A few years ago I ran down a handful of web comics that I was reading regularly and thought were worth your time. Four of the six comics I mentioned are still going strong today, with another — Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant — updating sporadically but hanging in there. But they’ve gotten some company since then, and it seems like as good a time as any to highlight some more of the comics that have me checking in daily and weekly.
chainsawsuit by Kris Straub (updates daily)
chainsawsuit inhabits similar surreal territory to The Perry Bible Fellowship, except without the fanciful artistic flair Nicholas Gurewitch brings to his strip. Firmly in the minimalist school made famous by Cyanide and Happiness, the writing is good enough that the art doesn’t need to be any more elaborate than it is. The strip also boasts a couple of recurring bits, such as “Two Cops,” the story of a guy who accidentally enrolled in the police academy twice and so is now, you guessed it, two cops. A pretty reliable daily dose of weirdness.
Perils on Planet X by Christopher Mills and Gene Gonzales (updates every Friday)
If you’re looking for some good old-fashioned Flash Gordon-style planetary romance, Perils on Planet X scratches that itch nicely. I’d been reading Christopher Mills’ blog Space: 1970 for some time, indulging in our shared nostalgia for Seventies and Eighties sci-fi, so when he announced he’d be writing a web comic, I took a look. And I’m glad I did. Perils on Planet X is pure pulpy goodness, with an impossible muscled hero, an impossibly beautiful princess, and plenty of wild flights of imagination that both homage and expand on the classic tropes of the genre.
Gravediggers by Christopher Mills and Rich Burchett (updates every Monday)
Yeah, so Mills must be a busy — and talented — guy, because here he is again, this time taking on the gritty crime genre with a nameless, not-quite-Lee-Marvin protagonist who’s clearly a bad man. But he’s our bad man, and unlike most he runs into, he’s got a code. The first two story arcs have been full of double-crossing action somehow made more vivid by Burchett’s evocative black and white artwork. It’s like cracking open the pages of a pulp crime novel and seeing the images in your head brought to life.
JL8 by Yale Stewart (updates roughly twice a week)
JL8 got its start as a comic called Little League, chronicling the misadventures of grade school versions of DC Comics’ classic heroes. Utterly charming and with a rather perceptive eye for its characters, Little League lasted until DC Comics got wind of it. But, rather than ceasing and desisting it into oblivion, they merely asked that Yale Stewart change the name. That’s the only thing that’s changed, as JL8 continues to be a delight, and is quite possibly a more pure distillation of why these characters endure than anything the actual comics are doing.
Heavenly Nostrils by Dana Simpson (updates daily)
Imagine if, instead of a boy and his imaginary tiger, Calvin and Hobbes featured a girl and her very real unicorn. That’s what Heavenly Nostrils is doing, and I meant that Calvin and Hobbes comparison favorably. In fact, Phoebe, the heroine of the strip, has a dad who could very well be a grown-up Calvin, or least someone who grew up reading his comic. You’d think a strip about a girl and her unicorn would be incredibly, well, girly, but it’s more about the whimsical friendship between the two than anything specifically relating to young girls. That a 45-year old man is reading and enjoying it should tell you about the universality of its appeal.
So there’s the new batch of favorites. Web comics really have established themselves as a vibrant, creative field, every bit as worthwhile as their print cousins. And much more egalitarian; many of these comics began on Tumblr and other blog sites, a much easier way to break in than trying to crack the ivory tower of newspapers. I look forward to what I might be adding to this list in another couple of years.