Felix Writes: A Word On Webcomics

DigitalThoughts / A Word On Webcomics

I don't remember exactly when I started following a significant number of webcomics, but my big list originally had almost fifty entries. Now it has over 100, two of which are by friends of mine, and that's probably just the beginning -- there are thousands out there.

But what are webcomics? As the name implies, they are comics published on the Web, but not as whole books! They are serial, being uploaded either strip by strip, page by page or (sometimes) several pages at a time, in a format such as PNG. Some are old titles that receive a new life online, but most start their life there to be later collected into print books. That, plus merchandising and advertising allow some webcomic authors to make a living at it, which is especially important as you don't need to be a professional to give it a try.

It's not easy to select just a few of them, first because I like them all -- it's why I made the list in the first place -- and second because quality in a webcomic is difficult to judge; some of the best titles are drawn with stick figures! That said, there are several long-running titles that stand out from the crowd.

Perhaps the single best webcomic out there is Girl Genius, the first and so far only to have won the Hugo Awards. It takes place in an alternate version of 19th century Europe, where mad science is all too real and life is threatened with barely-controlled chaos. It's colorful, witty, hilarious and generally delightful.

Completely different but equally good, Khaos is the story of real-world adolescents learning to deal with their gender and sexual identities. If you think that sounds boring, think again; it's one of the most gripping tales I've seen in this medium. It also makes very good use of multiple viewpoints, being divided in chapters, each told by another character and starting briefly before the point where the previous one left off. Did I mention the remarkable educational value?

Somewhere in the middle lay two webcomics that have several things in common, namely Two Kinds and Zap! (yes, the name includes an exclamation mark). One is high fantasy, the other science fiction, and both have started from light comedy drawn in a whimsical style to evolve into gorgeous-looking, dramatic stories which ask pointed questions about society.

Last but not least, I want to highlight the work of two friends of mine. Busybee Comics is a mix of fiction, personal journal and sometimes even fictionalized journal entries. I recommend starting with Unity, a good piece of posthuman science-fiction -- more recent storylines contain spoilers. Sacred Grounds is a much newer comic (and recently rebooted on top of that) about a coffee shop owned by a werewolf and manned by a vampire. Hilarity ensues? I can't wait to find out.

2011-01-17