If you’re busy working from home or in the office and want a quick break, reading a comic is a great way to get some much-needed downtime and inspiration – and web comics are free and easily accessible.
Some of the world’s most well-known fictional characters were born through the medium of comics. The likes of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man have all won the hearts of successive generations of readers – to such an extent that, despite the rise of the internet, the printed comic industry is still booming.
That doesn’t mean the web is irrelevant to comics, though – far from it. Indeed, it’s given birth to an array of inspirational online-only creations that have transported the medium into the modern age. Here, we pick 21 of our favourite web comics…
01. Webcomic Name
The first and the newest web comic on this list, Webcomic Name first appeared in July 2016 and swiftly became a firm favourite. It’s the work of UK-based artist Alex Norris and it never fails to amuse us with its excellently naive artwork, blobby characters and simple jokes, usually topped off with Webcomic Name’s staple ‘oh no’ punchline.
It shouldn’t really work but it very much does, every single time.
From one of the newest to a venerable classic. Chris Onstad‘s Achewood first appeared in 2001 and focuses on the strange lives of a thoroughly diverse cast of stuffed toys, pets and robots. Absurd by nature and often thoroughly surreal, Achewood’s simple artwork belies its complex storylines and often glorious use of the English language.
There’s a huge archive to work through; Onstad helpfully provides links to the big Achewood story arcs, but we’d honestly advise you to start at the beginning and just go with the flow.
03. Bird Boy
Anne Szabla’s Bird Boy follows the story of Bali, a 10-year-old Nuru boy who is keen to prove his worth to his tribe. After being banned from the ceremony that would make him an adult, he stumbles upon a legendary weapon and must flee across a dangerous land of gods, men and beasts to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.
The story was picked up by Darkhorse comics and has been compiled into graphic novels Bird Boy Volume 1: The Sword of Mali Mani and Bird Boy Volume 2: The Liminal Wood. With a thumbs up from Mike Mignola, it’s definitely worth checking out.
04. Hark! A Vagrant
Canadian comic artist, Kate Beaton, blended her expertise in history and anthropology with a talent for visual storytelling to give us this popular webcomic. Kate started the web strip during her breaks from her day job and they were surprisingly all created in MS Paint (I know right?!)
Her simple, whimsical style, caricaturing Western historical figures from James Joyce to Ada Lovelace make Hark! A Vagrant a particular favourite of ours, and won the artist multiple awards.
Step Aside, Pops, a collection of her Hark! A Vagrant comics, topped The New York Times graphic novel bestseller list in October 2015 and in the same year, a poll ranked Beaton 14th among the top all-time female comics artists.
Written and drawn by Jake Wyatt with a helping hand from Kathryn Wyatt, this ongoing fantasy web comic is the tale of one girl’s quest for revenge. Updated every Wednesday, the duo have been painstakingly developing the story and stunning visuals for over a year.
It is yet to be revealed when the comic will conclude, but there are already plans to release a graphic novel with none other than Image, when it finally finds its ending.
Run by Lize Meddings and Laura Jayne Cox, The Sad Ghost Club is a web comic with a cult following. “The Sad Ghost Club is a club for anyone who’s ever felt sad or lost,” they explain in their manifesto. “It’s the club for those who don’t feel like they’re part of any other club; we love creating comics and zines to highlight the issues that a lot of ghosties go through.”
Branching out into tote bags, beanies, tee-shirts, badges and more, the duo have come a long way with their tales of a lonely little ghost. Meddings’ and Cox’s approach ensures you’ll be smiling through each story, knowing you’re not alone in the world after all.
Created by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne, Oglaf is often a very NSFW web comic centred on a medieval fantasy realm which is decidedly sexual in nature. Not for the faint-hearted, Cooper and Bayne bring their world to life through hilarious short stories and inspirational illustrations – just don’t let your boss catch you reading it.
If you’ve embarked on role-playing games or dipped your toes into the world of medieval fantasy stories, you’ll know that people tend to take both very seriously. The Order of the Stick is a web comic that pokes fun at the subjects with a unique flair. Created by Rich Burlew, the artist brings the stick figure into the modern age.
09. Botched Spot
Artist and writer James Hornsby has been parodying and lampooning professional wrestling culture with his hilarious Botched Spot ever since 2008. Creating his own characters including Olav Orlav and Rad Bad DeBone, this is one of those web comics that anyone can enjoy – whether you like wrestling or not.
Deathbulge was initially a comic series about a death metal band, but illustrator and writer Dan came to believe that was too limiting, so decided to draw whatever he felt like. It seems his change in direction worked, as the web comic has become a firm favourite among web comic fans. With out a new issue every Monday, there’s always something fresh.
11. Bad Machinery
Bad Machinery, by John Allison, tells the stories of six young sleuths – three boys and three girls – attending Griswalds Grammar School in Keane End, Tackleford. An inventive web comic with colourful illustrations and witty dialogue that MTV favourite Daria would be proud of.
Tom Gauld is a hero of sorts among the illustrator and comic-loving crowd. Based in London, not only does he draw a regular cartoon for the Guardian newspaper, he’s also created a number of comic books. Although You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack is indeed, a printed publication, you can sample its delights on his Tumblr.
Gemma Correll describes herself as a cartoonist, writer, illustrator and all-round small person. It’s arguable whether her sketchbook diaries technically count as a web comic, but they’re so charming that we just had to include them here. Charting her ‘mostly boring’ life, cute illustrations teamed with refreshingly honest observations make for some delightful reading.