Webcomics are my greatest passion. I have spend much time researching and thinking about the form. And, I guess, I have read a few of them as well. Here I'll just list some of my favorite webcomics of all time, in no particular order. All are great; some in more traditional ways than other. Most of them are pretty weird though, if I'm being honest.
I love worldbuilding. I can sometimes find myself obsessed exploring a universe with laws and vistas different from our own. A fantasy world with elves, dwarves, and dragons doesn't do it for me anymore, however. I got my fill of that a decade ago. What unicorn Jelly provides is next-level. Building a science-fantasy universe from the ground up with unique laws of physics, flat triangular planets, crystal-based animal life, and an original culture. The black-and-white pixel art, as you may see in the image above, is used to make some gorgeous landscapes. The character designs do look awkward from time to time, but the characters make up for this with their strong personalities. Unicorn Jelly is a brilliant story of motherhood, queerness, and rational thought, in the face of a religious conspiracy with the fate of all worlds at stake. But mostly, I just want to get a Taasen set.
Of all the webcomics about young trans folk finding a place in the world, none manage to strike the balance of being uplifting and real as well as Rain does. This is the story of Rain, a 17-year old manga reader who enrolls in a new school under her new name. It isn't long until she runs into her childhood friend and gets recognized. Soon she finds herself part of a tight-nit group of LGBT teenagers, all dealing with their own issues with the conservative people around them. Sometimes, the characters find love and support in unexpected places. Other times, characters desperately try and fail to connect. But as long as you have a community, you have strength.
Homestuck is many things. It is an extended piece of digital theatre in the style of the English classics, but it is also a gnostic creation myth. It is the ultimate wish-fulfillment story, an exploration of characters reaching their ultimate ability for self-realization, but it does not shy away from exploring the trauma and isolation the characters experience as they go through this process. It is about a dozen coming-of-age stories, each with their own themes of abuse, substance addiction, queerness, and love. It is a deep-dive in what the Internet means and how we can (and will often fail to) use it to make a better world. But, most of all, it's the story of 20 kids playing a game, watching their worlds get destroyed, and building a new one from scratch.
It feels like the classical aspiration of US webcomics: exist for decades, evolve with your audience, and just keep on going indefinitely. Unlike the many self-contained stories or episodic webcomics you find on my website, El Goonish Shive is a narrative with apparently no specific trajectory in mind. Starring a group of teenagers coming into contact with magic and sci-fi, El Goonish Shive is a strongly character-driven story, all about friendship and self-discovery.
Being part of the El Goonish Shive community and following Dan Shive and his characters for many years has greatly affected my life. El Goonish Shive isn't really one thing, and I have difficulty describing the appeal of it at all. But if it sounds appealing to read about a bunch of LGBT nerds who think too much about the inverse-square law, video game logic, or how to defend against a hypothetical zombie invasion, and then watch them fight with somekind of villain in the next story... maybe you'll like it too?
The contents of Boulet's long-running blog vary between silly anecdotes of his travels, lovingly-rendered real human thoughts, and just random beautiful artwork like this here above. Consistently funny and/or heartwarming, Bouletcorp covers the entire range of human experience a middle-aged cartoonist in France may have.
Of all the works on this page, Gigi D.G.'s Cucumber Quest probably has the most conventional narrative. As the evil Nightmare Knight awakes from his slumber and tries to conquer Dreamside, a young, timid, unwilling hero and his much more courageous and bold sister must stop him. Together with an inept knight who is in love with the princess, they travel across each of the kingdoms in order to collect the mcguffins and save all the princesses.
The story is consistently hilarious, in no small part because of its many ridiculous characters. The webcomic is beautiful, with its stunning color schemes, soft brushes, and constantly changing artstyles. But most importantly, the story is interesting. A lot of intrigue and mystery surrounds a few of the characters, and they all get plenty of time to interact. The strong romantic tension between Almond and Peridot, hero and villain respectively, also adds to charm. Cucumber Quest is one of the most throroughly enjoyable coming-of-age adventures you may find.