Many fantastic webcomics end up going to print once they reach peak popularity. In the past couple years, Hyperbole and a Half, Perry Bible Fellowship, and Hark! A Vagrant have received print collections, which were all absolutely justified.
There are still a few great comics set in fantasy or speculative fiction worlds that live solely on the internet, which means they’re free to read and updated regularly. We’ve compiled a list of our favorites.
We might as well get the wildly NSFW comic out of the way first. In addition to featuring the highest number of cartoon penises out of any comic on this list, Oglaf is also just a well-written, imaginative series. Although some jokes carry from strip to strip, Oglaf is episodic enough that clicking around the series’s archive is a great way to start. It’s also worth mentioning that Oglaf gives high fantasy the edgy humor it so desperately needs, much like print comic Rat Queens.
Manly Guys, written by Kelly Turnbull, is chock full of video game references and pop culture insider jokes. It does do some gender work, as the title suggests, but the comic’s conceit is more about playing with geek culture tropes and skewering video game characters known for their machismo.
The art in OOTS isn’t much to write home about, but it utilizes a likable concept, combining the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons with a Toy Story setup. The comic asks: How would your playable characters make sense of what happens to them during D&D gameplay? Would they be jealous of each other’s upgrades, or question your decisions and rolls? The resulting chaos is fun to read.
4. Dark Science
Dark Science is what happens when a comic artist, in this case Aaron Diaz, has an established venue, Dresden Codak, and can produce a comic that fires on all cylinders. The art in Dark Science looks professional and well-realized, and its narrative operates on several levels. Overall, it’s just very, very smart.
Broodhollow, a lovely cosmic horror comic that recently went to print, is the home of several mini-comics, including Cadavre, the Charlie Brown of sentient skeletons. The primary comic is set in a 1930s town where “all manner of ghosts” live, and it’s both creepy and charming.
Monster Pulse, at times, captures some of the magic in print works like Image’s Wayward. It follows a group of kids who each have a familiar creature that grew out of one of their body parts. The protagonist looks after a monster who was originally her heart, and a friend of hers gets to ride his own hair into battle.
7. O Human Star
O Human Star’s strength is in its writing and clear passion for cyborg politics, as well as guessing at what complications will arise when humans develop advanced artificial intelligence. For long periods, the comic is a quiet meditation on what it means to be human, and it’s compulsively readable.
Paranatural’s sly use of manga-esque stylistic tropes makes it the funniest comic on this list. From the very beginning, its characters leap off the screen using their high energy overreactions and pratfalls. It, like Brian K. Vaughan’s often-praised Paper Girls, follows a group of middle schoolers combating otherworldly forces.
Stand Still. Stay Silent uses breathtaking art reminiscent of Tolkien’s drawings of Middle-earth to frame its story, set in the wilderness of Iceland after an apocalyptic war that wiped out most of the “Old World.” The comic’s mythology is astounding, and it’s easy to become immersed in its style — which looks lovingly illustrated in watercolors — from the first page.