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Diversity and Creative Artwork in Webcomics

by Danielle Ellis on 2020-10-06T10:09:36-07:00 in Diversity, Graphic Novels | Comments

Two weeks ago, I wrote about graphic novels, the joy of discovering them as an adult, and how they’ve helped me get through 2020. They’re fun, artistic, diverse, and they’re easy to read! Some of the only drawbacks with graphic novels, at least for me, is that they can be expensive and published frequently, which makes them hard to keep up with. Especially if I’m reading something like Y: The Last Man as it comes out, which had sixty issues! The library certainly helps, but I’ve also found another format with a lot of the same benefits, without the drawback of either buying issues or waiting until omnibus editions that combine multiple issues come out: reading webcomics.

Webcomics can be like comic strips, with standalone stories and even standalone characters, or they can be more like long-form graphic novels that tell a continuous story. Similar to graphic novels, they’re artistic and fun and they’re easy to read in chunks. They are often self-published, with the storyline and artwork done by the same person, and vary in artistic ability from simple sketches to advanced photoshop skills to MS paint. Because they rarely go through publishers or an expensive printing process, people of all artistic abilities can find success with webcomics. And unlike graphic novels, they are often free! While you need an internet connection and device to read them, many webcomics are published on free websites. Since there’s a low barrier to access, it can be easy to create your own as well. With a little bit of creativity and access to a paint program, photoshop, a tablet and stylus, or one of many different digital design programs (hint – you can check out tablets or use library computers!), you too can create your own webcomic. If you want tips on the software, or books how to get started drawing or designing comics, check out this list!

The best thing about webcomics, in my opinion, is the chance to see work that might not be published otherwise, either due to traditional artistic talent or topic. Sarah’s Scribbles for example was eventually published because of its popularity, but likely wouldn’t have been without the popular demand because the artwork is from MS paint and is barely more complex than stick figures. And while diverse representation in terms of race, ability, gender, and more has improved in traditional print books, especially in the last decade or two, the lack of mainstream publishing restrictions in webcomics leads to more comics by artists that are traditionally pushed to the margins.

Consider Witchy, by Ariel Reis, which takes place in world where the longer your hair is, the stronger you are, and the most powerful are declared enemies of the state and killed. Or check out Mooncakes, by Suzanne Walker, an Asian-American, queer love story featuring werewolves and horse-like demons. Or if you’d prefer standalone comics, check out The Disabled Life by Jessica and Lianna Oddi, a comic that focuses on adulthood, social media, family, and a slice of life from two sisters that use wheelchairs. There are so many options to choose from, and lots of diverse voices to listen to.

Still not sold on webcomics, or no reliable internet connection? Come to the library for our Wi-Fi or check out a hotspot to read them at home! Prefer physical books you can flip through? Check out some that were published as webcomics then again in print later, like Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu or As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman. For more webcomic suggestions (both those online and ones that are now in print at the library), check out this list

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