Essential Beginner's Guide to Webcomics
I love comic books. I love the culture, the art, the creativity and the abundance of stories. What I don’t love however is the cost and the unsustainability of weekly comics. Unlike a lot of people I did not grow up around comics and wasn’t introduced at an early age or through another reader. I come from a distinctly non-nerdy family so when I started to self-identify as a nerd I started to seek out comics on my own. Being a science fiction/fantasy consumer of books and movies I dove head first into comic books, setting up ridiculously large pull lists and wandering around comic stores and conventions aimlessly looking for titles that caught my eye before realizing that following that storyline would be a daunting endeavor. I soon found myself with an ever growing stack of comics that would take me 5 minutes to read but would cost more than I could keep up with.
Last week Bayana wrote about essential episodes of Doctor Who for newcomers. One of her roadblocks into beginning the show was the idea that she would have to watch 50+ years of episodes in order to catch up. Now imagine if there were different spin-offs of Doctor Who with parallel universes and constantly changing origin stories and you get the world of comic books, especially superhero comics. I quickly realized that the barrier for entry into the world of comics was very high. Not being a particularly patient person, I quickly got discouraged and was close to abandoning the entire endeavor until I found my first webcomic. Being (mostly) free, available on my time, and with seemingly endless content I was hooked. So now I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite webcomics. Some stories are still running and others have finished but all are definitely worth checking out!
Octopus Pie - Meredith Gran
Octopus Pie is the first webcomic I discovered, funnily enough, by buying the first collection of the book one year at SDCC. Completely in love with the story, art work and how sweet Meredith was in real life I went online to find out if there would be another book. What I found out was this comic was not only completely available online but was updated on a regular schedule. I took a deep dive and devoured all of the strips I hadn't seen going back from the beginning, which started in 2007! If I was busy or it slipped my mind, I didn't have to feel the guilt of a pile of untouched physical comics - trees slaughtered in vain - I took comfort in knowing the archive was there for me when I was ready. Octopus Pie is about two young women living in Brooklyn, embodying and at times transcending the hipster tropes of the neighborhood. The story is female centered, body positive and just plain enjoyable. Since launching her Patreon account (of which I am proud to be a patron when I can afford to be) Meredith has moved the strips to color and is able to maintain this amazing webcomic.
Girls with Slingshots - Danielle Corsetto
This webcomic concluded about a year ago but the archive is dense, going back to 2004. The series starts out with main character Hazel coming to terms with her own adulthood and struggling as an unemployed English major (obviously this immediately connected with me, though I majored in equally-useless communications). The comic quickly starts to encompass more of Hazel's circle of friends. There is best friend Jamie, barista Jameson, dominatrix/librarian Clarice, talking cactus Pedro and Goopy Kitty - hey it's a comic it's allowed to be a little ridiculous. This comic is also sex positive with frequent mentions of sex toys and masturbation. As the cast grows it becomes extremely diverse and I credit this comic with really helping to open my eyes and stop stigmatizing other types of lifestyles. It's not that I wasn't accepting of differences, but I was not used to seeing stories of open relationships and asexual characters treated the same as heterosexual relationships. Danielle Corsetto treats all of her characters with love and respect regardless of their proclivities and even the less likable characters are written with sympathy. Girls With Slingshots may no longer be updating on a regular basis but I hope that Danielle returns to these characters because I am still in love with them.
TJ and Amal - EK Weaver
TJ and Amal is a shorter story than others on this list but is much more ambitious in scale. The art is breathtaking and it's hard to believe that this is EK Weaver's first comic! The comic centers around Amal, who after a fight with his conservative parents wakes up from a night of heavy drinking to find that he has made a pact to drive across the country from Berkeley to Providence with a stranger named TJ. In the midst of their road trip things get complicated as they are wont to do. I found this comic to be entertaining and though not as strong as some of the other storylines I found it's a great example of how strong and different this genre can be. Plus, as I said, the art is amazing.
It's a more sexual comic, definitely NSFW, but if you are looking at a variety of comics I think this one is worth checking out!
Agents of the Realm - Mildred Louis
I'd been into webcomics for awhile when I started to wonder about representation and where I could find some comics with Black women leads. When researching "nerd things" I usually start with the nerd bible, Tumblr. That's where I found out about Agents of the Realm and immediately fell in love. The story revolves around 5 college freshman who find out that they have been chosen as protectors of our world and of a parallel dimension. This story is ongoing and I have just gotten into it, but I'm loving it! The art is great and the cast is diverse, full of beautiful, smart and powerful women of color who are young yet brave. This is set up to be a fantasy epic and if you've followed this blog at all you understand how exciting that is for me! It's a great find and I can't recommend it highly enough!
Questionable Content - Jeph Jacques
Questionable Content is the ultimate webcomic for me. It's another slice of life comic, like most on here - I guess I have a type? QC launched in 2003 and centers on Marten Reed, an indie rock fan and his circle of friends. This alternate universe takes place after the singularity so some of the characters are anthropomorphic robots known as AnthroPCs. Some are helpful and friendly and others are well, Pintsize. QC has a large cast but the thing I love the most about this comic is how much it has changed and improved over the years. Creator Jeph Jacques' art has improved drastically since the strip started. He now updates daily and recently launched a second webcomic that I am excited to start.
So those are my recommendations for five webcomics to check out if you're new to webcomics. I hope you give these strips a chance and if you're looking for more i'll be happy to give some more recommendations, as well as take some myself! Don't worry about large archives or being too busy, the beauty of a webcomic is that that they're easy to find and since they live on the web they will never really disappear. This is a great place to begin your comic journey! Enjoy!