This blog was originally written for the Charlatan. An edited version was published on November 24, 2016, Volume 46, Issue 16.
Comics are a fantastic type of media, melding beautiful art, compelling stories and characters together. However if you’re not that familiar with the genre it can be an intimidating amount of money to shell out for multiple volume or issues. That’s where webcomics come in.
Over the past two decades the internet has allowed cartoonists, artists and writers to experiment, create and publish their own stories rather than waiting to be discovered by a big publisher. There’s amazing stories being told in webcomics, both new and longstanding. Here’s some of my favourite webcomic reads that explore speculative fiction, from steampunk to superheros, to robots and fairytale retellings.
All of these webcomics are available online, but have print volumes as well if you desire to physically hold their beautiful pages.
Europa was in chaos after sparks, mad scientists with a perchance for odd and dangerous inventions, turned the industrial revolution into a full fledged war. Baron Klaus Wulfenbach put an end to that though and has been ruling with an iron fist for 18 years. Agatha Clay is a nobody, unable to properly create an invention that works. Her world gets turned upside down though when the Baron come to town and she suddenly finds herself a political prisoner after a clank attack. But as Agatha’s normal life is shattered, she learns that her family and history isn’t as it always seemed. In a world ruled by mad science and full of adventure and romance, with clockwork squid roaming the sewers of Paris, airship castles, love triangles and political uprising, Girl Genius has it all.
Girl Genius is a long-time running webcomic since 2001 that is also published in print by Airship Entertainment. It has won and been nominated for numerous Hugo Awards. This is one of my favourite webcomics of all time and one I’ve been reading for about 10 years now. The art is beautiful with Phil Foglio’s distinctive style, with bright and noticeable colours. The story is action packed with tons of foreshadowing and intrigue. Which is pretty impressive for a comic that’s been ongoing for 15 years.
Girl Genius updates three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
After a fire at the public library, Emma Crewe finds herself lost, literally, as she’s magically transported to the Land of Oz. There she discovers she’s a Namesake, someone with the power to open portals to another world. The problem is Emma’s name isn’t Dorothy, and she’s now expected to become the latest in a long line of Dorothies and save Oz. With a host of characters for a variety of fairy tales, Emma and her sister Elaine find themselves caught up in a magical conspiracy as they struggle to find their way home.
Namesake has been ongoing since 2010 and can also be bought in print by Fairylogue Press. I’ve only recently discovered Namesake this past year and it’s already fast become one of my favourites. It’s a beautiful comic with gorgeous and distinctive art and an impressive attention to detail. Lavey-Heaton and Malançon have done an exceptional job at weaving together multiple fairytales and children’s books, and creating a completely new and unique story out of them.
Namesake updates three times a week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Strong Female Protagonist (SFP) is a superhero comic that follows the life of Alison Green, a former superhero who has left it all behind to go to college. Only leaving the past behind isn’t as easy as taking off her mask. SFP is one of the most realistic superhero comics I’ve ever read, focusing on issues of power, the definitions of good and evil, friendship and love as Alison tries so hard to find herself and her place in the world.
I love this comic for how complicated and realistic it is. Not a single character is perfect or has all the answers, something Alison constantly struggles with as she tries to make a difference in the world now that she’s no longer a superhero. Mulligan and Ostertag do an amazing job in making SFP reflect our world and current issues that are happening.
Strong Female Protagonist is updated twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Alastair Sterling’s work started the robot revolution but he unfortunately didn’t live to see it, until he unexpectedly wakes up 16 years later in a robot body that perfectly matches his own from when he was alive. As Alastair struggles to navigate a world completely unlike the one he left behind, he must track down his old partner Brendan in hope of figuring out who is responsible for his resurrection. But that only raises more questions.
O Human Star has been ongoing since 2012. This comic is a wonderful look at the changing relationships between people and technology. The narrative weaves between the present as Alastair and Brendan try to figure out why this happened, and the past, exploring their relationship and what lead up to Alastair’s death. With adorable robots, and questions about ethics and technology, O Human Star is a great read that will draw you right in.
O Human Star updates once a week on Monday.