying to phase them out. There was a store called Z-Games I went to where they were sick of comics so they were selling off everything they had at 4 for a dollar. I’ve found some good stuff in bins (for an example, click here).
2) Every now and then, check out unusual places that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of. For example, my girlfriend’s really into the DC Gail Simone comic Birds of Prey, and one day while browsing at Goodwill we found about ten issues for a dollar each. Also, sometimes used book stores wind up with comics that they’re eager to get rid of. This is good because it probably means they don’t know the value of what they’re selling.
3) Speaking of unusual places, try asking your friends and family if they ever collected comics. A lot of people who are no longer comic fans might have collected comics in the past and held onto them thinking they’d bring in cash. My grandmother, for example, worked at a library and brought home a bunch of old issues from her work that were retired after so much wear and tear. She held onto them for years. In all honesty, they aren’t worth much of anything just because they’ve fallen apart and the library insisted on putting color coded tape along the spines of each issue, rendering them worthless to collectors. To readers though, such issues are gold.
4) Look on the internet. DC used to give free previews of every issue, but they discontinued this feature once they lowered their prices to $3 across the board. Dark Horse still gives free previews of some of their issues. If you’re into the comic Elephantmen, the Hip Flask website allows you to read a bunch of previews as well as one entire free issue. Also, someone took the time to find all of the free comics they could online and put them in one place, The Collins Compendium of Free Online Comics.
5) Here’s the best source for comics out there if you have little or no extra money: the library. You wouldn’t think to look there, but libraries now are pretty regularly stocking up on comics. I’ve heard that libraries have had less checkouts as time goes on for ordinary books, but comic checkouts have been on the rise. Keep in mind, most libraries are linked to the other libraries in your county, so you can usually reserve graphic novels from other libraries and have them delivered to the library nearest you. Much of what I read, and what appears on this site, is found in libraries. The ones by my house have a surprisingly good selection too. Here’s a few examples of things I’ve managed to get for free from libraries: EVERY Sandman graphic novel. Nearly every Fables graphic novel. Blacksad. Bone. Batman: The Long Halloween. RASL. J. M. Stracynzki’s Thor, volumes 1 and 2. Almost every book related to the Marvel Civil War. We 3. Wilson. Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Boy in the World. Libraries also always have funny newspaper comics too, like Peanuts, Pearls Before Swine, and Far Side. I also discovered Krazy Kat by browsing aimlessly at a library–great find!