By Erin Caine
In recent years, webcomics, self-published comics released online, have enjoyed a rapidly growing readership around the world. This alternative platform for sharing stories has the advantage of being largely available for free, making it more accessible than printed books in comic stores. The ambition and creativity of independent artists has steeped the medium in a wide variety of art styles, genres, and subjects.
Since the turn of the new millennium, several webcomics have even received awards and formal recognition, such as Gene Yuen Lang’s graphic novel (originally published online) “American Born Chinese,” which was nominated for a National Book Award in 2006.
Below is a list of webcomics that should definitely be on your reading list:
- “Shoot Around,” Suspu. Finnish artist Susanna Nousiainen (or “Suspu”) has somehow managed to create a comic that’s the perfect fusion of apocalyptic gloom and eccentric hilarity. A zombie outbreak befalls a goofy yet capable high school girl’s basketball team and their unlucky coach, and what ensues is a wayward journey through zombie-infested wastelands and awkward adolescence.
Alongside the comic’s unique premise are diverse characters (comprised of mostly LGBTQ people of color), witty dialogue, well-crafted humor, and genuinely tender character interactions. It’s over 100 chapters of pure, off-the-wall adventure.
- “Cheese in the Trap,” Soonkki. This Korean drama is so popular it spurred both an award-winning television series and an upcoming movie. Its memorable (and adorably chaotic) female lead is Seol, a college student who, wary by nature, begins to suspect that her well-liked classmate, Jung, isn’t quite as friendly and benign as he seems. Her suspicion is, of course, only complicated by her begrudging attraction to him, and the two begin to form a strange and mysterious bond. The color palette and character designs are pleasant and eye-catching, and the story continually engrosses you with its dramatic twists and turns.
- “Their Story,” Tan Jiu. Another highly popular webcomic, this Chinese slice-of-life series receives millions of online views, and widespread praise for its lively art style, endearing ensemble cast, and its combination of raucous comedy and realistic snapshots. The comic is a series of simple, charming vignettes that tell the story of how the two protagonists, quirky high school girls Sun Jing and Qiu Tong, met and eventually fell in love. It originally began as an art concept before becoming a full-fledged series. It’s now 145 chapters in length, a candid series that ambles effortlessly between comedic and heartfelt.
- “Annarasumanara,” Ha Il-kwon. Published in 2010, this surreally beautiful Korean comic follows a high school girl, Ai, whose life of hardship and extreme poverty is heartbreakingly rendered in stark black-and-white illustrations and scrapbook-like images. Ai struggles to find a compromise between adolescence and adulthood, between her buried dreams and a more practical worldview, and this central tension is manifested in her secret love of magic and her childhood desire to become a magician. When she meets a mysterious magician who seems to be able to help her, she must decide if she can trust his fantastical promises.