Schools around the U.S. have been closed for – well, quite awhile now and it’s more than likely that your student is hitting the boredom point (or already has). Rest assured. Assembled right here are a handful of comics you can read right now – most of them for free, or close to it. Of course there are loads of trade and graphic novels that are totally excellent, but if you need a reprieve now, you don’t feel like having something shipped to your place or you want a long-spanning story, maybe you even want something you can read along with your quarantined student, we’ve got you covered on choices aimed at a range of age and interest groups.
Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Read it here: https://teadragonsociety.com/
Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill is not only an Eisner Award-winning comic, it’s also adorable in every way and totally free to read online. The all-ages comic is set in a fantastical world where a blacksmith apprentice named Greta learns how to care for tea dragons from a pair of shop owners – and friendship from their shy ward. It’s a little bit Studio Ghibli swirled together with standard fantasy elements, but the result is something totally unique. It’s hard to understate just how heartwarming Tea Dragon Society is and those colors and character designs are more than enough to keep any quarantined student occupied. At 46 pages, it’s a brief read, but O’Neill also has a sequel called The Tea Dragon Festival, a few more stories like Aquicorn Cove, Princess Princess Ever After, Dewdrop, and a few plushies if you’re so inclined.
Softies by Kyle Smeallie
Read it here: http://www.softies.net/comic/1
This is one of the funniest comics I’ve read in a long time and, admittedly, perfect for the quarantined student who’s becoming increasingly aware of the planet’s fragility. At C2E2, C. Spike Trotman described this book as Calvin and Hobbes meets Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so let’s start there. Our main character, Kay, is one of Earth’s lone survivors following the sun’s explosion, but she’s quickly picked up by space waste collector, Arizona. At first, they try to figure out the mystery behind Earth’s destruction (there’s no more record of it and hence no proof it ever existed), but the story quickly turns into Kay coping with the loss, while getting into whatever hijinks she feels like with her new dino-lizard pal, Arizona. Smealie’s writing and art is sharp, endearing and honest. You should read it, your kid should read it, and you should preorder Iron Circus’ upcoming physical version.
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
Read it here: https://www.melaniegillman.com/comic/01-25-2012/
As the Crow Flies follows Charlie, a Black, queer teen as she heads off for her summer Christian hiking trip – which is attended and run almost entirely by white people. For those that relate to Charlie’s experience of constantly feeling othered and left out, As the Crow Flies is cathartic and supportive. For those that haven’t shared her experience, it’s a push to understand how language, attitudes and platitudes affect others, even when those repercussions aren’t intentional. Melanie Gillman writes and draws the journey, highlighted by mellow colored pencils and subtly expressive characterization. It’s another good comic to read along with your quarantined student, especially to discuss some of the themes presented along the way. (You can also grab the physical edition from Iron Circus).
Witchy by Ariel Ries
Read it here: https://www.witchycomic.com/comic/page-1
Witchy is a webcomic by Ariel Ries about a magical kingdom where hair length directly correlates to magical prowess. The Ignatz-nominated comic follows a young witch named Nyneve who struggles with the decision to fall in line with the ominous Witch Guard, or to strike out on her own and stand up for herself. It’s a heartfelt story about finding yourself in a society that feels determined to pit its people against each other, with themes of identity, rebellion, and found friendship. It’s a good read for all ages and even comes with content warnings from the creator with specific page numbers. Ries is still continuing the 364 page story with updates coming in on Tuesdays and Fridays. Plus, if you’re a fan of her more recent work with ShortBox, Cry Wolf Girl (I sure am), you get a really amazing look at how her art style has developed over the years. The physical edition is also available from Lion forge.
Demon Street by Aliza Layne
Read it here: https://www.demonstreet.co/comic/1
Demon Street, by Aliza Layne, is 591 pages of magic; two kids fighting monsters, and hanging out with kids (and sometimes monsters). It’s cute, it’s fun and it’s got gorgeous colors. The story kicks off as Sep (short for Septimus – but don’t call him that) finds himself wandering down the titular street, away from our reality and into one filled with – well, demons. It takes some time for him to meet his new friend (and badass) Kate, but once he does, this comic is a slippery slope of a time sink. Demon Street is appropriate for all ages and, although demons may sound scary, Layne’s designs smoothly ride the line between spooky and cute.
Shonen Jump is probably one of the best deals for comic subscription services out there. For $2.13 a month, you get access to 10,000+ chapters of manga, along with regularly updated titles. The service has a wide range of genres from slice of life to romance and, of course, action/adventure series, which is where my bias lies. So, a few recommendations:
My Hero Academia is the closest you’ll get to western cape and cowl comics. Instead of powers, they’re called quirks, just about everyone in the world has one, and mangaka Kohei Horikoshi seemingly refuses to say no to any idea that stumbles its way into his brain. Characters can be super strong, have the abilities of a frog, pull objects out of their body, have headphone jacks for ear lobes or literally just be a small bear so intelligent that it’s allowed to live in human society. This series is a phenomenon for a reason, and it’s more than likely that your quarantined student may already be a fan of the anime. The most recent season aired its finale a few weeks ago – but the series continues for hundreds of chapters here on Shonen Jump.
And, of course, Shonen is home to Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. It’s a little more mature than My Hero Academia, but an undeniable classic for readers who love action, over the top drama and waiting tens of pages for Goku to charge up an attack.
One final note about Shonen Jump: if you go this route, the mobile app is by far the best way to read. The Viz media website is a bit of a hassle to navigate and it can be difficult to differentiate between what’s available with your subscription and what needs a separate checkout. The app also actually keeps track of what chapter you leave off on, while the browser version doesn’t seem to.
This service is actually one of the best platforms out there because it’s totally free, so long as you have a library card. Many libraries are closed, and those that are open are operating with significant changes, but with Hoopla, you can access everything you’d normally be able to – and more – online. It stays up to date with single issues and when you borrow, it benefits creators. It’s available as an app or in your browser.
Hoopla’s selection, as you might expect, is wide-ranging. You can expect to find Bendis and Pichelli’s initial run on Miles Morales, the recent Superman: Up in the Sky, Avatar: The Last Airbender, a wide range of Archie titles, Lumberjanes, Saga, and way more. So, if your quarantined student is missing out on their regularly scheduled new comics from even the most prominent of publishers, Hoopla is the best option for even the most voracious of readers on a budget.