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Webcomics to watch out for…

2013 September 23

In my ongoing quest for image-and-word combinations with female characters that aren’t made of boobs in jumpsuits, I’ve been doing some trawling of the internet for webcomics for your edu-tainment. Here’s some of the best of them.

Strong Female Protagonist

A black and white panelled comic with thick drawn line art and grey shading. A ground level image of a pair of feet in trainers walk past an angry crowd who are hurling abuse. A teenage girl in shorts and tshirt holds aloft a man in an overcoat and gasmask, demanding to know if the crowd know who he is. When they do not answer, she picks up a car and throws it. A huge, angry text bubble with NOW! appears by the wreckage. Yes, I found this by doing a lazy Google search after “decent webcomics that won’t make me scream” didn’t turn up anything useful. But it worked, and here we are. Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan (writer) and Molly Ostertag (art) is a superheroine comic about an American teenager trying to deal with being an ex-superhero, her former comrades and enemies, and going to university whilst still having epic superpowers.

There’s an X-Men-esque backdrop of mutation-hatred, and so she exists, like many superheroes, in a world that is not entirely happy about having superheroes. The black and white thick line art is really nice, I like the emphasis on characters’ faces and expressions rather than bodies, and the themes of power, responsibility and morality are something I think the “super” genre is well-placed to tackle.

The main exploration is, naturally enough, about what it means to be a Strong Female Protagonist, and links neatly to this nice article on the subject in the New Statesman recently. Yes, the lead character is “strong” – she’s a physical powerhouse, and strong-minded too. Her strength isn’t just physical, but also emerges in terms of her blunt decision-making and clearly held beliefs about right and wrong. Strength ostensibly defines her, but the comic is about the questions and complications behind what that might mean.

Delilah Dirk

I was absolutely bowled over by the quality of the artwork in Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. The colouration is superb, and the detail in each of the panels makes the whole thing look absolutely lush: there’s a “classic story” feel to the whole piece, and the pages, like our titular heroine, are full of life and activity.

The comic is set in (sort of) Constantinople in 1805, and is very much in the style of The Mummy and Adele Blanc-Sec (watch the movie now, if you haven’t). I won’t lie, I do like a good swashbuckling, wisecracking character in a gung-ho Sinbad the Sailor-style universe, where bad guys are bad and the goodies might do slightly naughty things, but it’s all in a Robin Hood sort of way.

This is one of those narratives: Delilah is half English, half Greek, all Action Famous Adventure Lady, and all tongues should remain in cheeks, except when they’re lolling at the beautiful landscapes of Tony Cliff, whose work has also graced Flight. It’s not particularly deep or meaningful, but hey, not all narratives with female characters need to be about what it is to be a female character, right? It’s definitely a damn good yarn, and worth a look for the art if nothing else.

The Fox Sister

A four panel vertical comic. A woman in an overcoat steps into a darkened alleyway, the sun setting above her. The shadows darken and lengthen. After a moment, a many tailed fox with gleaming red eyes pads out of the bottom panel towards the reader.

A fox-spirit comic? I don’t mind if I do.

Rather than the more familiar Japanese shapeshifter, The Fox Sister is about the Korean Kumiho. It’s another gorgeously-drawn webcomic and the product of a very welcome collaboration between Jayd Aït-Kaci and Christina Strain, who is departing from her usual colourist work to write this modern fairytale of two sisters.

The thick line-brush work and open panels sit well with the thoughtful, slow-paced writing in a landscape of snow and secrets. I love the way the fox spirit steps out of the panel on the page I’ve included here.

Something about the artwork reminds me of a pre-Blu-ray cleanup Disney’s 101 Dalmations, especially in the colour palette and faces of characters, but this is not a Disney story, though the elements make it appear like it might be – we have an all-American hero, and his ongoing terrible attempts at both speaking Korean and trying to get romantic with our heroine, Yun Mee, who is far more interested in fighting the fox-demon that took over her elder sister’s life.

Gunnerkrigg Court

A mysterious school, in a mysterious city, by a mysterious forest, separated by a large (mysterious) moat. This is a webcomic of teenagers, demons, spirits, folktales, ghosts, robots and the usual school-related growing pains. Gunnerkrigg Court is Harry Potter meets Malory Towers meets something deeper and darker altogether.

It’s a huge, sprawling world, crammed full of interesting female characters. The story focuses on the central pair of Antimony and Katriona, who are best friends, and their experiences going to school and becoming part of a magical/technological war which is threatening to move from cold to hot.

The comic is subtle, curious, funny and strange, with tones of Gloom Cookie, although the art is cleaner and more colourful; slightly French and manga-esque in feel. I particularly like the fact that the world has rules that are revealed as you go along, and how many things (and people) are left unexplained and without immediate resolution. Relationships are equally complicated – this is a world where love and feelings are explored in detail.

That’s all for the moment – more in the next post. Please share any webcomics you find with the team here, as we’re always looking for more reading material. For bonus points, here’s a link from the Mary Sue on Gail Simone’s griping about writing those troublesome male characters. Because it made me laugh this afternoon.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. wererogue permalink
    September 26, 2013

    Oh man, I could spend a long time trawling through my webcomics list picking out the good ‘uns as suggestions.

    • Miranda permalink*
      September 27, 2013

      Three random picks, if you’re super busy? :D

      • wererogue permalink
        September 27, 2013

        Well, not random, but I can grab you 3 interesting ones for sure:

        1. Nimona
        It hasn’t been running long (maybe a year?) but I’m totally in love with Nimona, a story about a shape-shifting runaway troublemaker who teams up with an evil mastermind, and in which nobody is quite what they seem.

        2. Bad Machinery (Scary Go Round)
        Bad Machinery is the continuation of Scary Go Round, a sort of British version of Eerie Indiana. John Allison pays incredible detail to the believably of his characters, changing their outfits and hairstyles regularly but keeping them recognizable and imbuing them with deep personalities and personal details. Add to that the mysteries of Tackleford, and a note-perfect expression of general British dialogue, diversity and all, and Scary Go Round will always hold a special place in my heart.

        Bad Machinery is a relaunch of the comic, with the old 20-something characters a few years older and holding respectable positions, and the younger members of the SGR cast taking the lead. It was a brave step and one that has paid off fantastically.

        3. Sinfest
        Word of warning: Sinfest seems to have started out as a message from the author Tatsuya Ishida: “I love my vices, I’m just a normal guy, leave me alone” comic. Despite that, there’s still something a bit compelling about “It-Girl” Monique and “Regular Guy” Slick, and the occasional pet comic and poetry kept me reading long after I was fed up with the porn- and drug- worship and casual harassment wore very thin indeed.

        And I’m so, so glad I did. Ishida had some sort of epiphany in 2011 (I remember this strip especially: and started to explore some pretty fundamental feminist concepts, breaking down bit-by-bit the culture that he’d endorsed so strongly before. He neglected his other storylines for a while to bring in a new group, The Sisterhood – women who see the cracks in the illusion and are out to put things back in order.

        Sinfest still isn’t perfect – it does sometimes have weird, simplistic tones to the issues it’s portraying. But to see an author wrestle with and overturn such a fundamental belief in his work which revolved around that belief was priceless, and will keep me reading for a lot longer.

        Other interesting mentions that I don’t have time to break down:
        Guilded Age
        Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Ether
        Girl Genius
        Order Of The Stick
        Hark! A Vagrant.
        The Non-Adventures of Wonderella
        The Trenches – despite the Penny Arcade association.

      • wererogue permalink
        September 27, 2013

        A couple of links to recent Bad Machinery-related things:

        And the link for Nimona:

      • wererogue permalink
        September 27, 2013

        More honorable mentions:
        Dumbing of Age
        VirusComix: Subnormality
        Stop Paying Attention

        • Miranda permalink*
          September 27, 2013

          Whee, thanks! This is great :D

          • wererogue permalink
            September 27, 2013

            You’re welcome :)

  2. north5 permalink
    September 27, 2013

    NSFW, but more in a “naked people” way than an “enormous anime boobies” way.

    Oglaf does Valentine’s Day:

  3. Ellie permalink
    September 27, 2013

    I like Widdershins

    Great female lead

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