Lol, it’s a listicle! But seriously, this is a great way to format this kind of content.
I want to talk about web comics. By which I mean comics specifically made for the internet. I don’t mean comics that are simply available online (like you’ll find on Marvel Unlimited, or just uploaded scans). Web comics are a unique breed, free to play around with form and style in a way that the traditional formats don’t always allow.
But enough babbling, here’s the list. No particular order.
My first love, and still one of the best. The premise of the comic is that the panel is exactly the same every day, but the text changes. Author Ryan North has somehow managed to find a way to make this work 3,086 times so far, and shows no signs of stopping.
It’s also very funny. The character of T-Rex is really well established as basically being this loud-mouth with wacky ideas (IT ME??!!). A great one is this one, where T-Rex renames his knuckles, or this one where T-Rex explores the use of slang, and ends up talking about gravy with God. It frequently makes me ‘laugh out loud’, out loud.
2. Hark, a vagrant
Like, the most beautiful thing ever. I love Kate Beaton’s sketches so much. They all have so much mirth and character in them, like those old Quentin Blake illustrations. She mostly does funnies about people from history and literature, so you’re learning stuff too! Hit the random button a few times and see what you find. Hard to pick a favourite (they’re all amazing), but this Les Mis one is pretty great.
The most unpronounceable of these picks. It describes itself as ‘a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language’ which sums it up pretty well. Basically, it’s just a really really nerdy comic about technology and things. The art is literally just stick people most of the time, but don’t let that put you off – the actual content is great.
3.5 XKCD – What If?
A spin-off form XKCD in which author Randall Munroe uses his science brain to answer pressing questions. Questions like ‘Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward firing machine guns?‘ It’s a lot of fun, but I can only count it for half because it’s basically just more of XKCD.
The comic that changed the internet. Oh boy, this is a big one – literally. It’s over 10,000 pages. When I first started reading, it took me months to get up to date. It’s finished now though, so you can enjoy the whole thing in one (very long) sitting without having to wait on updates.
But what is it? Well, it’s a multimedia comic about teens. It’s at once unlike anything else ever, and also a full-on parody of everything from pop culture ever. There’s music, games, animations, chat logs, and more. There’s Nick Cage love, Guy Fieri fan fiction, and everything in between. At all times, my reaction to reading an update was literally this. If you want a great example of how it pushes the boundaries of all formats, just watch the Cascade update, which famously crashed the Newsground website when it went up.
Please watch it, just so we can talk about it.
SBAHJ is a comic written by one of the characters in Homestuck. So it actually exists within their universe and the characters talk about it. It’s intentionally terribly made – which I’m sure took so much effort it’s unreal. It’s a fascinating work of art – so check out the entire website. It also inspired me to make my own comics – for which I can only apologise.
I only count it as a .25 because it’s not really its own thing.
It’s over now, but for a time ‘A Softer World’ was the most heart-breaking web comic. It was just text on photos, but it was always poetic and beautiful – each strip almost a haiku. Read for some lovely, and funny, thoughts.
The closest to what might be considered a traditional ‘web comic’ that I like. Just stick men drawn in a very simple fashion; y’know, the kind of style that Cyanide & Happiness made popular. But unlike C&H, Buttersafe is really good. I remember laughing at this one in particular for ages in 2007. I guess it’s aged ok.
TPBF is very special. The styles in the panels are so varied, and the jokes always hit their mark. Typically, something is set up, but then something totally unexpected happens (like in ‘Martha’s Orphanage‘). It’s worth clicking through a lot of them to get the idea. Another favourite: Bip.
A funny comic about a self-deprecating chubby man who loves anime. Pretty amusing. Features a character who is a literal personification of the authors self-doubt and loathing. If you’re into that.
I hope you give at least some of these comics a go. It’s a shame really that we have to use the word ‘comics’ at all for these, given how different they actually are. But don’t let the term put you off. Just like ‘graphic novels’ have become a respectable thing in their own right, so too are ‘web comics’ just as legitimate a format for telling stories and jokes as anything else.