Today’s comic fan can quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the plethora of readily available comics content that is now available online. Obviously, there are plenty of comics that you may have seen in passing which are phenomenal, such as Cyanide and Happiness, xkcd, and Penny Arcade which are the source of countless memes and can be read and enjoyed out of order and out of context. But there are also plenty of independent, story driven comics out there, so to help, I’ve compiled a quick list of a few that you may have missed:
Minor Acts of Heroism, cute, quirky, and just a little super; a fun read if you’re looking for something to fill the time until Young Justice returns.
Go Get A Roomie, a sweet and sassy comic about love and sexuality and acceptance. WARNING!! RACY COMIC ALERT!! AKA lots of nekkidness in this one! Click at your own risk!
5 – BARBAROUS
Barbarous, written and drawn by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, throws its reader right into the story. Set in a modern world with a magical twist, Percy has what is known as “bad magic.” She’s unreliable, disagreeable, and short-tempered, but despite her flaws has a bad habit of trying to be a hero.
Currently in their second chapter, the story is fast-paced and exciting, set in a world where more questions have been presented so far than answers, so there’s plenty of room for the plot to grow and develop.
Hirsh and Ota have also worked on plenty of other awesome comics like Is This What You Wanted and more which can be found on their site as well. To support them, check out their Patreon.
**For a similar comic, read Strong Female Protagonist (SFP) which isn’t quite as pretty at first, but is set in a world that is just as magical with superheroes and villains and magical girls a plenty.
4 – NECROPOLIS
Necropolis by Jake Wyatt is a dark warning of the price of power. In this case, magic and steel in a feudal and damned world. A young girl strikes a bargain with a trickster, promising everything she has for a sword that will make her invulnerable to the blades of her enemies.
The story is only in the second chapter of what is obviously a long, complex narrative, which means that Wyatt is still fleshing out the world of Hyberia and the Hinterlands, which is medieval in fashion but dark and magical. His art style is elegant and does a good job cultivating the tone of the story, particularly his old-fashioned style of lettering.
While all the other comics in this list are hosted on their own dedicated websites, Wyatt updates his Necropolis on Tumblr, which turns out to be a surprisingly good format for comics. Wyatt is also the only creator who has worked on mainstream comics and cartoons for companies like Marvel and Nickelodeon. So this comic is his passion project, updated in his spare time, and because of this, his comic is also the shortest on the list and there are a few breaks in the story where Wyatt posted sketch art and character design or nothing at all for several months. The good news is that just this month, Wyatt has begun posting again so there’s plenty to look forward to.
3 – AVA’S DEMON
Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski is the type of digital comic that the internet was created for. Tying multimedia aspects (such as music and motion) into a comic in book form is something not yet achievable with our limited paper technologies, but through the wonder that is a webcomic, all things are possible.
Emily Carroll is particularly well known for her creative use of digital space and reader interactivity. CAUTION, that link is to a horror comic; not for the faint of heart!
Czajkowski’s comic is also a little intense at points, following the story of a girl–Ava–who is possessed by a demon–Wrathia Bellarmina–although the title of the comic might have given some of that away already. For most of her life, Ava believes that the “imaginary friend” who keeps manipulating her actions and telling her to kill herself is just an aspect of psychosis. Her family and classmates also think she’s crazy, leaving her isolated and adrift. When her life threatened and her planet destroyed, Ava decides that she’s not ready to die yet and makes a pact with Wrathia; to spend her life helping to avenge the demon’s homeworld and in exchange, Wrathia will share her power with Ava. Their mission becomes to find other demons, Wrathia’s most loyal supporters, who have been likewise reincarnated into human hosts.
A neat element of the story is that each demon represents a different deadly sin and their powers are elemental in nature (Wrathia being Wrath and her powers typically manifesting as fire/lava, etc). The characters are each incredibly unique and expressive, but it’s their coloring that really sets them apart from the world around them, since each human host takes on the color of their demon’s powers (Wrathia is red, so Ava eyes and skin become red when she’s channeling Wrathia’s power, etc). Visually, Ava’s Demon is absolutely stunning, with the gorgeous, rich colors being the–no pun intended–highlight.
The comic is nineteen chapters in, just over seventeen hundred pages long–and that isn’t counting the additional motion comic sequences set to music by Frank Haught–and the story isn’t even close to over. Check out Czajkowski’s Patreon to support the comic.
2 – ON A SUNBEAM
On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden is a comic about friendship and finding yourself… in space. Although not a huge fan of sci-fi (by her own admission), Waldon brings something new and inventive to the genre. In fact, Space-Fantasy might be the more appropriate term for a story with spaceships that look and maneuver like fish and trees that grow in abandoned architecture scattered across the stars.
The comic follows Mia at two different points in her life, skipping back and forth between her time working as part of a construction crew restoring old buildings and her youth at boarding school. And don’t get too bogged down in trivial details like “gravity” or “fish aren’t spaceships,” and don’t ask questions like “how do they breathe in space?” or “where does the water come from?” Just go with it. After all, everyone in the comic does. Even the most fantastic elements of this universe just amount to another day for its occupants, making even the most beautiful or exotic setting feel familiar and safe.
Throughout it all, Mia is trying to discover who she wants to be. She’s looking for direction in life and acceptance for who she is. The people around her, who she slowly lets become her friends, each have their own stories to tell and, with their self-assured help, Mia starts down the path of self-acceptance… with a few twists and turns and bumps along the way.
Walden does a great job developing her characters and supplying representation. The main cast of characters is made up primarily of women. I would say all women, but one of the characters is agender, preferring the pronouns “they/them” which is really nice to see.
On A Sunbeam finished earlier this year, so you can binge the whole story all at once, rather than waiting for weekly updates. If you like Walden’s work, donate to the page or support her on Patreon. You can check out her other comics here.
1 – THE WORMWOOD SAGA
The Wormwood Saga by Daniel Lieske tops this list for many, many reasons. Not least of all because you can read it in over a dozen languages, including German–which is what it was initially published in–and–thankfully–English.
Once again, this is the kind of comic the internet was made for, panels flowing seamlessly from one to the next as you scroll down the page. This gives the story an incredible flow and sense of purpose, allowing you to keep reading constantly without having to stop and go to a new page. Which works incredibly well with the sense of adventure cultivated by the narrative.
Lieske captures the passion and invincibility of childhood amazingly well through the voice of Jonas, the narrator and protagonist of the story. At first, that’s all it seems to be, childhood fantasies that even Jonas can’t remember if they’re memories or dreams. As the world around Jonas becomes more and more magical, Jonas is forced to start on a journey that might be more than he bargained for. I’ll let you read the rest yourself. This is a story best experienced when you don’t know what to expect.