Comics are a pretty expensive hobby, especially when you have to pay for other expenses like car insurance, rent, diapers and the other costs of being an adult in today’s society. But what if I told you there was a way you could read volume after volume of some of the greatest comics ever written without paying a dime while still getting to support the writers and artists you love? What’s the secret? It’s like the great Levar Burton once said “You can find it all at your local library”.
I read a lot of comics I get from the library. In the past two years, I’ve been able to read probably 100+ trade paperbacks while spending only 50 bucks on comics. On top of that, I was also able to read many of the best and often hard to find comics. My local library’s graphic novel section looks small and lonely sitting at the end of a long row of fantasy and science fiction novels but it is a hidden treasure trove of comic books gems. Since I’ve started going to the library I’ve been able to read:
The entire run of Garth Ennis’s Preacher
The entire run of Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan
The entire run of B.K.V.’s Y the Last Man
The entire run of Frank Miller’s Sin City as well as Ronin and 300
The entire run of Grant Morrison’s All New X-Men and Animal Man as well as Flex Mentallo, Marvel Boy, All-Star Superman and some of Morrison’s Batman work.
The entire run of what is probably my favorite comic series of all time Alan Moore’s Saga of Swamp Thing (as well as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Promethea).
A lot of stuff right? There are one-shots and other books I have left off for the sake of brevity. Hell, I can’t even remember all of the comics I’ve read from the library, that’s how many comics I’ve read from the library.
I have barely touched the surface of what my library has to offer. Right now I am reading through Kazuo Koike’s Lone Wolf and Cub and Bill Willingham’s Fables and I haven’t even gotten to any of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Jeff Smith’s Bone, or many of the other series and single volumes in my library’s collection. No matter what kind of comics you like you can find something to read be it Super Heroes or Slice of Life, Original or Adaptation, Indie or Big Publishers, Western Comics or library. You could just grab a random book off the shelf and probably find something with a rich story and mind blowing art that could probably teach you a thing or two about life, usually in a special hardcover edition with an intro written by the author.
Some of you may say, “Piracy is a great way to get free comics and I don’t have to leave my house”. Well checking out comics supports comic book writers and artists in a way piracy doesn’t. Creators still get paid when a copy of their book sells to a library and libraries often pay inflated prices for books. A 20 dollar book for you might cost 100 for a library to buy. Publishing houses also keep track of library statistics and use that to measure a book’s popularity as well. Even if you aren’t paying anything to read Rick Remender and Tony Moore’s Venom when you check out that book that still counts as a read and tells the editors at Marvel that Remender and Moore are doing the right thing (and trust me, they are).
Getting comics at the library does have it’s downsides. A few times I’ve had to participate in what I call “Hold Battling” in order to get a book I wanted. Right now I’ve been waiting over a month to get Fables Volume 6. When somebody has a book you want out you have to make sure that you place a hold on it so that they cannot renew their checkout, this, however, does not stop people from turning in books late like the time I had to wait for three months to get American Vampire Volume 5. Another drawback is not being able to keep up with hot new titles. My library has only two volumes of Saga, one volume of Remender’s Low and no copies of stuff like Black Science and Deadly Class.
The last and probably best reason you should support your local library is that it will keep your local library open. I am very privileged to live in a decent area with a good library and it almost got shut down two years ago due to a millage renewal. The city of Detroit closed over half of its libraries and many small towns and large cities are following suit. Many of those “Big Guv’ment” spending cuts that your crazy uncle probably loves are leaving poor and disadvantaged Americans without access to movies, music, books, internet resources and other materials that might not be available anywhere else, especially for free.
Library’s are one of mankind’s greatest inventions and checking out the comic section at my local library was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as a writer and as a person. Going to the library costs you nothing but time and helps support the artists that you love will also supporting something that makes your community better. If you’re one of the people fortunate enough to have a library in your area go check it out. You have nothing to lose and an awesome collection of stories and art to gain, not to mention all of the money you’ll save (I’ve probably read over $1000 worth of free comics at the library). If you’ve made it this far and can still think of a reason to check out your local library that isn’t “I don’t have one” I’d really love to hear it.