I think the first webcomic I really read might have been Yu+Me, which I got tired of pretty quickly. From there I moved on to Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life and Copper, which is pretty darn good stuff but was rarely if ever updated even when I found them a couple of years ago.
At this point I had started waking up to the fact that webcomics, as a medium, might be deeper than I had thought. I already knew that comics has matured considerably since its infancy (there will probably be a post on Batman appearing in kbospeak in the future), but webcomics hadn’t really struck me as being very attractive. These first tastes of high quality, then, paved the way for what I and apparently everyone else agrees is the absolute pinnacle of the medium right now – A Lesson Is Learned But the Damage Is Irreversible. It is astounding: the artwork and the writing are brilliant, expressionism and impressionism with a great deal of abstraction. Often there is no defined beginning or end, or the end has little or no relation to the beginning, recurring characters change in appearance. The absurdist humour makes it occasionally hilarious, but what makes it all worth it in the end is the constant undercurrent of sadness that gives A Lesson Is Learned its emotional impact. I’ve used the desktop background based on number 014, “Getting Over Women” twice the last two years, because it is perfect.
Go read A Lesson Is Learned now, from start to beginning. It will take a long time but it will be worth it. It is unfortunately no longer being updated.
Completely different, in visual style, is Dresden Codak. In the words of its creator Aaron Diaz, it is “an illustrated celebration of science, death and human folly”. The scope is at times both interstellar and intertemporal, but it is more often more down to earth. Themes include the future of humankind, RPG:ing, the celebration of science, love, childhood memories, friendship, childhood trauma and tiny dream analysis. Most of the episodes are just that, episodic, but don’t miss the extended “Hob” storyline. Dresden Codak is being continuously updated.
For the more story-oriented reader I have two recommendations: Rice Boy and Shi Long Pang. Rice Boy is set on the Overside, a world invented and continually explored by its creator Evan Dahm in the story arcs “Rice Boy” and “Order of Tales”. Adventure in a sort of fantasy-ish world, lovely artwork and with “Order of Tales”, weekly updates. I love Rice Boy and am saving up for the book and posters.
Shi Long Pang chronicles the wanderings of the eponymous shaolin monk Pang, new to the world outside of his now destroyed home monastery and looking to save what can be saved of the wisdom of that place in the form of books that were rescued from a fire. Among the difficulties he now has to face is social intercourse, bullies, his guilt of surviving the attack on the monastery, normal life outside the walls – and girls. Updated weekly and a truly great read, often with fascinating historical/factual information and explanations in the footnotes.
In a very different vein comes xkcd, “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”. It has no over arching story, but an enormous open heart and a solid footing in nerdy esoteria and science. Updated several times every week. xkcd is like candy that is healthy for you.
So, these last four are the ones I follow at the moment. I also look in on Dar and Anders Loves Maria, but I’m still a bit undecided on those. Good luck if you go webcomic hunting and I’m always happy for reading recommendations!
PS. Slightly less healthy but certainly hilarious is Gone With the Blastwave, updated very rarely. [updated 091128: new GWTBW domain]