When You’ve Read All the Books Worth Reading
An Introduction to Webcomics
So you’ve finished Mockingjay. You’ve finished Behemoth. You’ve finished Monsters of Men. You’ve finished all your assigned reading from school (I hope). By now you are all booked out – your attention span simply cannot handle any more. What’s a dedicated reader to do?
One word – webcomics. If you are not already reading webcomics, you should be, for a variety of reasons. The world of webcomics is amazingly diverse and creative, because anyone with talent, an idea and a computer can star their own from home. Webcomics update regularly, and most of them have RSS feeds that bring them directly to your reader of choice, so every few days a brand new strip will pop up like a Christmas gift. Lastly, they’re free! You really can’t beat that.
Collected here, for your reading pleasure, are some recommendations to get you started out in the world of webcomic-ry. Or, if you already have a few favorite webcomics, you might find something new!
1. If you like Leviathan, Airborn, Boneshaker and all those other steampunk books…try Girl Genius (http://www.girlgeniusonline.com) by Phil and Kaja Foglio. A young woman named Agatha discovers that she is the heir of a famous…and infamous…family of engineer/hero/warlords. Her journey to claim her rightful heritage is complicated by a travelling circus, spider-riding warrior women, a proposal of marriage and a pink-clad imposter. Oh, and the fact that her mother may have been the vessel of an evil entity known as “The Other.” This series rocks, not only because Agatha is tough, smart and generally awesome, but because of the Foglio’s agile combination of adventure, humor, romance, and great steampunk visuals. Also, this series has been running for a mind-blowing eight years, so there’s plenty of archived material for you to read.
2. If you like fantasy boarding schools and supernatural mystery…try Gunnerkrigg Court (http://www.gunnerkrigg.com) by Tom Siddell. Ignore the inevitable Harry Potter comparison; Gunnerkrigg Court is much creepier and more mysterious, more like Nightschool or maybe After School Nightmare. This webcomic follows Antimony Carver and her friend Katerina as they study at Gunnerkrigg Court, which they suspect is more than a simple school. As the comic progresses, Antimony learns more about their school, the eldritch forest across the bridge, and the tension between the two – as well as mysteries in her own past. This webcomic has a nicely spooky vibe, for those days when you feel you need a little more eerie in your life.
3. If you like werewolves, but hate angst…try Strays (http://www.straysonline.com/) by Samantha Whitten and Stacey Pefferkorn. Meela is a young lupian – a wolf-like humanoid shapeshifter. Since her brother’s death Meela has had a hard time taking care of herself – until she meets a mute, scarred bounty hunter named Feral, and demands to travel with him whether he likes it or not. The story has really just taken off, and there are still a lot questions waiting to be answered in this series. How was Feral injured? Why does Meela have dreams about a mysterious child she’s never met? Strays could go anywhere, which is very exciting, but despite the hints of dark backstory lurking around the corner, the general tone of the series is refreshingly lighthearted – the anidote to werewolf/vampire angst.
4. If you like historical fiction, dark humor and mayhem…try Lackadaisy (http://www.lackadaisycats.com/) by Tracy Butler. This comic follows the lives of a gang of shady types – rum-runners, thugs and (gasp) jazz musicians – running a down-and-out speakeasy in 1920’s St. Louis. Murder, crime and mayhem abound. This series has quickly become one of my personal favorites due to its great storytelling, expressive art and crew of interesting and well-written characters (who, by the way, are all anthropomorphic cats).
5. If you like dystopian science fiction…try FreakAngels (http://www.freakangels.com) by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield. I’ll let the first page of this comic set the stage for you: “23 years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment. 6 years ago, the world ended. This is the story of what happened next.” Those twelve children are the FreakAngels, violet-eyed telepaths, who may or may not have been instrumental in the cataclysm that flooded London. Eleven of the twelve FreakAngels have made their community into an oasis of relative plenty, but this peace is tenuous at best in their dangerous future world. Warning: this comic is “intended for mature audiences,” so read at your own risk.
6. If you like crazy surreal humor, a la Monty Python’s Flying Circus…try The Adventures of Dr. McNinja (http://drmcninja.com) by Christopher Hastings and Anthony Clark. Our main character is both a doctor, and a ninja – a healer, and a killer. In his titular adventures he defeats Ronald McDonald’s robot army, stops a zombie outbreak, and punches Dracula in the face. His co-stars include a raptor named Yoshi, a gorilla receptionist, his 12-year-old sharpshooting sidekick, Gordito, and the clone of Ben Franklin. Really, this could not be any weirder.
Hopefully you now have an inkling of all the innovative, quality comics that are out there on the Internet, just waiting for you to read them. If you want to explore more of the wide world of webcomics, check out Top Webcomics) and The Webcomic List for more excellent reading suggestions. Enjoy!
–Maria V. Kramer