Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #63 by Drew Barth

We’re All In This Together

If you’re like me, you enjoy the weekly excursion to your local comic shop every Wednesday to pick up your fresh batch of monthlies. But our weeks are getting different now. Even Diamond, the main distributor of comics for every major publisher, has halted all new comic shipments due to COVID-19. And that’s a good thing. People need to stay home.

This is going to be rough for creators, though. And that is one of the reasons that so many publishers are now putting out different comics online to keep people engaged over these next few months. While some of these comics are issues that publishers have had up previously, they are being highlighted again due to our current pandemic. So I present to you a brief list of publishers making first issues or full graphic novels available, free of charge, to help keep us sane and together.

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First up is the publisher I typically talk about the most: Image Comics. At the moment you are able to read through the first issues of 133 Image series. None of these are quick previews with a link to where to buy the rest at the end—these are the full twenty-plus page issues. I could recommend nearly every issue just to try it and see what you like, but particular attention should be paid to series like Pretty Deadly, The Wicked + The Divine, Saga, Monstress, Paper Girls, and Trees. The quality here is outstanding and you’re likely to find a new favorite.

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Next is another wonderful publisher I’ve talked about previously: ShortBox. Over the next few weeks, ShortBox will be providing a swath of their graphic novels for free via Gumroad. The first work up is Beneath the Dead Oak Tree by Emily Carroll, and if you’re at all familiar with her short comic collection, Through the Woods, you should be prepared for another masterclass in comic storytelling and gothic settings.

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Vault Comics began only a few years ago and already they’ve become one of the best outlets for science fiction and fantasy comics on the market. They had also started putting their first issues online for free a while ago as well. And while these issues have been up for some time, it’s always good to look over a good publisher and see what kind of work they have that you may not have picked up previously. Series like Fearscape, Friendo, and Vagrant Queen demonstrate how much quality can come out of a newer press during the last decade.

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And next we have a publisher I’ve been watching for a bit due to how interesting their publishing model is: releasing whole series at once either in a single issue box or trade collection so the reader can binge the series like they would a TV show. They’ve released their first wave of eight series with names like Roxane Gay and Jeff Lemire attached and, much like Vault, have been making their first issues free for anyone curious. With their second wave coming up soon, it’s a pretty good time to get a feel for their series now.

Finally, we have Dynamite Entertainment. Right now, they have fifteen first issues available for free via Comixology with more slated for release in the upcoming weeks. Dynamite is one of the biggest publishers of licensed property comics like Army of Darkness, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Shaft, so seeing them providing free first issues is fantastic. These are the kinds of properties that can get new readers excited about comics, especially when they wouldn’t know where to start on other, longer running series. So now is the time to start looking at some new series you hadn’t considered in the past, or finally finishing another that you had dropped earlier. It’s going to be weird for a while, but it’s the kind of weird we can get through together. At an appropriate distance.

Get excited. Wash your hands.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.