Have you ever seen a comic book, graphic novel, or manga online and asked yourself, “where can I find that?” It’s a very valid question. Especially since these kinds of books can be considered a specialty item. Luckily, you’ll soon see that the answer is not as hard as you think.
This comprehensive guide details all the places you can find and purchase comic books, graphic novels, and manga for your reading enjoyment. By the end of it, you’ll have a batch of solutions to how to get your next favourite read in your hands.
Comic Book Shops
As the name suggests, the comic book shop is a dedicated store for the comic book medium. When you walk through the doors, you’ll find the latest issues, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, manga volumes, back issues, and various supplies.
As a dedicated store to the medium, comic book shops offer some unique services not found elsewhere. These include:
- Pull lists: This gives you the option to subscribe to your favourite series without missing out on an issue.
- Pre-orders: Order ahead so you don’t miss out on upcoming comic books, graphic novels, trade paperbacks, and manga volumes.
- Special orders: Can’t find what you’re looking for? They can order it in for you – as long as it’s not out of print.
- Mail orders: Thanks to the pandemic, many stores offer mail orders. This is perfect for those who can’t make it to the store or do not live close by.
Each shop will do these services in their own way, so it’s best to ask a staff member how they work.
Just like independent bookstores, every comic book shop is unique. Each has its own take on curation and ethos to reading and collecting comic books. As a result, you could go into two different shops and find something totally new.
Along with comics, many stores also stock collectables, statues, art books, t-shirts, trading cards, tabletop/board games, and heaps more. This is perfect for not only picking up your latest reads but also if you want to treat yourself or do some gift shopping.
Thanks to Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, there’s a perception that comic book shops are uninviting places to visit. While that kind of stereotype was prevalent in decades ago, shops that operate in that manner are a dying breed. The reality is that comic book staff are friendly people. They’re happy to answer your questions (even if you think it might be stupid) and help you find the perfect read. On top of that, most love to have a chat if they’re not too busy.
Good comic book stores also foster a community around them. They run events, comic book signings, competitions, sales, and more. It means the store is not just a place to buy comics but as a place to enjoy them with others.
So how can you find a comic book store near you? The best way is the Comic Shop Locator. This handy tool will help you find the closest locations to you, whether you’re in the US or overseas. Otherwise, Googling “comic shops near me” is another method.
In this day and age, most bookstores now stock graphic novels, trade paperbacks, and manga volumes*. While the variety and scale won’t match a comic book shop, a good store will have a selection of popular titles.
Graphic novels can be found in a variety of places in the bookstore.
- The dedicated graphic novels/manga section.
- If there isn’t a dedicated section, then graphic novels/manga tend to live with the Science Fiction/Fantasy novels.
- Graphic novels made for younger audiences sometimes have their own shelf in the children’s area. They’re often intermixed with the novels if there isn’t a dedicated shelf.
- The above often applies to young adult graphic novels too.
- Collections of comic strips can be found with the other humour books.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Good bookstores can do special orders. However, it’s worth noting that they use different distributors to comic book shops. This means they might not be able to order everything. However, it’s worth asking just in case.
*It’s worth noting that it’s rare for bookstores to offer single issues.
If there are no stores in your local area that stock comics/graphic novels/manga, then the next logical place to go is online.
There are two ways you can approach online stores:
- Online stores dedicated to comics/graphic novels/manga
- Larger online outlets that stock comics/graphic novels/manga along with a variety of other categories
Dedicated stores come highly recommended as they are knowledgeable in what they sell. This often means that there is a wide selection available and are more likely to offer services unique to comics retailing, such as the ones mentioned earlier in this guide. Another benefit is that there’s often a lot more care in shipping in handling. These retailers cater to readers and collectors and understand the desire for quality and condition.
So what are these online stores? More and more comic book shops are getting online components. Here is a list of notable online stores.
In terms of the online outlets and aggregators, there are options such as Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, Bookshop.org, Indiebound, and many more. If you’ve shopped at any of these before, then it’s a similar experience for comics.
Digital comics could be for you if you don’t have a store near you or you don’t mind reading comics on a tablet, smartphone, or monitor. In this day and age, almost every comic is released digitally at the same time (and sometimes even before) as the print equivalents. Digital comics offer the chance to read publishers’ back catalogues, going back decades, without worrying about something being out of print.
The biggest marketplace is Amazon via the Comixology/Kindle* store. Here, you can find digital comics from almost every publisher with over 200,000 on offer. Most readers go down this route as it allows all of your purchases to be in one place.
However, it’s not the only digital comics marketplace out there. Others include:
- Apple’s iBooks
- Google Play
- Bookwalker: A manga store based in Japan but has an offering of English-language content
- Humble Bundle: This marketplace specialises in short-term bundles of digital comics. You can find out more about it here.
- Izneo: A mix of European, US comics, and manga
- My Anime List: The popular online resource has moved into selling digital manga
Further to that, you can purchase digital comics directly from some publishers. These include:
There are also a few places offering a Netflix-style subscription model. These include:
- Comixology Unlimited
- Marvel Unlimited
- DC Universe Infinite
- Shonen Jump
- Manga Planet
- Inky Pen: Which can be used on the Nintendo Switch.
*Comixology was a separate entity until February 2022, when it was absorbed into Amazon.
eBay users are selling comic books, old and new, from all around the globe. It’s a great place to find bargains and hard to find comics. Buying comics from eBay is just like buying anything else from eBay. Just make sure you read the description carefully. If in doubt, contact the seller.
Comic Book Conventions
Comic book conventions and pop-culture expos are a great place to buy comics/graphic novels/manga old and new. Retailers from around the state, and sometimes interstate, will set up a stall and sell different things. Each stall-holder is different, with some concentrating more on new graphic novels/trade paperbacks/manga volumes and others focusing more on back issues.
You’ll never know what you’ll find at a convention! They’re also great for those hard to find comics and the ones you’ve been looking for ages for.
Before the comic book store, the primary place to find comic books was at the newsstand. Over the last few decades, this method has retracted and fewer publishers offer their comics here. However, there are a few publishers who still do. For instance, Archie Comics still have a presence in US newsstands. Over in the UK, Beano, 2000 AD, and Viz are widely available at local newsagents.
More and more libraries are offering graphic novels, trade paperbacks, and manga as part of their collection – making them an excellent alternative to the above options.
Many have built a broad-ranging collection of graphic novels, trade paperbacks, and manga volumes to meet different tastes. If you find a library with a good selection, take advantage of it. It’s an excellent way to broaden your reading horizons.
And of course, borrowing from the library is free! (unless you have late fees)
Most libraries have an online catalogue so you can discover what books they have on offer and if they’re available for loan. Alternatively, you can use WorldCat to find your desired comic at many libraries at once.
Finally, many libraries offer digital options to read digitally through services such as Hoopla, OverDrive’s Libby, and Comics Plus. Head to your local library’s website or enquire within to find out which service(s) they use.