Mage & Demon Queen by Kuru (Color_LES)

Here’s How To Read Comics Online and Support Indie Creators

The landscape for digital comics continues to shift as new sites appear and others—like Amazon’s ComiXology—begin to disappear. Webcomics have been a staple of both the comics industry and the Internet since the ’90s, and that certainly isn’t going to change anytime soon.

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Creators now have myriad ways to publish and support their work, and readers can keep up with their favorite titles through app notifications, newsletters, and more, all while giving support directly to their favorite writers, artists, colorists, letterers, cartoonists, and editors.

Here’s a breakdown of the best places to read comics online in 2023.

GlobalComix

GlobalComix launched in 2022 as the brainchild of Christopher Carter, and it’s been billed as the potential future for digital comics. Through partnerships with independent creators and major publishers (like Top Cow and Valiant), GlobalComix offers a unique format for reading digital comics.

Readers can purchase or save PDFs of comics through the GlobalComix website, then keep track of them through a personal library. They can also download those PDFs as full documents, which gives them full control of the files.

Unlike ComiXology, which required readers to be logged into an Amazon account to read what they purchased, GlobalComix frees readers to enjoy their comics PDFs on as many devices as they’d like. This also means readers can share those PDFs with others if they so choose, which is a massive shift from the usual digital comics reading format.

Although GlobalComix is still new to the industry, it’s already begun shaking things up in a major way and seems poised to continue that trend.

Substack

Newsletter-publishing platform Substack made waves in the comics industry when it suddenly entered the publication arena in 2022. Creators who produce work on the platform can choose what to make free and what to put behind a subscription paywall, and they retain the rights to all work put on the platform. Creators keep 90 percent of the profit from reader subscriptions and can reproduce their work elsewhere, whenever they want.

Some of the biggest creators in comics including Saladin Ahmed, Molly Knox Ostertag, and James Tynion IV currently offer comics through Substack, and more are joining the platform all the time.

Tapas

Hearstopper comic panel show the main characters kissing. Image: Alise Oseman.
(Alice Oseman / Tapas)

Tapas, formerly known as Tapastic and Comic Panda, launched in 2012 as a South Korean webcomic and prose publishing website. It’s since grown to have upwards of 60 thousand creators publishing new content every day. The site hosts a wide variety of stories including Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, a heartwarming LGBTQIA+ rom-com that’s now a beloved Netflix series.

Readers can follow their favorite stories for free, or invest in “ink” to pay for advanced chapters and directly support creators. They can pay for ink with real money or earn it through surveys and ads. Creators retain full creative and publishing rights on Tapas, though both the site and PayPal (which is how payouts are made) take a cut of profits. That said, in 2020, Tapas reported an average overall user spend of $50 to $70 thousand daily, and it paid out $14 million to creators.

Tapas is one of the platforms that popularized the vertical-reading format that makes reading comics on phones and other mobile devices so easy, especially since it offers a free-to-use app.

Webtoon

hades persephone and their dogs in lore olympus
(Rachel Smythe/Webtoon)

Webtoon is a South Korean webcomic platform launched in 2004 by the Naver Corporation. The site has since grown to boast millions of daily users and huge titles, including Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe, Mage & Demon Queen by Kuru, and more. Creators earn money through ads and tipping, similar to Tapas, though the site also had a Creator Rewards program for the last two years that’s since ended.

Webtoon pioneered the vertical-reading format for webcomics that’s made them blow up in popularity in recent years, and it also offers a free-to-use app for mobile devices. The site has partnered with DC Comics and Archie Comics to produce original content with licensed characters, and it continues to grow its user base globally.

However, some creators are leaving Webtoon for different monetization models and more opportunities, including Let’s Play creator Mongie. Depending on how many “big” names follow suit in 2023 and beyond, Webtoon may be forced to reconsider its revenue model.

Zestworld

Yet another new player in the digital comics scene is Zestworld, which combines aspects of Patreon, Substack, and other subscription services to create a “one-stop shop” for readers. In addition to reading comics for free on the site, users can also subscribe to their favorite creators for behind-the-scenes content, early access to new comics, virtual drawing sessions, invite-only events, and creator messages.

The platform also boasts a super-straightforward digital commissions pipeline that’s easy for both readers and creators to navigate. Zestworld’s IP Rights Tool helps creators protect and adapt their content more seamlessly, and several have joined for this and other benefits since the site launched in 2022.

(featured image: Kuru / Webtoon)


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Author
Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.