Thursday, July 22, 2010
I mentioned Dresden Codak in the post below. It's a fantastic webcomic about obscure philosophy, psychology, science, technology, and humor. The art constantly changes and is always excellent. I can't recommend it enough.
Hark! A Vagrant is a clever webcomic usually involving history-related humor (and then usually from the 1700s or 1800s), which is excellent for the history nerds such as myself. The artwork is pen on paper, but it's very expressive.
XKCD is fairly well-known, but it's worth mentioning, because the humor is fantastic and the subjects are diverse, although the art is usually unremarkable, there are exceptions, and it's expressive in its own way. It is truly a webcomic of "romance, sarcasm, math, and language." It also features rollover text: if you roll over the picture with your mouse, the label for the picture usually has a joke in it.
A Softer World is a strange comic in many respects. It is done by a couple, with the girl taking pictures while the guy writes captions for them. The humor is often fairly dark, but it has its spontaneous, silly moments. It too has rollover text, and the people who don't read it often miss out on the punchline.
Video Games and Parodies:
Nuklearpower.com's Brian Clevinger wrote the first webcomic I ever got into, 8-Bit Theater. This comic uses sprites and the plot from Final Fantasy 1, but with excellent humor and developed characters. He pays more attention to detail and steadily improves the comic as the series goes on, and he has seen it through to the end of the game. Funny for all who have played Final Fantasy, other video game RPGs, and even for those who have played Dungeons and Dragons.
CTRL+ALT+DEL was the second webcomic I got into, and focuses more generally on the video games and the people who play them. The art starts off decent, and gets much better over time. Lots of people view it as a rip-off of the next comic in my list, but I think that there are more characters to identify with, a good story to follow, and the humor isn't as dated or arcane.
Speaking of the comic that many feel CAD rips off of, Penny Arcade is arguably the most successful and well-known webcomic in this list, as it was a pioneer in the medium. Although I haven't read as much of it as I have of the rest of this list (there's ten years of comics to wade through), the authors know what they're talking about. The art evolves considerably, and it is well-written.
VG Cats is also quite well-known, and although the author is a bum and hasn't updated in ages, whenever he does, the comics have tons of snarky, poignant humor and are always well-drawn. Also by this author is SUPER EFFECTIVE, which follows the plot of Pokemon: Red Version. Sadly, this one won't make lots of sense unless you have played the game or watched the TV show, and I'm guessing simply mentioning the word "Pokemon" causes involuntary twitches for some of our readers.
Two Star Wars parodies are Darths and Droids and Blue Milk Special. Darths and Droids uses screenshots and freeze-frames from the movies for the art, but it truly shines in the writing: it takes the perspective of people playing it as a Dungeons and Dragons campaign (in a world where Star Wars was never created). It's easier to understand if you simply read it than for me to explain it, although a visit to TV Tropes might be helpful sometimes. Blue Milk Special, in contrast, is drawn (shocking!), includes lots of self-referential humor and delves *very* deep into Star Wars lore, to the point where a visit to Wookiepedia might be in order.
Sinfest has been running since 2000, with a 4-panel black and white comic Monday through Saturday, and a full-page color every Sunday. This is one of the most consuming comics I have on this list, as the characters are developed, the art evolves, albeit in subtle ways, and the humor is diverse. One of its most defining characteristics is that it involves deities from many religions, including the giant hand of the Judeo-Christian Sky God, the Devil, (and their respective fanboys) Jesus, two Succubi, Buddha, and a Chinese dragon. It ranges from whimsical to very deep (yet still funny). It's difficult to stop reading, and there are currently 3,607 comics in the archive.
Questionable Content follows the story of a bunch of twentysomethings in Northampton, Mass., the home of the author, Jeph Jaques. It's largely about romance and relationships, so it involves a lot of humor and sadness. The characters are perhaps the best developed of any of the protagonists in any of these other comics, and the art undergoes slow but steady, and ultimately dramatic improvements (compare the first to the latest, and you'll see what I mean). At the moment, it's Guest Comic Week, so the art in the few most recent strips isn't typical. Like Sinfest, it's difficult to stop reading, but fortunately, it updates every weekday.
That's all I follow for now, and hopefully it's enough to keep you from your work for a week or three. Enjoy!
I'll put in a plug for my favorite artists.
Phil and Kaja Foglio and Girl Genius (also Buck Godot, Phil and Dixie....)
Aaron Williams and PS238 (also Nodwick, and various other webcomics unavailable at work :(
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is risque at times, but always funny.
What about Order of the Stick? A D&D-based comic with a long-running, overarching plotline, has more emotional depth than 8-Bit Theater (usually) does and surprisingly fleshed out characters, both heroes and villains. Passing familiarity with D&D helps, but isn't necessary to understand it.