Illustration By: Danielle Terhune
These days, newspaper funnies just aren’t funny. They’re thematically limited, tediously censored and, alas, extremely boring. Why force a laugh when true humor is just an iPhone app away? Web Comics are seriously funny business. And although they’re mostly associated with video game culture and nerdcore surrealism, don’t worry, there’s booty for everybody. Following are the top ten killer comics that you should bookmark on Google Chrome today!
1. Penny Arcade
Penny Arcade, created by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, features quasi-alter egos Gabe and Tycho as they review video games and rant about real life. It sounds hackneyed, but actually, Penny Arcade is the Holy Grail of gamer comics and is a regular staple to any video-gaming aficionado. The creators of Penny Arcade were included in Time’s Top 100 Most Influential People of 2010, and the Web Comic has its own video game, annual convention and charity organization. The strip, drawn by Krahulik, is hilariously witty. The dynamic duo also releases “Downloadable Content,” a behind-the-scenes podcast and a reviews blog. If you like Penny Arcade, make sure you also check out VG Cats, Awkward Zombie and PvP.
2. Gunnerkrigg Court
Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court is Harry Potter with robots. It’s hard to believe this curious tome all began with a shy, polite girl noticing she had somehow acquired a second shadow. Gunnerkrigg Court has a deep mythology, a promising storyline and really fun characters. Each chapter is self-contained but contributes to a growing story arc that’s surrounded by copious measurements of mystery. Take a night off to binge on Gunnerkrigg. It’s nutty, genius and has a lingering aura of awesome. I fretfully wait for the next update.
3. Questionable Content
Next on the list, we have Questionable Content, which was launched in 2003 by Jeph Jacques. An indie character-driven sitcom situated in Massachusetts, QC stars Marteen Reed (a thin indie rockster), his friend Faye Whitaker (a voluptuous barista) and Pintsize, an anthropomorphized computer, (‘Anthro-PC’). But what began as a story about a boy, his female roommate and a robot developed over the past eight years into a tale including a massive ensemble cast of lovable, quirky characters. I love QC and its ridiculous bouts of angst. This is possibly the greatest sitcom-that-never-was!
4. The Adventures of Dr. McNinja
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is exactly what it says on the tin. Dr. McNinja is a ninja with a Ph.D. in butt-kicking (and medicine), which is possibly the sanest facet of this series. Yet with all of the dinosaur-riding cowboys, gorilla receptionists and Benjamin Franklin clones, writer and artist Chris Hastings ties his storylines plots into one cohesive butt-punching story. Lately, Hastings has been hired by Marvel to write Deadpool, which testifies to Dr. McNinja’s win. Also, read Axe Cop. You’ll understand.
5. Cyanide & Happiness
How could I leave out the controversial Cyanide & Happiness? This stick-figure web comic is a dark circus of dead baby comedy, nihilistic angst, pedophilia, rape jokes and anything else disgraceful, yet I can’t stop checking it daily. Be warned. The strip’s writers (Kris Wilson, Matt Melvin, Rob DenBleyker, and Dave McElfatrick) have no shame. If you have a morbid curiosity, swing by explosm.net and check out this crude twin of xkcd.
Wasn’t that a subtle transition? Next up, we have NASA contractor Randall Munroe’s xkcd, a self-described “Web comic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” Reading this joke-a-day stick-figure comic is a nerd’s rite of passage. I include xkcd out of necessity. A Top Ten Web Comics list cannot ignore the cultural and social impact xkcd has had on web comics, and subsequently geek culture. Read and if you don’t find xkcd particularly humorous, don’t worry—you’re just not smart enough.
7. The Perry Bible Fellowship
The wit of The Perry Bible Fellowship, penned and painstakingly painted by Nicholas Gurewitch, knows few boundaries. If web comics had a pantheon, PBF would be a twisted Zeus, inspiring later comics such as Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Each strip contains three, sometimes four, panels that devolve from wholesome clarity into atrociously funny conclusions. It’s the cynic’s The Far Side. I’ve never been compelled to use the words “juxtaposition” and “irony” more powerfully than when reviewing PBF. Oh, the juxtaposing irony! At the moment, the web comic is on a frustrating hiatus, but make sure you check out the content that’s up now.
8. Dinosaur Comics
Penned by the eternally clever Ryan North, Dinosaur Comics is a “constrained” web comic with tight boundaries in its milieu. Each update features the same panels of clip art dinosaurs with differing dialogue, yet you’d be surprised at how original the series has remained since its inception in 2003. Each installment serves readers bizarre topics ranging from political debates to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis to how awesome T-Rex is. Stop reading Garfield. Start reading Dinosaur Comics.
Chris Onstad’s Achewood’s ambiguous comedy can be off-putting to the unprepared, but there’s a reason this web comic was Time Magazine’s number one Graphic Novel of 2007. Onstad’s magnus opus is difficult to summarize. The comic stars an absurd cast of anthropomorphic animals and stuffed toys who participate in an enormous compendium of stories without an overarching narrative. What Achewood excels in is its characterizations. In fact, Onstad runs several in-character blogs. Although the art comprises simple line drawings and the comic updates irregularly, Achewood is an exquisite undertaking with startling scope in its characters and their peculiar daily lives.
10. Rice Boy
Finally, Lord of the Rings meets Dr. Seuss in this surrealist fantasy epic. Rice Boy is an enormous work created by Evan Dahm. The storyline is of staggering beauty and depth, following Rice Boy as he fulfills his destiny in a colorful universe that permanently flabbergasts. Its nonsensical 439 pages of epic-ry are incomparable. Read this monumental epic. You will emerge a stranger but better person.
There are thousands of other web comics that could be included. Sprite comics, such as 8-Bit Theatre and Bob and George, were arbitrarily not included but are nonetheless entertaining. Softer World, which uses photographs and type-writer poetry, is another strip of memorandum. Make sure you check out Sluggy Freelance, Girl Genius and Hannah is Not a Boy’s Name. Obviously it’s an impossibly subjective task to list the Top Ten Web Comics, but hopefully you’ve taken something away from this list. If you have suggestions of other spectacular strips to be reviewed, e-mail Desmond Wilder at firstname.lastname@example.org.