Though they pale in revenue compared to mainstream comics of Marvel/DC or Japanese comics. Web comics are widely popular not only in the U.S. but worldwide. For example Megatokyo was once a small web comic written by anime fans. Now it has over 4 volumes of printed comics published in both U.S. and Japan. The key to it’s success is synonymous with popular culture, 3-D characters and unique art styles.
The following web comic titles display all of that. Especially since many of them are making rounds in other media like magazines and non comic web sites. Greatly showing the power of web comics.
1. Penny Arcade written by Jerry Hollins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik
it debuted in 1998 and ever since then it has it’s own web site, 3 updates a week, and become one of the most popular web comics. The revenue for Penny Arcade has become enough for creators to quit their day jobs, establish a charity for sick kids who love videogames, and created a videogame convention. Enough about it’s success and more about it’s story. Penny Arcade is the story of two videogame fans John Gabe Gabriel and Tycho Erasmus Brahe who are author avatars. Their dynamic is very reminiscent of the idiosyncratic humor you find in an American Pie movie with geek references. The artwork isn’t too American or Japanese influenced just unique enough for you to remember it. Unlike most comics there is little plot as the story changes with each strip. However Penny Arcade’s strength is creating characters that are connected to their audience. As the gaming community for years has enjoyed Penny Arcade through it’s accurate depiction of their subculture. Gabe’s and Tycho’s weird adventures, weird interests, and weird relatives keep readers coming. Also with each day Penny Arcade’s influence gets bigger and bigger. So much so it garnered the creators a spot on the Time 100 most influential people list with the likes of Lady Gaga, Oprah, and Obama.
2. 8 bit Theater by Brian Clevinger
It is a long running web comic that just ended after a 9 year run and over 1220 comic strips. Brian Clevinger is an Eisner nominated comic book artist who not only worked on his own material but mainstream comics like Marvel. All his works have a recurring element of a witty blend of humor, parody, and satire that make the reader think about the story. In 8 bit Theater comedy is omnipresent as the entire plot is based on the blunders of the main character cast. The cast of main characters are Final Fantasy rejects known as the Light warriors. These characters fall into the cliched rpg archetypes but with a twist. For example there’s a swordmaster who is childish or the red mage who is crazy to point of fourth wall awareness as he sees the world as a tabletop rpg game. Which ironically is the story from the game references and the unique sprite art style that rarely seen anymore unless you have a Famicom or ColecoVision. Though 8 bit Theater has ended volumes of 8 bit Theater can be brought on the website.
3. Megatokyo originally written by Rodney Caston and illustrated by Fred Gallagher now written and illustrated by Fred Gallagher
It is arguably the most popular web comic due to overseas publishing and cult following. Megatokyo was started on August 14,2000 as a collaboration between Fred Gallagher and Rodney Caston. It was a project to express their fanboy thoughts on paper. Since then Robert Caston quit, Fred Gallagher took full time control including dealing with a career change and publisher change ,and found now hope in Kodansha of Japan. Japan which also happens to be the setting of the story. As main characters Piro and Largo live in Megatokyo with a harem rivaling that of Love Hina’s Keitaro Urashima. Keeping it authentic the comic is drawn in the manga style and characters speak Japanese literally some text bubbles are only in romaji. It helps create the wonderful world of Megatokyo with magical girls, maids, ninjas , Rent a zillas, and tons and tons of fan service. The main tension in the story has to be Piro’s inability to connect with his harem even though a character (Nanasawa Kimiko) has feeling for him. It’s a timeless challenge of men’s logical intelligence vs women’s emotional intelligence. With it’s dramatic plot and colorful cast of characters Megatokyo is a hit among web comics. Megatokyo usually updates on Tuesday or Thursday depending on the author’s schedule.
4. PvP by Scott Kurtz
also known as Player vs Player has a unique perspective of a videogame magazine company’s rise and fall. It’s take on the videogame subculture is only rivaled by another Top 5 list member Penny Arcade. Which is also it’s similar longevity as they both started in 1998 reflecting the dot com boom. It’s differences from Penny Arcade are evident in the way it’s been made. As PvP has 30 issues printed, was briefly serialized in a newspaper for a week, and PvP has also been animated a web comic first. Though the episodes were short and quality of animation is nothing compared to family guy. It still garnered fan support and a DVD release. PvP updates all days except the weekend.
5. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner
a truly random comic as topics ranges from Dating to unrealistic matters like Superheroes. The comic is the brainchild of Zach Weiner. He started SMBC in college but left to pursue his dreams of comic stardom. After that his one panel comics are taking over the net. The fact that his comics are one panel has hindered it’s plot as there is no recurring characters or consistent setting. SMBC updates daily.