Looking at the long history of the art form that we call the comic, or the comic strip, the wondrous world of comics accessible online has been around but for a blip of time. However, in this short amount of time, these online comics have managed to make a strong impact on the rest of the comic strip world, and how it works. As a disclaimer: I’m far from an authority on the subject matter, and will mostly discuss comics I have had some sort of interest in. There are many more comics and have been many more than I am going to discuss – but then, this isn’t the Encyclopedia of Comics.
Early Online Comics
One of the first comics I found while at Rutgers University was a lovely comic that I still read now – thankfully, the writer / artist hasn’t stopped. I think the connection I made with the comic was based on the fact that I felt that I was dealing with a lot of the same issues as the main character. The comic that I’m referring to is none other than Bruno, by the brilliant artists Christopher Baldwin. Though it only runs Monday through Wednesday as of this writing, you can read each and every strip from the beginning in 1996 – completely free of charge. If you are more inclined to read comics in book form you can order them from the site – at a reasonable price, too. I would like to stress this comic above all others because in addition to having beautiful artwork and great writing, its creator is one of the most dedicated to its creation than almost any comic artist out there.
The second comic I ever read while online was Goats, a seemingly simple comic about a couple of New Yorkers trying to live out the good New York life. Having a few pints of Weihenstephan at the Peculier Pub doesn’t hurt, either – along with various inter-dimensional adventures, misreading Stan as Satan, and finding Woody Allen to be the creator of the universe. If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like if only you were well acquainted with a goat and a satanic chicken, this is the comic for you. Along with their own assortment of books, Goats features a lovely variety of hilarious t-shirts – but you surely know that. The site also features some other collectibles, and a simple way to support the site while getting something in return – Premium Membership. I plan on doing something similar should I ever get my super secret soap opera idea off the ground.
Another comic I have enjoyed since its inception is Real Life Comics, possibly one of the most underrated comics I know of, next to Bruno of course. For all of its hilarity I would think that it would be more of a smashing success – well, I honestly think that most people would find its humor appealing in some way or another. It may not always stay true to real life – doors to alternate dimensions and time travel come to mind – but it’s always quite a good laugh and a pleasure to read. Like the other comics I mentioned above this too has its own merchandising section – not that there’s anything wrong with it. The funniest thing I think the store has is a ‘Fuego’ shirt. It’s good for a laugh anytime.
My favorite comic for a long time (though I sometimes go for a couple of weeks without reading it and then catch up) has to be Megatokyo. It could be considered one of the first and best comics drawn in the style of manga, the Japanese comic art which is read by a wide cross-section of people around the world. (That merits its own article, I think.) This comic started in August of 2000 with a simple four panel approach and graduated into the look it has today, with each comic representing a page in a book – the books, of course, being available to purchase thanks to Dark Horse Comics. I can’t begin to express how impressed I am with the progress this comic has made since 2000, finding its way into book stores with huge banner ads displaying prominently at Waldenbooks a few months ago. Some people criticize the comic for being too slow but I have always enjoyed its storyline, slow pace or not. This is definitely worth a look through the archives.
I have to mention PVP and Penny Arcade together because they are both brilliant comics and the creators of the comic have made a tremendous success from their work. While the subject matter is a bit different between them, I think they share a fairly common audience of video game playing people (I debated between using ‘dorks’ and ‘nerds’ for a bit too long before deciding on ‘people’) like myself. Penny Arcade has become more than just a comic, with an annual convention that draws thousands to the lovely city of Bellevue for video games, panel discussions, and showcases. Additionally, they have an annual fundraiser, Child’s Play, which donates hundreds of thousands of toys and games to children’s hospitals.
Recent Comics (since 2002)
There is one comic that sticks out prominently in my mind from this time period and that would have to be Scary Go Round, by John Allison. John Allison, I believe, is a pioneer amongst comic artists – if you look at his early work in Bobbins and compare it to his current work you can see an upward trend. Allison’s most merciless critic has to be himself – he regularly expresses a desire to completely redo page after page of his own comic. I suggest going back to the beginning of Bobbins and reading through to the end and then having a go at Scary Go Round – it’s worth your time if you like good quality comics.
As I have mentioned above, there are many comics that I haven’t mentioned that would certainly be worth mentioning. In addition to the above comics, I also recommend Little Dee, also made by Christopher Baldwin, Overcompensating by Jeffrey Rowland, and Theater Hopper, by Tom Brazelton. Most of the comics I have mentioned above have their own comic reading suggestions, so you will surely be able to fill many hours reading these delightful web comics.