4 Fantasy Webcomics that will Rock Your World

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The wonderful world of webcomics is a vast and exciting place. The internet doesn’t have the restrictions of corporate overseers and there’s no need for censorship or strict marketing parameters- so webcomics often have a greater diversity of cast and storytelling as well as a greater freedom of expression in which to tell their stories. There’s likely to be webcomic out there that satisfies any nerd’s needs.

Here, I’m going to list 4 webcomics I very much enjoy and talk about why I think you would enjoy them too. Feel free to suggest your own webcomics in the comments!

  1. Shortpacked!

    This is our only completed webcomic of the bunch. Shortpacked! is a comic by David Willis that has a huge backlog. It ran for ten years from 2005 to 2015. It’s one of those comics where you can very much watch both the creator’s ideas and storytelling evolve, as well as their art. A small example is the fact it starts out in black and white and ends in color.

    The comic takes place on a toy store, which like the webcomic is named “Shortpacked!” and deals with the beleaguered employees. Initially the cast starts out as Batman-obsessed failed stand-up comedian Ethan, hyperactive speedster Robin, shy, troubled Amber, unashamed asshole Mike and Ninja Rick, who…really likes ninjas. They were all under the thumb of their tyrannical boss Galasso who sees the toy store as a sort of empire.  However, the cast quickly developed and expanded and by the time the webcomic ended it was almost entirely different.

    A lot of people may know of Shortpacked! solely because of its Batman jokes. The “Batman can breathe in Space” comic became so famous that it ended up being referenced in a commercial for Lego Batman 3.   Shortpacked! offers a really tongue-in-cheek look at superheroes, cartoons and the ridiculousness of fandom and internet culture. It even parodies newspaper comics, politics and current events a bit too.

    While the comic started out mostly focusing on pop culture humor, the characters eventually gain complex backstories and relationships and the comic expands to be about this as well, while still being humorous. In fact, it deals with heavy issues like abuse, homophobia and grief. The characters grow and change a lot, evolving into better people while still maintaining their quirky dysfunctionality.

    And throughout all of this we still have stuff like ridiculous superpowered brawls breaking out over retail (including a fistfight with Sarah Palin), a resurrected Ronald Reagan running around (that's him delivering the "electoral map" punch above), historical Jesus Christ literally becoming a member of the cast, a talking robot car who throws pies and dresses up as a superhero and world-ending threats that originate from old Cap’n Crunch commericals. Shortpacked! is a truly wild ride.

    Something that should be noted about this comic is that it is set in the same universe as older webcomics by David Willis, namely It’s Walky and Roomies! There are a lot of references to these previous works, but you don’t really need to be familiar with them to “get” Shortpacked! I wasn’t familiar with them at all when I first read it, but I was able to follow along for the most part.

    Another thing that has to be noted is that early on, the comic has a lot of potentially uncomfortable humor. This includes rape jokes, some slurs and so on. Willis has stated that he regrets a lot of this and it isn’t present in later parts of the comic, but if you’re really bothered by that sort of thing, I’d suggest skipping the early parts and tuning in maybe halfway through, or not reading it at all.

    All in all though, Shortpacked! was one of the first webcomics I got hooked on for a reason- the wold of the strip grows splendidly and it’s great for some good laughs.

  2. Gunnerkrigg Court

    Gunnerkrigg Courtis an ongoing comic by Tom Sidell that launched in 2005. The main character of the strip is Antimony “Annie” Carver, who attends the mysterious boarding school the comic is named for, a school that combines both advanced technology and magic to create a world of its own. The school is situated near some magical woods that contain all sorts of creatures, including fairies, ghosts and even godlike beings.

    Annie quickly befriends a girl named Kat, who is gifted in robotic engineering. Annie quickly learns that she has a strange connection with magical beings and her family has a history deeply tied to the school. She becomes embroiled in the complicated politics of the academy and soon finds herself uncovering many dangerous secrets.

    Gunnerkrigg is an intriguing comic full of lovable characters with a smorgasboard of magical beings and multitude of mysteries to sink your teeth into. The comic keeps you hooked with its constantly evolving plotlines and tantalizing questions. What’s the story behind the mysterious ghost in the woods? Where did Annie’s father disappear to? What really happened to her mother? What kind of powers does Annie have? What is Gunnerkrigg Court really hiding?

    Gunnerkrigg has a wide sprawling mythology-you can see elements from old stories of alchemy, Native American folklore and so on. The story often has a gentle humor, but it can be a tearjerker as well.

    The art style evolves over the course of the comic- it starts out like this:

    And right now it’s more like this:

    The characters evolve along with the art as well. Annie goes head to head with her buried emotional issues and takes control of her strange abilities and Kat slowly comes into her own as well. We get introduced to strange and varied cast which includes mystical mediums, a trickster coyote god and a mysterious super strong woman who doesn’t seem to age or get hurt. There are tons of fun little subplots like the growing relationship between a robot and a shadow creature and even a pretty sweet coming out story.

     If you’re into magic boarding school stories like Harry Potter, intricate science fiction like Nausicaa, or even investigative stories, this clever combination of sci-fi and fantasy is definitely worth a look.

  3. Shootaround

    Shootaroundis the newest webcomic on this list. This ongoing comedy webcomic by suspu launched in March of 2015.  The comic is about a girls’ basketball team and their coach dealing with the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.

    Most zombie comedies deliver endless gore and gallows humor, but Shootaround goes a different route. Its humor is mainly sweet, gentle and character based, and while there are plenty of zombie fights, gore is kept to a minimum. The comic therefore has a unique take on the whole zombie thing. Rather than glorying in the grotesque, it instead shows the lighter side of the struggle to get by in an end of the world situation. There’s pop culture references and dorkiness galore.

    The cast of the comic is adorable. The girls and the coach very instantly and authentically come off as a tight knit group of friends who would do anything for each other and their interactions are both cute and funny.

    The initial concept of the comic is that the girls end up being a lot better at handling this new horrifying state of affairs than their coach (though he isn’t really super bad at coping himself), and seeing the badass way they plow through zombies while still retaining a desire to raid the mall for Pokemon cards and cute clothes is a treat. All of the gang has very defined personalities and they all have different struggles in coping with their new zombified world.

    In addition to being a lot of fun, the cast is refreshingly diverse. The characters come from all different backgrounds and there’s a ton of LGBT characters, and the comic never makes an issue about this. It just is, which is nice to see.

    Though still retaining a lot of lightheartedness, the story of Shootaround starts dealing with the more tragic side of the end of the world as it goes on and there’s lots of tasty drama to be had. We see the characters struggle with the deaths of families and friends, make tough choices while trying to survive and deal with paranoia, suspicion and really cute (but sometimes heartwrenching) romance.  There’s lots of action to be had as well!

    So, even if you don’t usually like zombies, you might find Shootaround to be your style thanks to the strength of its characters and the unique way the story balances humor and post-apocalyptic terror! Give it a shot!

  4. Namesake

    Namesake is an ongoing webcomic by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon that launched in 2010. The story of the webcomic is focused on a young woman names Emma Crewe, who after a mysterious encounter in a library, suddenly finds herself dropped down into the world of The Wizard of Oz. Emma learns that many of the famous fictional stories she’s read about are real, alternate dimensions. There is an organizations of people called “Namesakes”, who have the power to enter these worlds and reenact the classic stories thanks to the fact they share a name with the various protagonists. In fact, they must, reinact these stories, or there will be dire consequences.

    But weirdly enough, Emma is sent to Oz even though her name isn’t “Dorothy”. She’s a Namesake who doesn’t belong in this story, yet she’s here anyway. Now she has to figure out what’s going on and how to get home.

    Namesake is like delicious candy for any fantasy literature geek and especially to anyone who spends a lot of time considering the nature of storytelling and alternate universes. The series is chock full of clever references to and exciting exploration of multiple fairy tales, most notably The Wizard of Oz. This isn’t the movie version of Oz either (though that’s the one our protagonist of our story is familiar with, so she’s pretty confused) but the Oz books. So if you’re an Oz geek, you’ll especially find a ton to enjoy here. But if you aren’t, you can still follow the story with no problem!

    The plot of Namesake is a complicated one, much like a sprawling epic in style. The story is dense and most of the pages are chock full of dialogue. But the content is worth it and how packed the story is simply means you get more back on your investment.

    Isabelle’s art is beautiful and detailed, and so is the world the story creates as well as the huge cast of characters. Emma is a great lead, tough and clever and doing her best to cope with all the weirdness that gets thrown her way. Among this cast we’ve also got a woman who was raised by the Cheshire Cat, a boy who is without a heart, a talking pair of shoes and Emma’s sister, who has magical writing powers.

    There are also antagonists- a disgruntled band of former Namesakes who have given up their names and go by the “Rippers”. A member of the group, “Nose”, seems to have a personal connection to Emma. They are led by a mysterious figure called “One”.

    I love super metatextual “stories about stories” and Namesake is that sort of fiction at its finest. So don’t hesitate to go down the rabbit hole and dig deep into this complex and multilayered tale of myth and magic.