Since webcomics aren’t limited by traditional genre categories, marketing demands, or editorial feedback, you can do all kinds of wild things with the worldbuilding. (The only catch is, you have to be able to draw it.)
Here are some comics that take full advantage.
Kill 6 Billion Demons: Sorority sister fights through the demon realm(s) to rescue her boyfriend. She’s not actually that into the boyfriend — in fact, she’ll hook up with a quirky, pointy demon lady along the way — but she’s the only human who even knows where she is, so it’s up to her.
Weird and involved monster/creature designs, absolutely amazing settings. I’ve saved so many pages because things like “long shot of a marketplace built in the stone head of a petrified dead god” make great inspiration.
The Hazards of Love: Queer teen who obviously never watched Madoka Magica makes a deal with a talking cat, gets stuck in a monster dimension, but this one doesn’t fight battles so much as “do housework for an evil shadow deer.” Their girlfriend starts to suspect something is up, but the only other beings in Queens who know what really happened are ghosts, so that’s going to be tough.
Bright World’s aesthetic comes from the Mexican ephemera the artist grew up with, which isn’t a flavor you see in a lot of webcomic settings. The online version is black-and-white — pick up the books to see it in color.
Devil’s Candy: Cute imp student makes a Frankenstein girl for a science project. Hijinks ensue.
No alternate human dimension in this one — it’s just a monster school, with cool goth architecture, fun culture clashes, and cute kids dealing with struggles like “as a mixed-species monster, how do I balance the expectations from both sides of my family?” and “how do I get my designs through this fashion show alive?”
Girl Genius: In a steampunk alternate Europe governed by mad scientists, Agatha learns she has massive talents as the heir to a brilliant family’s legacy, all suppressed for her protection. Until now.
An amazing study in payoffs for long-term setup — someone tries to invite Agatha to England around book 2 or 3, she accepts the invitation around book 20. (Which is when we find out London is a network of submarine domes, run by a giant shapeshifter.)
The Last Halloween: Trick-or-treating is canceled, the monsters are invading. To find out what’s going on (and, hopefully, how to fix it), Mona teams up with some other kids she assumes are just in their costumes already…
Only comic on this list that’s fully set in the Real World, since it explores how that world gets permanently changed. Always suspenseful, sometimes pretty gruesome, usually funny anyway.
A cut of Bookshop’s profits goes to local bookstores — you can even pick a specific favorite store to support. If you buy through one of these links, I get a cut as the referrer, so it supports this comic too.
This list was made for a request — got any suggestions for more themes I should do in the future? Or recs of your own, for a comic with cool worldbuilding that didn’t show up here? Drop a comment and share!
More Bookshop recs! This time, for webcomics I started reading more than a decade ago…and that have stood the test of time enough for me to keep recommending you buy the books.
It’s still a little dicey doing older recs, because time and social standards keep marching on. Sometimes you’ll get a joke about gender roles that wasn’t even malicious at the time, it just feels hopelessly backward a decade or two later. Other times you’ll get a Windows 95 reference. Those used to be funny, I promise.
I enjoyed these comics anyway! Here’s hoping some of you will too.
Webcomics I Read In The 2000s And Still Like
Bruno the Bandit: Sword and sorcery (and cell phones…and social satire) with a selfish mercenary and his put-upon microdragon sidekick. Their struggles include Lovecraftian horrors, fame vampires, and losing the TV remote.
Honestly, this is the series that most inspired the “off-color jokes that seem very dated” warning. But they usually come from characters that aren’t supposed to be guiding lights of moral clarity, and the comic’s best moments are timelessly on-point.
…it also has some surprisingly-direct inspiration for things I ended up putting in Leif & Thorn.
Dreamless: A romantic drama about two people on opposite sides of the world — he’s in Japan, she’s in the US — who see each other’s waking lives while they’re asleep. Then WWII breaks out.
The art in this one might not stand out in the modern-day webcomic scene, but when it launched? This level of painterly, realistic style — for an internet comic! — was kind of mind-blowing.
User Friendly: Misadventures of a bunch of geeks employed by a programming company. Like Dilbert, but in the good ways, not the “weird authorial MRA spiral” ways.
Honestly, I have no idea if this will be funny or relatable to new readers who weren’t around for the era of nerd culture it’s riffing on. But maybe it will! Give it a try, let me know.
Ozy and Millie: Two best friends, an introspective wolf and an energetic chaos-agent fox, have cute adventures. Some philosophy, some politics, one excellent dragon dad.
The artist got wildly popular later on for Phoebe And Her Unicorn. I wish that translated into more appreciation for her early work! It’s not like her skills were undercooked back when she drew this series — it absolutely shines.
Suburban Jungle: Furry sitcom adventures (with a dash of sci-fi) of model and would-be actress Tiffany Tiger, and her friends and colleagues around LA.
If you click with it, check out the sequel series too. (Maybe even check out the sequel if you don’t click with it! Same universe, but the artist tries new things.)
Reminder: A cut of Bookshop’s profits goes to local bookstores — you can even pick a specific favorite store to support. If you buy through one of these links, I get a cut as the referrer, so it supports this comic too.
Have a favorite classic webcomic that isn’t on this list? Got a request for a rec theme I should do next month? Drop a comment and share!
A belated FAQ for the Leif & Thorn: Off-Shoots bonus comics.
The current bonus arc involves paint swatches, overzealous fans, and a couple of familiar-looking home-wreckers. The next one will explore modified magic Roombas and the perils of United Islands ice cream sales.
After that? Haven’t decided yet. But I’m going to have fun with it.
Q. Why does Leif & Thorn have bonus comics that are only for paying supporters?
None of these make a ton of profit! Which is why I’m always working on new things to sell, hoping to tempt readers who haven’t bought anything before, but who are interested in the new thing.
Leif & Thorn: Off-Shoots is the latest New Thing.
Q. Are you paywalling the entire comic/site/archive?
A. No. The only paywalled comics are the bonus comics that were exclusive when I posted them.
The main Leif & Thorn comic is still completely free to read, and I don’t plan on ever changing that.
Q. When do the Off-Shoots comics get posted?
A. Every other Wednesday! Since the start of 2022.
…I might change the update schedule to “every Wednesday” at some point. Seriously, that’s how much I’m enjoying making these.
Off-Shoots comics are scheduled to go up at 10 PM (US Eastern time), which puts them on the front page of the site for 2 hours, before getting replaced by the regular Thursday comic.
Q. So the bonus comics are supposed to show up on the front page?
A. Well, yeah.
Look, I want readers to be excited and intrigued by the Off-Shoots comics. Kinda defeats the purpose if I don’t show you that they exist, you know?
Q. When a bonus comic is up, how do I find the regular comics?
A. Every Off-Shoots comic has links for “First in Regular Archives” and “Latest in Regular Archives” in the navigation!
You can also browse the main (free) comic archives on the Storyline Archive page, which is always linked in the main menu.
Q. If I only read regular Leif & Thorn, am I going to be missing essential plot stuff in the Off-Shoots comics?
A. No. I wouldn’t be that mean.
You’re going to be missing fun bonus storylines, with a spotlight on characters and settings that I don’t get to showcase in the main comic as much as I’d like to.
They have more of the same humor, worldbuilding, and fun character moments you already like in the regular Leif & Thorn comics! But they’re not plot-essential.
Q. What if I don’t pay to see the bonus comics online…but I do pay to get the Leif & Thorn books?
A. The Off-Shoots comics will be collected in the print volumes!
You’ll have to be patient, though. They won’t start appearing until at least Volume 6, and we haven’t even crowdfunded Volume 5 yet.
If you don’t want to wait, $5-and-up Patreon supporters get immediate access to the full archive of bonus comics, including the new ones as soon as they get posted.
…is bringing the wildest takes out of the woodwork, I swear.
“Why does he need a million dollars?” Buddy, making each book costs money, and he knew a lot of people like his books. If one book is $10 to print and ship, and his readers preorder 100,000, there’s $1 million already. That’s just math.
As of this writing, he has almost 150,000 backers. Lots of them are getting multiple books! Some are getting merch! All of that has production costs.
“Why doesn’t he use a publishing company?” He’s been using publishing companies for 20 years. Now he OWNS a publishing company. That’s…probably how he knows how much books cost.Continue reading The Brandon Sanderson crowdfunding campaign…