Considering the diversity of material and the quality of content that is provided for free, it’s amazing that the webcomic doesn’t get much more attention than it does.
Everyone knows about DC and Marvel and all their decades old titles, but some of the most interesting and original stuff in comics today is coming from independent artists working right out of their homes and publishing online. Because with webcomics there’s usually one writer and illustrator working from his or her home concurrent with whatever else he or she may do (most webcomic artists don’t make a living off their art alone) webcomics update slower than the big titles. Most artists manage to release one or two pages a week, though some of the more established or prolific artists manage to release a page every week day.
Below is an introductory guide to the webcomic world:
Bad MachineryBad Machinery is the second project of British comic artist John Allison. It follows the antics of a group of sassy, fast talking middle schoolers who solve paranormal mysteries in the fictional city of Tackleford. Bad Machinery is the more family friendly stand-alone sequel to Allison’s original webcomic, Scary-Go-Round, which also featured supernatural situations and witty sleuths with an older cast and a more adult oriented swing. Bad Machinery updates four times a week, with usually a break of a few weeks between chapters.
Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran is the hilarious, and often surprisingly poignant story of Eve Ning, a young woman in modern Brooklyn and all of her hip twenty something friends. Gran tells the stories episodically, each following one whacky, cartoonish event or another which usually ends up revealing a difficult truth about the way we live in the 21st century. Each character is memorable and original and painfully relatable. Octopus Pie updates approximately once a week, with breaks of a week or two between chapters. Like most stories about twenty somethings, Octopus Pie is occasionally NSFW.
Girls With Slingshots
Girls With Slingshots is one of the older webcomics on the internet (ten years old this year!) but author Danielle Corsetto isn’t showing any signs of running out of steam. Girls With Slingshots is a slice of life comic which tells the stories of an ever growing cast of characters all stemming from their association with the original main character, Hazel Tellington. The sometimes touching but mostly silly comic has, over the course of its run, featured arcs about the world travels of a talking moustache, the struggles of having a sibling with cancer, learning to live with a ghostly kitten haunting your apartment, and learning to live with your parents not accepting your sexuality. Girls with Slingshots updates Every Weekday, but is currently in a guest artist arc due to Corsetto being on a convention tour.
Giants Teeth by Braden Leigh recounts the struggles of a young boy in prehistoric times exiled from his tribe for failing the test of manhood. The comic has a very simplistic art style, but tackles very complex issues through the eyes of the surprisingly astute young caveman such as the arbitrariness of tradition and the unreliability of consciousness. Every event that happens to the boy is steeped with metaphorical resonance and the comic reads more like one of Aesop’s fables than a straight forward story. Giants Teeth usually updates twice a week with breaks between chapters.
Nimona is the brain child of Noelle Stevenson, a comic artist who, along with her independent work, now writes and illustrates with the Adventure Time comic and Lumberjanes, both by BOOM! studios. Nimona tells the story of a high minded supervillain, Lord Ballister Blackheart and his shape-shifting sidekick, the eponymous Nimona. Though the story starts as a light and fun fantasy adventure, the story soon takes a darker turn as the audience learns more about Nimona and Ballister’s history and the plans of the Agency which the duo are tasked with opposing. Stevenson’s trademark sketchy style fits perfectly with her offbeat story-telling to make Nimona one of the most engaging and memorable stories in the medium. Nimona updates twice weekly, and is going into its final chapter, after which Stevenson says she’ll begin releasing her next work, which she has been keeping tight lipped about, aside from that it is “about pirates!”
Cucumber Quest by Gigi D. G. at first glance appears to be a bright and silly childrens’ comic about magical bunnies, but after reading just the first few pages reveals itself to be one of the funniest webcomics out there today. Cucumber Quest tells the story of Cucumber, a young aspiring magician, who is strong armed into going to save the land of Dreamside from an “ancient evil” by his pushy Dad. D. G. lampoons the tired tropes of fantasy story-telling with a masterful dry wit that’s made even more hilarious juxtaposed with the sunny, brightly colored characters of Dreamside. Cucumber Quest is in its third chapter with plenty more to come. It updates twice a week with short breaks between chapters.
Scandinavia and the WorldScandinavia and the World by the Danish illustrator Humon takes all the countries of the world and anthropomorphizes (turns into humans) them to hilarious effect. Each page is a self contained story, most of which center around the humanized Scandinavian countries, but plenty of countries have had their moments. The USA is a favorite to poke fun at, imagined as a built dude bro with spikey blonde hair and a deep tan. The stories can be about anything from world history, to modern news stories, to retelling of famous folk tales. For the stories and themes that go over the heads of readers not versed in whatever country’s history, Humon always provides an interesting and informative explanation in the comments below. Scandinavia and the World usually updates once a week. Because Humon is not afraid to be candid about every aspect of world culture, Scandinavia and the World is occasionally NSFW.
BackFinding something great just as it’s getting started is always fun and Back, written by KC Green and illustrated by Anthony Clark is less than two months old. It’s just finishing up its prologue right now and a lot has yet to be revealed, but so far we know that a gunslinger called Abigail is brought back from the dead and taken in by a mysterious group of hooded figures and told she is to bring about the end of the world. The art style is very cartoonish and charming and is enriched by the off balance sort of writing style that comes off very funny without ever actually telling any jokes, and the exaggerated creepy atmosphere of the opening couple of scenes. It’ll be exciting to see what the two creators will do moving forward. Back updates two pages each week, both on Wednesday.
Mercworks is the autobiographical (?) stories of Dave Mercier. Its autobiographical qualities being questionable because while the comic is unmistakably about Mercier, one can be reasonably certain that almost nothing that happens in the comic ever actually happened to him. Each comic is usually self contained, though there have been longer story arcs. They usually center around Mercier’s anxiety and social obliviousness, with some ridiculous spin thrown thrown in for good measure, though occasionally a comic will have nothing to do with him at all and instead take some original idea and run with it. The one thread that runs through each comic is Mercier’s dry, off beat, often self depricating sense of humor. Mercworks is a great comic for when you’re feeling down, not because it will convince you life is okay, but because it shows that at least you’re not alone in all your despair and insecurity. Mercworks updates twice a week. The comic never really has anything blatantly NSFW, but make sure you’ve got a pretty comfortable relationship with your boss before you go sending him any links to the comic.
The Black Brick Road
One of the coolest things about webcomics as a medium is its capacity towards multimedia, and The Black Brick Road of Oz by Xamag is a great example of the things you can do with a comic when you’re not tied down to paper. The Black Brick Road of Oz usually reads as a normal panel to panel comic, but when it suits the story will change up its style and feature a page that’s a gif, or an interactive map, or a 3D perspective of a room, or even a simple video game! The story is a sort of retelling of L. Frank Baum’s famous series, with quite a few liberties taken to change the atmosphere of the story a bit darker. In this case, for example, Dorothy isn’t taken away to Oz when she’s sucked up by a twister, but after being shot in the head. More subtle changes throughout the story build a sense of intrigue within the world, but the comic doesn’t ever take itself too seriously. The Black Brick Road of Oz is in its third chapter and updates once a week.
Blindsprings by Kadi Fedoruk is a beautiful and powerful high fantasy webcomic. It follows the story of Tamaura, an Orphic princess who is bound by a mysterious contract with the spirits of the forest in exchange for the protection of her sister, and the struggle between two cultures, the Orphics and the Academists, which led to her sister needing protection. When a young Academist comes to ‘save’ Tamaura from the spirits, the princess learns that the spirits had her captive for three hundred years, and in that time, the Academists have taken control of the land and Orphic culture has been made illegal. Fedoruk’s illustration style and color choice is wonderful and reminiscent of the vibrant and idyllic illustrations of Alphonse Mucha, and her world is so fleshed out and filled with lore that even after reading it, one is surprised that there have only been two chapters. The third chapter has just begun and Fedoruk manages to update twice a week with breaks between chapters.