Sunday, May 10, 2009

5 Webcomics I Feel Like Recommending

There are a ton of webcomics on the Internet. Most of them suck. Most of them never update when they're supposed to. Most of them get dropped whether officially or unofficially because their creators either decide that they don't have time anymore or life decides that they don't have time anymore for them. The latter bugs me the most, as I seem to have a knack for finding great webcomics that go on mysterious hiatuses as soon as I pick them up, but really, all three of those ailments are very annoying.

So here are five webcomics that 1) don't suck, 2) almost always update when they're supposed to, and 3) are currently running. There are also four runner-ups that occasionally fail to meet one of those requirements, usually the updating thing, but they're far from being dead.

5. Anime News Nina by Robin Sevakis

This is the Anime News Network's official webcomic and ventures to mock and satirize various aspects of otaku culture, usually in a good-natured way; after all, otaku are undoubtedly its intended audience. Occasionally, I do see things that some people might get upset over, but I doubt Sevakis ever intends the comic to be insulting towards the reasonable members of society. Each strip is can be standalone, but many strips also tie together in short story arcs.

The art is in full color and pretty simple, but Sevakis doesn't shy away from grand exaggerations of expression and action, which always results in chaos and hilarity. She also mimics styles from specific series to emphasize punch lines involving art. Good times. ANN updates every Wednesday with few exceptions.

Content: 4/5
Artwork: 4/5
Updates: 4/5

4. Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell

Gunnerkrigg Court, with little exception, will probably remind you initially of Harry Potter. This is thanks mostly to its British-style boarding school setting and magical inclinations, but that's really where the similarities end. As a continuing story, it starts off fairly whimsically and builds steadily towards a more involved, overarching plot that draws inspiration from an impressive number and range of world myths. The end of many chapters also include silly gag pages or informative explanations, and Siddell's one-liners that accompany every page are always amusing.

The full color art is unimpressive to begin with, but evolves significantly during the course of its run. Siddell ventures back and forth from very detailed scenes and very simple characters, but the style is unique and really grows on you after a couple of chapters. Gunnerkrigg Court updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and has never missed an update in the time I've been following it; in fact, Siddell reportedly works two or three months ahead of the current pages to ensure that he is never late even if he ends up sick or otherwise incapacitated for a few weeks. That's dedication, man.

Content: 4/5
Artwork: 4/5
Updates: 5/5

3. Today Nothing Happened by Shazzbaa

This is probably the least known comic on the entire list, including runner-ups. Shazzbaa is a friend of mine and will be graduating with her Sequential Art FUNNY BOOKS degree in three weeks. Today Nothing Happened is her journal comic, and as such, all events told are true and real and absolutely hilarious. You certainly don't need to know her to enjoy it, though you will find yourself knowing her better and better as you read through. Journal comics seem to be a big thing in the department as one of the professors loves and encourages them hardcore, but of all the ones I've read, TNH is my favorite, no contest. The life of an art kid! You know you want to read about it.

Shazz's art for TNH is black and white (with occasional color) and endearingly cartoony while maintaining wonderful likenesses of the real people she's depicting. If you read her comic before you meet her, you will be able to recognize her at your first meeting based on her caricatures alone. It's pretty awesome. TNH updates every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and Shazz takes great pains to ensure that this is the case. Even if she isn't quite done with a comic at midnight, she will upload and post the unfinished page as filler until the final is done. Pretty impressive. What makes it even more impressive though, is that every update also comes with a new voting incentive for Top Webcomics, so you are, effectively, getting two comics per update, three times a week. Rock on.

Content: 4/5
Artwork: 4.5/5
Updates: 5/5

2. Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida
Sinfest just might be the longest running webcomic strips on the Internet. It is a daily strip and updates every, single, freakin' day. In the past, there have been a few stretches where he fails to update, but this hasn't happened again since I started reading it. Each strip is standalone, but Ishida often has week-long series or repeatative themes, very much like traditional newspaper strips, though its unlikely that Sinfest will ever grace the pages of a family newspaper. Sinfest is sacreligious and hilarious, but does not stop only to poke fun at Christianity. Devil worship and all manner of other beliefs and customs are also satirized every day. God is an asshole, but Jesus is a pretty nice guy. And since the 2008 election, Sinfest has also touched on various political subjects, but always in a humorous manner. Honestly, no matter what your religious and political beliefs, if you're open-minded to any degree, you can enjoy this comic.

Ishida's style is simple, clean, and very effective. Daily strips are black and white with the occasional tones; Sunday strips are huge and in color. Honestly, there's not much to say, but for a comedic strip, expressions are wildly important, and Ishida always makes them perfect.

Content: 4.5/5
Artwork: 4.5/5
Updates: 5/5

1. xkcd by Randall Munroe

This is my favorite webcomic. Period. As the site describes, xkcd is a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. That's a pretty wide range of nerdy topics, and thus, xkcd has covered everything from 4chan to raptors to nuclear physics to flying kites. The comic also consequently covers a lot of esoteric subjects, but the ex-computer science major in me is always happy when there programming and science-related things that I still understand and find hilarious. And they are always hilarious. If it isn't hilarious, then it's because you don't understand enough dammit. Each strip also features a tooltip caption (hover over the image for it); occasionally, this accompanying caption is more hilarious than the comic itself. The comics are generally standalone, but do feature a handful of reoccurring characters and the occasional multi-strip storyline.

I've gotten into a debate about this before, but I will stand by my opinion that Mr. Munroe draws the best damned stick figures I've ever seen. All the circle heads close and are nicely rounded and limbs are generally of reasonable sizes and proportions. The accessories he gives certain characters to tell them apart are consistent and easy to recognize. Everything is effective and has just enough detail that they are unquestionably what they are. Computers and TVs do not look identical. There are occasionally backgrounds. Mr. Munroe draws some damn sweet diagrams and maps too. The man can draw; he just chooses simplicity.

xkcd updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with occasional weeks where there's an update every weekday in a continuous story (like this past week). It has also never missed an update as long as I've followed it.

Content: 5/5
Artwork: 5/5
Updates: 5/5

~

Runner Up: A Softer World by Joey Comeau and Emily Horne
Content: 4/5
Artwork: 3.5/5
Updates: 5/5

Runner Up: Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart
Content: 5/5
Artwork: 5/5
Updates: 3.5/5

Runner Up: Lackadaisy by Tracy Butler
Content: 5/5
Artwork: 5/5
Updates: 3/5

Runner Up: Evil Diva by Team Diva
Content: 4/5
Artwork: 4.5/5
Updates: 4.5/5

6 comments:

Ian K said...

What, no Megatokyo?

Seriously, that is a mighty fine list. The only one I haven't encountered before is TNH, but it looks good.

I used to read webcomics all the time, but school has cut down on that. The top 5 that I'm still following (in no particular order) would be:

Dead Winter
~A comic about survivors of the zombie apocalypse. It's funny, scary, dramatic, and introspective, with great characters, and does it all well.

Kagerou
~A fantasy where a person from our world is transported to a dimension where magic is possible to act as a savior. Sounds pretty typical, doesn't it? Well, not quite, since the hero-to-be has the worst case of multiple personality disorder ever. It does start out pretty slow and generic, but once it takes off . .

Kaspall
~A fantasy mystery. Need I say more?

Templar Arizona
~Excellent characters in some crazy off-beat alternate universe that is almost as odd as our own.

The Abominable Charles Christopher
~Part of the same collective as Sin Titulo. Starts off as a humorous look at human behavior by transposing it to forest animals. And then a plot starts to develop, involving . . . I'm not sure yet, but it's good, that's for sure.

Schlock Mercenary, Alpha Shade, and Outsider are also way cool, but the last two are pretty much dead.

Kiriska said...

You know, I honestly haven't read enough of Megatokyo to really judge it. The artwork put me off from the start, so I just never gave the actual content a chance. Don't particularly feel like I'm missing out though.

The webcomics I read update on a scattered enough schedule that it doesn't take too long to read them as they update. It's also one of the reasons I really like TNH since it updates on days few others do.

The only one of your top five I've heard of is Charles Christopher, which is gorgeous. I love the art a lot and the story's pretty nice too, though the overarching plot with Christopher is a bit slow for my taste. I prefer the birds? :P I might check out the rest of that list over the summer, though for plot-heavy webcomics, if I'm not interested by the first dozen pages or so, I usually won't pursue it.

Hynavian said...

Thanks for the recommendations, I', checking them out!

I'm unfamiliar with web comics but I do enjoy reading "Pearls Before Swine". The illustrator releases one strip daily and they're hilarious enough for my bro and I to follow. Though costly, my bro even bought the comic book! (:

Kiriska said...

Ah, Pearls Before Swine is a great strip. I think it's one of the few good strips that still run in newspapers here. Hope you enjoy the webcomics! :)

d. morris said...

I'm glad you put both Gunnerkrigg and Today Nothing Happened on your list. Gunnerkrigg is one of my favorite comics period. It's well told, the characters are interesting, and I'm really curious where he's going with everything. Also Today Nothing Happened is one of my two favorite journal comics that have come out of the Journal comic fad at SCAD (the other being Martyn Cooper's aptly named Another Journal Comic). Unlike about 90% of the journal comics out there, I get a real feeling for the kind of person that Shazz is (the same with Martyn). I wish more journal comics were like that.

Kiriska said...

Yeah, Gunnerkrigg is always a great read, and I am infinitely impressed by the very regular schedule the guy keeps. TNH is really the only SCAD journal comic I've really taken to (unless Sweetwater's counts, but it's also on unofficial hiatus, so), though I've recently started looking over Martyn's -- I'll probably cruise through the archives after finals are over.