I first found the online comics scene through a (almost) entirely unrelated path. My dad sometimes emails people links to online material they would like, and one link he sent me was to "The Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Clichés". It was a good choice; having watched my brother slog through several such games, I could easily relate to the cliches depicted, and therefore I decided to check the rest of the site. I did so shortly before Christmas '03.
The guy who supports (and maintains!) the list, Mark Sachs, is also a online-comicist (to use a neologism). I enjoy his ongoing project, "A Miracle of Science", which he is doing in cooperation with another fellow, Jon Kilgannon (whose link I can't find; what happened to shameless self-promotion?!). After reading everything on the Project Apollo page (see Mark Sachs above), I went to the Links section. There, I found a bucketload of other online comics, many of which I have become total fans of. After reading those, I began to check out other strips that were referred to on the 'link' pages. My favorites are listed below.
(list last updated on August 8th, 2004)
Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire is a clever series set in a D&D-like universe. Those who are allergic to puns should take some antihistamines before they check it out.
Freefall is a science-fiction humor strip about an alien rapscallion, his robot ally, their new engineer, and everyone they meet. Clear, distinct storyline, but unquestionably humorous.
Kid Radd is a fake sprite comic. The author made up a completely fictitious NES game based on Megaman, Totally Rad, Super Mario Bros., and other hoary old ... er, classic sidescrolling platformers, and the lead characters are sprites in that game. Many pop-culture references!
Jackie's Fridge is a slightly more realistic strip than many, although it is drawn in a manga style and includes a few impossible characters (i.e. the Fridge of the title and Jackie's evil pet guinea pig). Fun, and nice.
Count Your Sheep is a sweet little comic, more like Calvin & Hobbes than like most other online strips. The humor is offball, not lunatic, and the art is fairly simple, but nicely executed. A good choice.
Demonology 101 is art. The main character, Raven, is a 16-year-old literal demon who is just going into high-school after being homeschooled through her childhood, and at the beginning she hopes to lead some sort of 'normal' life. Unfortunately, her history and that of her adoptive father Gabe prevent any such thing. One great thing about the series is the way that nearly everyone, human or demon, is a person, with all the contradictions, character development, and history that people have. Excellent writing, and dramatic artwork. The comic ended during the summer of 2004; it is still well worth the time to read.
Reman Mythology is a fantasy comic in a world that is completely original. Extraordinarily well done, great artwork, engaging plot, and unique universe, a classic transported-into-a-fantasy-world story. The artist designed this story and the world in which it has been set from scratch over a course of years, and it shows. There are also a couple other comics available from the same site.
Fallen Angel Used Books is one of the best-drawn series here. Fantasy set in a present-day small-town-USA locale. Interesting so far, but still hasn't gotten into the meat of the plot.
- Real Life is one of those comics whose characters are derived from the friends of the author. Many videogame and anime references. The writer is a fan of swords, and he even included a link to SwordsOnline on his page.
El Goonish Shive is wacky, and a lot of fun. It's drawn, not sprites, and many of the jokes revolve around (a) the characters who are shapeshifters, and (b) adventures with the shapeshifting gun that one of the characters has. Very wacky.
A Miracle of Science is one of the first serial webcomics I began to read. The comic has a humorous premise; a disease known as S.R.M.D., Science Related Memetic Disorder, which causes the victim to become a mad scientist. There's even medication for it. Other interesting elements include a planetwide group intellect consisting of the entire Mars population, and an interstellar police force hired to monitor the mad scientists. Interesting story.
The Jaded is a story about members of a special agency run by a man named Jade. The main character, Jin, almost committed suicide at some point before the story began, and Jade stopped her. The story is compelling, and the action sequences are pretty good. However, the comic has moved to Graphic Smash, and therefore reading the archives costs a little money. The most recent episode is still free, though, and the comic is worth money to buy.
- The Wings of Change is a well drawn story-in-progress with winged elves called elvians, dragons and minidragons, rangers, and pixies. Many comic situations, but there's more than just comedy.
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No Rest For the Wicked takes off of several folk tales, moving in interesting directions with all of them. The art is good, especially regarding atmosphere, and the story is shaping up beautifully.
Stereotype Devil and Angel is a manga-style comic based on some modern stereotypes of devils and angels. It's cute; my only complaint is that it updates only rarely.
Megatokyo is one of the big comics online. Superb artwork and a good story. Somewhat crazy; depends on which character is in center stage. Only two real flaws; the navigation system is clumsy, and all the fillers and story strips are lumped together in the archives. Regardless, this is one of the top strips out there.
The 10K Commotion is a manga about a Dance Dance Revolution competition and some teams that are competing in it. A different sort of art style; reminds me of Impressionist art, but its good. The competition isn't as cutthroat as one might expect; it's sweet.
Unicorn Jelly is a nice fantasy/sci-fi (interesting how those go together!) comic. The art is unusual, but good - I suspect it was made with an old Macintosh art program, judging by the textures. The comic ended some time ago, but the archives are massive, and the story is engaging.
File 49 is a modern fantasy strip about a group of people with psychic powers. They had been the result of an experiment, and a couple groups just became interested in them again. Action, character development, and good art can all be found here.
Schwarz Kreuz is a suspense-thriller involving a London agency dealing with the paranormal. The main character is an ex-paladin who turned into a vampire during World War II, and is at the current time in the story an agent in that bureau. Interestingly enough, he does not drink blood; he is a vegetarian, and due to the stress of denying the vampyric bloodthirst he also became a drunkard. Very interesting, and entering into more interesting ground as we speak.
- Cooking with Anne is a science-fiction story set in some sort of postapocalyptic future. The 'gimmick' here is that the narration is describing how to make a recipie as the images show the main character moving through the region. Isn't updating often, but the art is good.
How Not To Run a Comic is completely different from the other projects here. This collaborative 'comic' was designed to demonstrate the many errors that online comic artists often make. It updates whenever someone sends a new example of a theme (e.g., How Not To Start a Webcomic, How Not To Do a Flashback, How Not To Do an Action Scene). Entertaining, and most of the examples have commentary describing how it fails.
- Gashapon Shop is a sweet little strip about a teenage kid who runs her parents' shop after they died in a auto crash. ... Dang, that previous sentence was just messed up. The accident happened before the series started - in fact, it is only referenced on one of the info pages, not in the actual comic - and the comic just describes things that happen in the shop.
Wish3 is a fantasy story about a family curse which gives three wishes to some members of the clan. However, when the third wish is granted, it either kills or drives mad the wisher. This manga is notable for superb artwork and an engaging plot.
Gunmetal Annie is a futuristic sci-fi comic about a pair of young adults who just left home after trouble at home. The background includes an alien race invading and taking over half of Earth. The art is pretty decent, and the story is interesting so far.
- Disciple is some sort of fantasy-mystery strip. The meat of the story is still ahead, but it looks good so far, in every sense of the words.
- Framed! is a crazy-humor comic. The creator is a good artist, and has done what many attempt, and no-one suceeds at; made an entire comic based around breaking the fourth-wall. In other words, the characters are in a comic, they know they are in a comic, and they talk about being a comic regulary. This guy is a legend, and deservedly; in addition to pulling off the impossible, he's a uber-enough artist to drastically change the art style whenever he chooses. Incredible.
Deity Permit is a new comic, but already showing great promise. The art is good and the plot is good. There seems to be some plot regarding a disease that the main character seems to have; the story is growing nicely.
Those Destined is a fantasy comic about a 'destined hero' who is distictly disgruntled about her fate, and a non-stereotypical evil orgainization which became interested in her. The art is good, but it's thin (just pencils), and the characters and plot are interesting.
College Roomies from Hell! is another comic that would be horrible, and yet somehow isn't. The art isn't great (but is rapidly improving) and premise is one of the ultimate in online-comic cliches, the college-roommates shtick, but the comic rules through the sheer strength of the humor. Remarkably, this comic also maintains a consistent storyline. Good stuff here - updated seven days a week!
Reasoned Cognition is an educational comic answering science-related questions. The art is simple, because the artist isn't good enough at drawing to carry a story that way, and admits it. However, the science questions are good, and the answers are well-presented.
Checkerboard Nightmare is a cool humor strip in an unique style (but that describes everything, don't it?), and definitely a funny strip. The main character is another rapscallion, similar to the one in Freefall, trying to make it as a big-time comic character. Quite funny, and well drawn.
Magellan is a superhero strip about a set of cadets at the 'Magellan Justice Academy'; the central character is one cadet who, unlike almost all members of the academy, is a 'norm', with no superpowers. The story is just beginning, but the setup looks good, and so does the art.
Rêveillerie is a comic about a fairy trying to get home. In the world of the comic, fairies are persecuted due to their reputation as evilmongers. Clean, color artwork.
- As If! is a comic about a pair of girls who are outside of the main social cirle of girls in school. The comic is nice, with good storytelling.
Bob and George is believed to be the first so-called 'sprite comic'. Sprite comics take sprites from classic videogames (in this case, the Megaman series), and use them to illustrate the jokes, etc. Based on the first few dozen posts, the artist originally planned to do a hand-drawn comic, but was not impressed with his own skills in that arena. However, I may have (a) confused, (b) imagined, or (c) been decieved in that impression. It is wacky cool.
- Something Positive is a comedy strip about a group of friends living in Boston. There is much more 'mature themes' here than in the other strips linked here, even more than Better Days. The humor is very good, though, although the art isn't topnotch. A funny read, but not for kids.
Absurd Notions is a quality strip by an art major from Trenton State College, based off of the strip of the same name that ran in the college newspaper while he was there (he posted all the old newspaper strips on the site as well). Good art, good stories, good execution.
Zebra Girl is on the more-serious side of the funny spectrum; the main character is a young lady who was accidentally transformed into a demon, and has to deal. The art is good (almost no comics will appear on this page that aren't well drawn), and there's a pretty coherent plot (ditto). In general, comics hosted on Keenspot (like this one) will be very good.
Sea of Insanity is a strip based around Greek mythology, in which the Olympic pantheon, having few believers in the modern world, blend into regular society. Many other mythological beings also appear (one main character is a naiad, another is an oracle), and the Greek gods still have a lot of power. The plot follows a group of people who have become involved with this subworld of Greek legends.
Eidolic Fringe is a well-drawn fantasy/sci-fi strip in which the main character is transported to an alternate world after getting caught in a bus accident. Well-designed fantasy world, good art, &c.
Winter is a comic about a town after some sort of apocalypse; the comic so far is detailing the evolution of what happens to a few groups of people living there.
Empty Words is a realistic comic about a lady working in an old-folks' home and a reporter. Not very far along, but good; characterization is wonderful, and the story is going in interesting directions.
Alpha Shade is a fantasy comic set in a war zone. The side the main characters are on appears to be a more technological society than their opponents, who have what look like dragons and so forth. Its well-drawn; I think it was made in some sort of vector-graphics program which allows for dynamic scaling. The plot starts out right in the heart of the action; there hasn't been all that much exposition yet.
A Heart Made of Glass is a set of autobiographical manga talking about when his girlfriend dumped him on Valentine's Day. No fantasy, no sci-fi, but it's good. Not a continuing series; just a set of completed comics.
Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures is a humor comic with funny storylines. The art is pretty good after the first few strips, and its entertaining. This comic is not as well known as many of the others, more's the pity.
- Dada is an excellent cut-and-paste strip, with a storyline that keeps getting crazier. Sort of like Monty Python in spirit, this comic enjoys heading off on tangents.
Patchwork Heroes is a sprite comic about a half-yeti and his comrades and the adventure they get caught up in. This mission involves a group of magic warriors called Furys, in a world where magic is dying. The plot is pretty good, and the artist did make custom sprites for many things.
Disappearing Acts is a manga about being lonely, shy, and depressed, but not letting the loneliness ruin you. It's fantasy, but the fantasy 'gimmick' helps convey the story wonderfully. There's another comic on the same site, but it's too bloody (and I mean blood) for me.
Desert Rocks is a fantasy strip, but much more laid-back than many others. The review of the strip in Sequential Tart (review of the strip in Squential Tart) describes it as a 'fantasy slice-of-life'. On my serious-funny axis, it's not; much lighter in tone than the average fantasy strip, but with an interesting story nevertheless.
- Queen of Wands is a comic about three roommates and their stories. The art isn't as good as many of the other comics here, but there is a fascinating story.
Errant Story is a tale concerning an young half-elf mage trying to complete an insane final exam project. The story develops from there. Quite well drawn.
Clan of the Cats is a story about another family curse; the main character has magic powers and the ability to shapeshift into a cat, but the curse is supposed to eventually drive her insane. The art improves significantly from where it is at the start, and is excellent at this point. The storylines are also quite good.
- Fleep is extraordinarily unusual. This is a complete story (there won't be a sequel, if the writer is smart), and it has a great premise. It may be one of the few comic strips ever made which actually contains mathematics, excluding those whose overt subject is math or one of the sciences. Don't worry, the calculations are pretty simple. Other material by the same author is available at the same site, http://www.shigabooks.com/.
Better Days is a furry comic about the childhood of a cat named Fisk whose father died in Vietnam and whose mother had had her kids very young. It contains 'adult situations', but none of that stuff happens onscreen. Well-drawn, and interesting.
Angels 2200 is a sci-fi comic about some sort of war between Earth and some of its colonies. The plot is engaging, but there are also some 'adult situations' here. Note as well that part of the backstory is that some weird plague killed apparently all the men older than a certain age on Earth, so all the main characters are female.
Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki is a manga/anime-like comic about a magic-girl anime fan who is transformed into a valkyrie, and incidentally, a girl. This leads up to an interesting plot involving Norse mythology.
Night and Day is a sci-fi strip; it seems to be set in a universe similar to the Star Wars series (in that there is 'the Force'), but is not derivative in any way. Good so far.
Sabrina-Online is a good furry strip with some mature themes (e.g., the title character works offscreen at an adult film studio). Good humor, but it only updates once a month (with a month's worth of strips, but still ...). The art is good as well, so its a good read.
Lang Lang is a pretty good furry comic about a group of triplets who had been adopted by different parents. They meet up, and eventually end up together in one family. The strip is pretty good, although I can't figure out exactly why, and is certainly well drawn.