I’ve written before that comics are best enjoyed in print. I still stand by that, but the last year has introduced me to a number of great places to read comics on the web, whether for free or for a few coins. To that end, I’ve begun collecting links to a number of places that are changing the game, in my opinion, for online comics. If Comixology is the Walmart of digital comics distributors, allow me to introduce you to a few smaller, independent retailers.
I’ve linked to a number of Study Group books in my column, and for good reason. Study group offers a variety of titles from creators all across the spectrum of style and content. From tightly-plotted space epics to moody character dramas to high-concept hero stories, SG has a little of everything. Although all comics are posted online for free, Study Group occasionally prints copies of some of their more popular series, so you can support them by purchasing those.
Study Group starting points:
It Will All Hurt by Faryl Dalrymple
Society by Tyler Landry
Titan by Francois Vigneault
Mark Waid, writer of innumerable comics across the industry, started Thrillbent with TV producer John Rodgers as an experiment in new media publishing. Waid hasn’t left print comics behind, but he decided that online comics deserved a little more respect. That several of the titles he’s publishing on Thrillbent are fantastic serial comics is no accident. He’s gathered a number of talented creators, and the site’s fascinating and extremely well-implemented take on presentation is alone worth a visit. It falls somewhere between so-called “guided reading” and motion comics, and somehow seems to be a better use of the technology than either of those monstrosities.
Thrillbent starting points:
The Eighth Seal by James Tynion IV and Jeremy Rock
Moth City by Tim Gibson
The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood by Christina Blanch and Chris Carr
Challenger comics is a weird one that I’ve also mentioned before. It’s not so much a publisher as a widely-cast imprint for self-published comics. In any case, the Challenger site has become a go-to place for excellent ongoing series and some of my favorite one-shot comics in ages. The site offers lots of free comics, and sells some digital comics as well as the occasional print edition.
Challenger comics starting points:
Tales to Defile by Curt Pires and Paul Tucker
Southpaw by Ryan Ferrier and Kevin Zeigler (A personal favorite. There aren’t nearly enough comics out there about boxing.)
Fatherhood by Ryan K Lindsay and Daniel Schneider
Gumroad is a drop-dead easy online marketplace for selling just about anything digital, so it’s no surprise that several comics creators have used it to peddle their wares. I wish there were an easy way to browse all the comics available through the site, à la Kickstarter, but here are a couple to get you started:
She Died in Terrebonne by Kevin Church and TJ Kirsch
6 Barrel Shotgun by Austin Wilson and Logan Faerber (Easily one of my favorite one-shot stories in ages.)
Brian K. Vaughan helped usher in another age of respectability in comics, but he’s notoriously shied away from a strong online presence. So it came with great surprise when Panel Syndicate, a partnership between Vaughan and artist Marco Martin, sprang forth fully formed and offering the first issue of the pair’s new comic, PRIVATE EYE, for a pay-what-you-want fee. The site seems primed to offer additional titles, but for now it’s just PRIVATE EYE.
Not all creators need a fancy storefront to sell digital comics, either. Creator B. Clay Moore recently completed a Kickstarter collaboration with a number of other creators on the crime anthology BAD KARMA, which ships in July. In the meantime, Moore has offered up his contribution with artist Christopher Mitten to the book, OLD DOG, as a downloadable digital comic at a pay-what-you-want-as-long-as-it’s-at-least-a-dollar model. His system? Just Paypal him the money and he’ll send you a link. Let’s just hope his offer isn’t too successful. That could end up taking some time.