First, children, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that *I* draw webcomics, and they are of course the bestest of all (really, no bias!). Har.
Negative One's main storyline is about a pair of ordinary parents trying to raise a child with unusual abilities; their daughter Amanda, born with telekinetic powers, has to be disciplined and raised in unique and innovative ways, and her story is told from the point of view of her mom, Meri Lin. Other intermingled storylines include Adele (a prophet from another world who has to leave her beloved teacher and her land behind to come teach the future-seeing arts to someone in the human world), Weaver (a strange bat-like creature who has to prove to his captor that he is not an animal or else try to escape captivity to get his freedom), and Dax (a large, gentle creature who is struggling to figure out where his place is in the world). The story is text-heavy, and the art is rendered in attempted realistic pencil sketches.
THE POSITIVE: The characters, though "fantastical," are very realistic, and their stories are very heartfelt. And, of course, the baby is cute.
THE NEGATIVE: Not very professionally done, art is not great (usually), and the fact that there's no color makes it a bit bland. The text is sometimes a little TOO heavy, and because many of the main characters spend a fair amount of time in sad situations or are pessimists, sometimes it can be a downer.
So You Write is just a silly comic about being a writer. Each toon outlines some experience I've had being a creative type, usually depicting the outside world being unsympathetic or not able to understand. The art is simplistic manga style (usually with chibi characters), colored, primarily in four-panel templates. There is no story and no update schedule.
THE POSITIVE: Funny for writers, no long story to get into or characters to understand to enjoy the laughs. The colorful drawings are fun to look at; the anime style expresses extreme emotion well.
THE NEGATIVE: Also not professionally done with kind of amateur art. May not be very funny or relevant to people who aren't writers or don't relate to the experiences depicted.
RECOMMENDED WEBCOMICS (which AREN'T mine):
xkcd is a joke comic for the most part, so it doesn't have a storyline. Geeky jokes are the main focus, ranging from Internet-related gags and pop culture references to math/science/engineering jokes. There do appear to be a few recurring "characters," but everyone is mostly stick figures in black and white. You will probably find one you relate to or laugh at within ten clicks.
THE POSITIVE: The creator never seems to run out of material and has managed to come up with truths and comparisons and amusing situations for years now, and he even knows how to slide in a serious comic now and then without losing his audience. I love his take on relationships.
THE NEGATIVE: Not his fault, but sometimes I don't get the math jokes. You have to be a particular kind of geek to get them all.
SATURDAY MORNING BREAKFAST CEREAL
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is usually wayyyy over-the-line offensive, totally quirky, and manages to make its point in one or two frames. It takes super disgusting and WRONG stabs at taboo subjects, and despite the simplicity of the art it really makes its point with easy-to-read expressions.
THE POSITIVE: This guy updates every day, and there is usually some kind of additional joke under a button or link that relates to the main comic. He is VERY good at nailing spikes into every subject you can name, especially religion, family, and sex. Plus, there are videos that are funny too!
THE NEGATIVE: Well, it doesn't bother ME, but since his jokes are such equal opportunity offenders, you really can't show this to anyone but other sick people. It's a specialized audience. Some of the jokes actually kinda make you feel dirty because you laughed.
Khaos Komix is a wonderful character-oriented story about a group of people dealing with life (oh, and queer relationships). The art style is very enjoyable--I think of it as sort of a modified manga style that leans toward realism, 'cause proportions are mostly realistic but sometimes the artist likes to use "chibi" or traditional manga expressions to bring across effects better. The stories are told in first person from various points of view, and so for a while you'll get to hear Steve's point of view, then it'll switch to Mark's, then Amber's, etc. This is neat because it often recaps what's already happened, allowing you to see the other person's take on things, but then it will continue into new territory afterwards. The story starts by focusing on the formation of the school's first openly gay couple (and how each party involved went through angst and miscommunication and sometimes even denial before coming to terms with their situations), and later it explores a lesbian couple, some trans folks, and most importantly, ALL their group dynamics. There is no real "action plot"; these characters are the whole show.
THE POSITIVE: The art is consistent, original, and professional, and the artist can capture expressions that usually escape cartoonists. (You can REALLY see longing and embarrassment and all those lovely emotions in people's eyes.) The pacing, in my opinion, is brilliant, and most of all I love that the characters are the focus and that being gay or trans is NOT their whole identity. You really know their interests--you see that Amber is an artist and how it helps her work through her private thoughts, and you see Mark's affectionate nature, the story behind Tom's tattoos, and the clash between Alex and Jamie WITHOUT ever feeling like you're just being fed somebody's boring emo history. I'd also like to note that the casual language is expertly handled.
THE NEGATIVE: The author is unusually clear with words, so every typo and misspelled word sticks out and bothers me. (Ironically that doesn't bother me if the person just sucks at spelling and it's EVERYWHERE, but in this comic it's rare enough that I get annoyed at it for not being perfect.) It has been pointed out that every character who's been focused on is gay or has had a queer relationship, so even though such a thing is really welcome in a heteronormative-saturated market, it occasionally feels a little repetitive when EVERYONE is dealing with issues that develop from some aspect of their queer relationships. I also think it'd be cool if every storyline didn't lead up to someone having a relationship, though I guess that's what the world of young people usually is about.
Blank It is a surreal comic featuring Aric and Lemmo, unknown dudes exploring a place where the laws of physics don't really apply. They wander around keeping each other company while surreal things happen to them--such things as drinking beverages designed to grow new limbs, and riding giant robot bugs piloted by bugs, and . . . well, it really is about as random as it sounds. What really shines, however, is the characters' distinct personalities and the way they banter. The dialogue's really witty, and most of the time it's random in a way that actually surprises you (instead of that half-assed way that a lot of people who are TRYING to be funny do, by throwing a monkey and a ninja in and laughing, hoping you will too). Aric and Lemmo's existential quandary is a pleasant mix of silly and deep, and I'm always tickled by what they come up with.
THE POSITIVE: Drawn in a consistent style with a solid understanding of perspective and proportion, this comic is professional and easy to look at. The writing really shines as well; the jokes could survive in a gag-a-day atmosphere except that this is also an ongoing story comic, and (the editor in me requires me to say this) the grammar and spelling being perfect is a refreshing change. So nice to deal with a comic that knows its itses.
THE NEGATIVE: There are occasional frames where it's hard to tell exactly what is going on, and I have to wait for an explanation from the dialogue. And occasionally the "let's see what unlikely situation we can throw our heroes into next" absurdity becomes a little much for me--I don't think I would suggest a change or anything, because that's part of what makes this comic what it is, but sometimes it seemed like too much at once for me. I'm also wondering, because the passage of time seems unclear, whether the characters will ever sleep, take a crap, or eat anything.
Creased Comics is a really difficult thing to explain, largely because the entire body of Brad Neely's work is so borderline incoherent but so, so ingenious. First off, he doesn't just do comics; he also has videos that include a lot of drawings with voice overs and music (and sometimes the drawings change fast enough that it looks like animation). Basically, much of his comic work reads like a person who is tripping drew a picture and a different person added a caption to it while they were high and sleep deprived. Sometimes that's really how unrelated the joke is to the picture. But as far as I know it's supposed to be that way, and maybe he's got a really quirky mind? Anyway, he's also the brains behind the George Washington song and other nonsense, and his other video series are Baby Cakes, The Professor Brothers, China, IL, and America, Now. Neely's work seems to contain a fair amount of references to wolf people, wizards, roleplaying, and weird sex comments thrown in with an extremely matter-of-fact attitude. There is no real continuity and not much in the way of character going on (though in his video series there is consistency), so this is more of a laugh-a-day style. Beware adult language and concepts (which are combined with "utterly juvenile fart/pee humor" at times).
THE POSITIVE: Brad Neely has the ability to be random without the comics reading like "look at me, I'm trying to just be random! Look how RANDOM I am! HAW HAW!" It is truly inventive, and the art style is simplistic but appropriately disturbing (for instance, his people tend to have weird vacant expressions because they have no pupils, just white empty eyes). Furthermore, the video segments often contain music, and unlike most humorous music the sound is creative and catchy.
THE NEGATIVE: Especially with the comics, sometimes you get the feeling that there was absolutely no connection between the art and the text--and while sometimes that works, other times it feels like Neely drew a picture, smoked some weed, DRANK THE BONG WATER, and kept drawing. There is a point after which the complete disconnect makes one say "why is this funny?" Some of his punch lines go on too long, as well--would be more effective if they didn't keep elaborating.
Goblins is basically about the Dungeons & Dragons-type monsters, the goblins, but it's THEIR side of the story for once. Sick of being easy points for adventurers and being treated as monsters and non-player characters, this punchy group of goblins decides to attack both the stereotypes and the D&D players themselves. The gamer spirit shines through with hilarious jokes--such as when a monster doesn't attack because, after all, his opponent won intiative in the dice roll--and there are often little interactive things you can do to help the artist.
THE POSITIVE: Super-professional art and coloring, easy to read, and you don't necessarily need to be a D&D player to get it (I've never played in my life). The characters are surprisingly well-rounded for it being a mainly funny comic.
THE NEGATIVE: The updates are inconsistent and sometimes you wait for a very long time to see what's next and it's just more fighting. Action sequences are always nicely done, but they get a bit monotonous after a while.
Misfile's premise is that our lives are organized by where we're "filed" up in Heaven. This can be a problem if the guy who's doing the filing is an angel who's high on pot. Rumisiel, potheaded angel, is responsible for "misfiling" drag-race-obsessed boy Ash and Harvard-bound girl Emily, and as a result Emily wakes up two years younger and Ash wakes up as a girl. Because there are certain inconsistencies in the filing, both remember the details of their old lives, but everyone else only behaves as if they've always been the sex and age they are, and so these two misfiled misfits cling to each other for support and friendship as the renegade angel tries to worm his way back into Heaven to fix the misfile. Meanwhile, they've got to go on with their lives. . . .
THE POSITIVE: The art is very good, even though it's a tad rough at the beginning. I also like the way the characters figure their lives out after they've been tweaked, and how they act with each other.
THE NEGATIVE: The premise kinda bothers me. The "filing system" thing seems a little contrived. I don't think all the paradoxes are really quite worked out, but that the story just kinda jumped in anyway.
Head Trip SORT of has a story sometimes--time moves forward in one direction, and the characters age--but there's not a big storyline holding everything together. It's mainly focused on two siblings, Malory and Kathryn, with occasional cameos by their younger siblings. Mal is oldest and looks younger, while Kat is always getting mistaken for the big sister. Malory is exceedingly violent and can always be counted on for revenge or just plain necessary attacks (and the devil even sometimes pops up to talk to her), while Kat is a more calm, silly person who's not quite as off the wall as her sister but not quite grounded enough to function as a voice of reason. They're both pretty geeky and their comics make a lot of references to Internet stuff or pop culture. The sense of humor in the comic is a bit spastic with an undertone of terrible taste--which is GREAT if you like your humor with a twist of sick. (I do.) Art is colored toons of the girls. An unrelated storyline called "Emokid and Chemokid" is thrown into the mix now and then--a continuing story of the superhero team made up of a sensitive poet and a cancer patient. And, believe it or not, every once in a while the comic manages to be touching, but mostly I like it because the jokes are witty and make fun of things I'd make fun of. Every once in a while a drawing of the artist/author pops on to talk to you, too, and it's fun.
THE POSITIVE: First, the art is great and very easy to look at; expressions are spot-on and coloring is professional. Second, the artist, Shinga, is an incredibly good speller, which makes me want to send her presents and praise her; none of those frequent typos and sloppy sentences here, guys--I think I only saw one the whole time I was reading! But lastly, the characters and content are so readable and enjoyable! Nothing is safe: The comic makes fun of geeks, Twilight, dating, girl life, bad movies, and probably your mom.
THE NEGATIVE: Updates are inconsistent, but hey, Shinga has a life. Some of the links on the page don't go anywhere--FAQ, Links, Fanart, there are spaces for them but no content. Otherwise, there's really not much to complain about except that occasionally I got tired of the page's big joke being Malory killing/maiming someone annoying. Very minor complaint, though, 'cause Mal's temper IS a necessary component of the setup.
Multiplex is a mostly-comedic webcomic about working at a movie theater, and it's very long-running (he's been doing his comic almost as long as I have!). I haven't ever had the pleasure of working in a theater--though I worked at a bookstore so there is some overlap in the "trying to help jackasses entertain themselves" industry--and yet I can still enjoy and relate to the culture. A fairly tight group of young people run the theater and interact with various people, including each other, rival businesses (like the video rental store), crappy managers, and, of course, customers. They discuss movies quite a lot, watch movies together, date and hate each other, dress up as characters when big movies come out, and play pranks.
THE POSITIVE: The comic has found a pretty good balance between humor and story. Everyone's got a history, and you're interested to see how it plays out. Religion, queer identity, movie philosophy, and relationships are discussed surprisingly fairly without too much obvious bias from the author. And I have to say I'm very pleased with the editing skills; it's not sloppy writing at all, spelling-and-grammar-wise. As for the art, it's a little minimalist but very complete--full backgrounds with detail, readable expressions, recognizable characters, FULL COLOR. (I'm especially impressed by the fact that real movie posters often line the hallways, helping to date the issues and add realism.) The artist also has a very nice, complete, easily navigated website.
THE NEGATIVE: The day-to-day life thing does get a little bit tiring once in a while--people do mope and not actually figure anything out and leave things unresolved quite a lot (though that's kind of true-to-life in a way), and as a person who doesn't watch a lot of movies I don't get MOST of their movie-related references and jokes. (I think those aspects of it are for the "movie people," and that's fine and dandy; never said my "negative" listings were objective!) I had trouble sometimes keeping up with all the histories and relationships of the full (large) cast, though the author does try to link references to previous strips to help you remember why this might be happening. It's not bad; it's just kinda confusing sometimes.
PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP
Perry Bible Fellowship is not at all what it sounds like, and the author has little explanation for it. Most of the cartoons are off the wall and sometimes offensive-but-funny (such as someone getting slapped for starting a food fight, and then in the last frame you find out he was trying to start a food fight at a humanitarian food outreach program for starving kids). The art is VERY interesting--he has his own style, but it is totally varied, and he has tons of different media and renderings to choose from. Always visually interesting as well as mostly funny.
THE POSITIVE: The subjects chosen are so often quirky and laugh-out-loud funny that you wonder "how did he THINK of that?" He is also obviously a talented artist.
THE NEGATIVE: You hit an occasional comic that just doesn't seem funny so much as . . . weird, or pointless. You think about it for a while, try to "get it," and realize there isn't anything to get. Usually that doesn't happen but it's disappointing when it does. The comic rarely updates, so that's sad too.
QUEEN OF WANDS
Queen of Wands is about a rather quirky Pagan chick named Kestrel who just lets us watch her life for a while. She moves in with Shannon and Felix, and they all have that slightly weird late twenties post-college-but-not-grown-ups-yet feel about them. The artist based the story loosely on her own life. It occasionally features a great oblivious customer story (the main character ends up working in a toy store sometimes), and you can read all kinds of great relationship goodies and enjoy a story from the point of view of a woman who is an actual realistic religious witch without the story being ABOUT that at all (nice change). The story actually has an ending--isn't ongoing--and, well, it ends.
THE POSITIVE: The characters are funny and usually pretty realistic, and even though it's usually a funny, humor-oriented strip, it has its moments of seriousness and they are handled very well.
THE NEGATIVE: The art can sometimes be inconsistent, and it disappoints me that it ended (heh).
COMICS I HAVE READ AT LEAST A LITTLE OF AND WANT TO GET CAUGHT UP ON SOMEDAY: