Last updated

Webcomics (also known as online comics or Internet comics) are comics published on a website or mobile app. While many are published exclusively on the web, others are also published in magazines, newspapers, or comic books.


Webcomics can be compared to self-published print comics in that anyone with an Internet connection can publish their own webcomic. Readership levels vary widely; many are read only by the creator's immediate friends and family, while some of the largest claim audiences well over one million readers. [1] [2] [3] Webcomics range from traditional comic strips and graphic novels to avant garde comics, and cover many genres, styles, and subjects. [4] They sometimes take on the role of a comic blog. [5] The term web cartoonist is sometimes used to refer to someone who creates webcomics.


Many webcomics like Diesel Sweeties use non-traditional art styles. Dieselsweeties 01583.png
Many webcomics like Diesel Sweeties use non-traditional art styles.
The themes of webcomics like Eric Millikin's have caused controversy. Fetusx fx082106painting.jpg
The themes of webcomics like Eric Millikin's have caused controversy.

There are several differences between webcomics and print comics. With webcomics the restrictions of traditional books, newspapers or magazines can be lifted, allowing artists and writers to take advantage of the web's unique capabilities.


The creative freedom webcomics provide allows artists to work in nontraditional styles. Clip art or photo comics (also known as fumetti) are two types of webcomics that do not use traditional artwork. A Softer World , for example, is made by overlaying photographs with strips of typewriter-style text. [6] As in the constrained comics tradition, a few webcomics, such as Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North, are created with most strips having art copied exactly from one (or a handful of) template comics and only the text changing. [7] Pixel art, such as that created by Richard Stevens of Diesel Sweeties , is similar to that of sprite comics but instead uses low-resolution images created by the artist themself. [8] However, it is also common for some artists to use traditional styles, similar to those typically published in newspapers or comic books.


Webcomics that are independently published are not subject to the content restrictions of book publishers or newspaper syndicates, enjoying an artistic freedom similar to underground and alternative comics. Some webcomics stretch the boundaries of taste, taking advantage of the fact that internet censorship is virtually nonexistent in countries like the United States. [4] The content of webcomics can still cause problems, such as Leisure Town artist Tristan Farnon's legal trouble after creating a homoerotic Dilbert parody, [9] or the Catholic League's protest of artist Eric Millikin's "blasphemous treatment of Jesus." [10]


Webcomic artists use many formats throughout the world. Comic strips, generally consisting of three or four panels, have been a common format for many artists. Other webcomic artists use the format of traditional printed comic books and graphic novels, sometimes with the plan of later publishing books.

Scott McCloud, one of the first advocates of webcomics,[ when? ] pioneered the idea of the "infinite canvas" where, rather than being confined to normal print dimensions, artists are free to spread out in any direction indefinitely with their comics. [11] [12] Such a format proved highly successful in South-Korean webcomics when JunKoo Kim implemented an infinite scrolling mechanism in the platform Webtoon in 2004. [13] In 2009, French web cartoonist Balak described Turbomedia, a format for webcomics where a reader only views one panel at a time, in which the reader decides their own reading rhythm by going forward one panel at a time. [14] Some web cartoonists, such as political cartoonist Mark Fiore or Charley Parker with Argon Zark! , incorporate animations or interactive elements into their webcomics. [15]


The first comics to be shared through the Internet were Eric Millikin's Witches and Stitches, which he started uploading on CompuServe in 1985. [16] [17] Services such as CompuServe and Usenet were used before the World Wide Web started to rise in popularity in 1993. Early webcomics were often derivatives from strips in college newspapers,[ citation needed ] but when the Web became widely popular in the mid-1990s, more people started creating comics exclusively for this medium. By the year 2000, various webcomic creators were financially successful and webcomics became more artistically recognized. Unique genres and styles became popular during this period.

The 2010s also saw the rise of webtoons in South Korea, where the form has become very prominent. This decade has also seen an increasingly larger number of successful webcomics being adapted into animated series in China and Japan.

Webcomics collectives

In March 1995, artist Bebe Williams launched one of the first webcomics collectives, Art Comics Daily. [18] Newspaper comic strip syndicates also launched websites in the mid-1990s.

Other webcomics collectives followed, with many launching in the next decade. In March 2000, Chris Crosby, Crosby's mother Teri, and other artists founded Keenspot. [19] [20] In July 2000, Austin Osueke launched eigoMANGA, publishing original online manga, referred to as "webmanga".

In 2001, the subscription webcomics site Cool Beans World was launched. Contributors included UK-based comic book creators Pat Mills, Simon Bisley, John Bolton, and Kevin O'Neill, and the author Clive Barker. [21] Serialised content included Scarlet Traces and Marshal Law .

In March 2001, Shannon Denton and Patrick Coyle launched Komikwerks.com serving free strips from comics and animation professionals. The site launched with 9 titles including Steve Conley's Astounding Space Thrills , Jason Kruse's The World of Quest , and Bernie Wrightson's The Nightmare Expeditions.

On March 2, 2002, Joey Manley founded Modern Tales, offering subscription-based webcomics. [22] The Modern Tales spin-off serializer followed in October 2002, then came girlamatic and Graphic Smash in March and September 2003 respectively.

By 2005, webcomics hosting had become a business in its own right, with sites such as Webcomics Nation. [23]

Traditional comic book publishers, such as Marvel Comics and Slave Labour Graphics, did not begin making serious digital efforts until 2006 and 2007. [24] DC Comics launched its web comic imprint, Zuda Comics in October 2007. [25] The site featured user submitted comics in a competition for a professional contract to produce web comics. In July 2010, it was announced that DC was closing down Zuda. [26]


xkcd (2005) is among the many financially successful webcomics. Xkcd philosophy.png
xkcd (2005) is among the many financially successful webcomics.

Some creators of webcomics are able to do so professionally through various revenue channels. Webcomic artists may sell merchandise based on their work, such as T-shirts and toys, or they may sell print versions or compilations of their webcomic. [27] Webcomic creators can also sell online advertisement s on their websites. [28] In the second half of the 2000s, webcomics became less financially sustainable due to the rise of social media and consumers' uninterest in certain kinds of merchandise. Crowdfunding through Kickstarter and Patreon have also become sources of income for web cartoonists. [29]

Webcomics have been used by some cartoonists as a path towards syndication in newspapers. [30] Since the mid-1990s, Scott McCloud advocated for micropayments systems as a source of income for web cartoonists, but micropayment systems have not been popular with artists or readers. [31]


Many webcomics artists have received honors for their work. In 2006, Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel American Born Chinese , originally published as a webcomic on Modern Tales, was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award. [32] Don Hertzfeldt's animated film based on his webcomics, Everything Will Be OK, won the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Jury Award in Short Filmmaking, a prize rarely bestowed on an animated film. [33]

Many traditionally print-comics focused organizations have added award categories for comics published on the web. The Eagle Awards established a Favorite Web-based Comic category in 2000, and the Ignatz Awards followed the next year by introducing an Outstanding Online Comic category in 2001. After having nominated webcomics in several of their traditional print-comics categories, the Eisner Awards began awarding comics in the Best Digital Comic category in 2005. In 2006 the Harvey Awards established a Best Online Comics Work category, and in 2007 the Shuster Awards began an Outstanding Canadian Web Comic Creator Award. In 2012 the National Cartoonists Society gave their first Reuben Award for "On-line comic strips." [34]

Other awards focus exclusively on webcomics. The Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards [35] [36] consist of a number of awards that were handed out annually from 2001 to 2008. The Dutch Clickburg Webcomic Awards (also known as the Clickies) has been handed out four times between 2005 and 2010. The awards require the recipient to be active in the Benelux countries, with the exception of one international award. [37]

Webcomics in print

Though webcomics are typically published primarily on the World Wide Web, often webcomic creators decide to also print self-published books of their work. In some cases, web cartoonists may get publishing deals in which comic books are created of their work. Sometimes, these books are published by mainstream comics publishers who are traditionally aimed at the direct market of comic books stores. [38] Some web cartoonists may pursue print syndication in established newspapers or magazines.

The traditional audience base for webcomics and print comics are vastly different, and webcomic readers do not necessarily go to bookstores. For some web cartoonists, a print release may be considered the "goal" of a webcomic series, while for others, comic books are "just another way to get the content out." [39] Webcomics have been seen by some artists as a potential new path towards syndication in newspapers. According to Jeph Jacques ( Questionable Content ), "there's no real money" in syndication for webcomic artists. Some artists are not able to syndicate their work in newspapers because their comics are targeted to a specific niche audience and wouldn't be popular with a broader readership. [40]

Non-anglophone webcomics

Opraski sceski historje [cs] (lit. "The Pictures of the Czech History", though misspelled) is among the most popular Czech webcomics. Opraski sceski historje chrezt.jpg
Opráski sčeskí historje  [ cs ] (lit. "The Pictures of the Czech History", though misspelled) is among the most popular Czech webcomics.

Many webcomics are published primarily in English, this being a major language in Australia, Canada, India, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Cultures surrounding non-anglophone webcomics have thrived in countries such as China, France, India, Japan, and South Korea.

Webcomics have been a popular medium in India since the early 2000s. Indian webcomics are successful as they reach a large audience for free [42] and they are frequently used by the country's younger generation to spread social awareness on topics such as politics and feminism. These webcomics achieve a large amount of exposure by being spread through social media. [43]

In China, Chinese webcomics have become a popular way to criticize the communist government and politicians in the country. Many webcomics by popular artists get shared around the country thanks to social networks such as Sina Weibo and WeChat. Many titles will often be censored or taken down by the government.

See also

Related Research Articles

Comic strip Short serialized comics

A comic strip is a sequence of drawings, often cartoon, arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions. Traditionally, throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, these have been published in newspapers and magazines, with daily horizontal strips printed in black-and-white in newspapers, while Sunday papers offered longer sequences in special color comics sections. With the advent of the internet, online comic strips began to appear as webcomics.

Cartoonist Visual artist who makes cartoons

A cartoonist, also known as a comic strip creator, comic book artist, graphic novel artist, or comic book illustrator, is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons or comics. Cartoonists include artists who handle all aspects of the work and those who contribute only part of the production. Cartoonists may work in a variety of formats, including booklets, comic strips, comic books, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, manuals, gag cartoons, illustrations, storyboards, posters, shirts, books, advertisements, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and video game packaging.


Fetus-X was a weekly romantic horror comic written and drawn by Eric Millikin and Casey Sorrow. Millikin is an American artist and former human anatomy lab embalmer and dissectionist. Sorrow is an internationally known American illustrator and printmaker.

Keenspot Webcomics hosting service

Keenspot is a webcomics portal founded in March 2000 by cartoonist Chris Crosby, Crosby's mother Teri, cartoonist Darren Bleuel, and Nathan Stone.

<i>Manhua</i> Style of Chinese-language comics produced in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

Manhua are Chinese comics produced in China and in the Greater China region. Whilst Chinese comics and narrated illustrations having existed in China in some shape or form throughout its imperial history, the term manhua first appeared in 1904 in a comic titled 'Current Affairs Comics' or shíshì mànhuà (时事漫画) in the Shanghai-based newspaper, Jingzhong Daily (警钟日报).

The infinite canvas refers to the potentially limitless space that is available to webcomics presented on the World Wide Web. The term was introduced by Scott McCloud in his 2000 book Reinventing Comics, in which he suggested that webcomic creators could make a web page as large as needed to contain a comic page of any conceivable size. This infinite canvas would create an endless amount of storytelling benefits and would allow creators much more freedom in how they present their artwork.

Digital comics are comics released digitally, as opposed to in print. Digital comics commonly take the form of mobile comics. Webcomics may also fall under the "digital comics" umbrella.

British small press comics, once known as stripzines, are comic books self-published by amateur cartoonists and comic book creators, usually in short print runs, in the UK. They're comparable to similar movements internationally, such as American minicomics and Japanese doujinshi. A "small press comic" is essentially a zine composed predominantly of comic strips. The term emerged in the early 1980s to distinguish them from zines about comics. Notable artists who have had their start in British small press comics include Eddie Campbell, Paul Grist, Rian Hughes, Jamie Hewlett, Alan Martin, Philip Bond and Andi Watson.

Girlamatic was a webcomic subscription service launched by Joey Manley and Lea Hernandez in March 2003. It was the third online magazine Manley established as part of his Modern Tales family of websites. Girlamatic was created as a place where both female artists and readers could feel comfortable and featured a diverse mix of genres. When the site launched, the most recent webcomic pages and strips were free, and the website's archives were available by subscription. The editorial role was held by Hernandez from 2003 until 2006, when it was taken over by Arcana Jayne-creator Lisa Jonté, one of the site's original artists. In 2009, Girlamatic was relaunched as a free digital magazine, this time edited by Spades-creator Diana McQueen. The archives of the webcomics that ran on Girlamatic remained freely available until the website was discontinued in 2013.

Zuda Comics

Zuda Comics was DC Comics' webcomics imprint from 2007 until 2010. Some of the imprints series won awards and nominations from comic industry's Glyph Comics Awards and Harvey Awards. Bayou, Volume 1 was also named one of the 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens by the American Library Association.

The Night Owls is a twice weekly webcomic by cartoonists Peter and Bobby Timony which appears every Tuesday and Thursday on DC Comics Zuda imprint. It was selected as Zuda's Instant Winner in December 2007. The Timony brothers have been based out of New Providence, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City.

Uclick LLC was an American corporation selling "digital entertainment content" for the desktop, the web and mobile phones. Uclick operated several consumer websites, including the comic strip and editorial cartoon site GoComics and the puzzle and casual game sites ThePuzzleSociety.com and UclickGames.com.

The history of comics has followed different paths in different parts of the world. It can be traced back to early precursors such as Trajan's Column, in Rome, Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Bayeux Tapestry.

Andrews McMeel Syndication American content syndicate

Andrews McMeel Syndication is an American content syndicate which provides syndication in print, online and on mobile devices for a number of lifestyle and opinion columns, comic strips and cartoons and various other content. Some of its best-known products include Dear Abby, Doonesbury, Ziggy, Garfield, Ann Coulter, Richard Roeper and News of the Weird. A subsidiary of Andrews McMeel Universal, it is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. It was formed in 2009 and was given its current name in January 2017.

Although, traditionally, female comics artists have long been a minority in the industry, they have made a notable impact since the very beginning, and more and more female artists are getting recognition along with the maturing of the medium. Women creators have worked in every genre, from superheroes to romance, westerns to war, crime to horror.

The history of webcomics follows the advances of technology, art, and business of comics on the Internet. The first comics were shared through the Internet in the mid-1980s. Some early webcomics were derivatives from print comics, but when the World Wide Web became widely popular in the mid-1990s, more people started creating comics exclusively for this medium. By the year 2000, various webcomic creators were financially successful and webcomics became more artistically recognized.

Gender and webcomics Webcomics are primarily created by women and gender-variant people

In contrast with mainstream American comics, webcomics are primarily written and drawn by women and gender variant people. Because of the self-published nature of webcomics, the internet has become a successful platform for social commentary, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) expression.

The business of webcomics involves creators earning a living through their webcomic, often using a variety of revenue channels. Those channels may include selling merchandise such as t-shirts, jackets, sweatpants, hats, pins, stickers, and toys, based on their work. Some also choose to sell print versions or compilations of their webcomics. Many webcomic creators make use of online advertisements on their websites, and possibly even product placement deals with larger companies. Crowdfunding through websites such as Kickstarter and Patreon are also popular choices for sources of potential income.

Webcomics in France

Webcomics in France are usually referred to as either blog BD or BD numérique. Early webcomics in the late 1990s and early 2000s primarily took on the form of personal blogs, where amateur artists told stories through their drawings. The medium rose in popularity in economic viability in the country in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The Turbomedia format, where a webcomic is presented more alike a slideshow, was popularized in France in the early 2010s.


  1. Allen, Todd (February 27, 2012). "Rich Burlew Talks About His $1 Million Kickstarter Book Project". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  2. O'Malley, Bryan Lee (October 2, 2012). "'Scott Pilgrim' Guy Interviews 'Homestuck' Guy: Bryan Lee O'Malley On Andrew Hussie". Comics Alliance. AOL. Archived from the original on March 8, 2013. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  3. Geddes, John (April 2, 2010). "'Penny Arcade' a testament to the power of gaming culture". USA Today . Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  4. 1 2 Lacy, Steven (November 21, 2007). "Webcomics are profane, explicit, humorous — and influencing trends". Charleston City Paper. Noel Mermer. Archived from the original on January 3, 2016. Retrieved November 28, 2009.
  5. McGillis, Ian (September 25, 2015). "From comic blog to bestseller: Kate Beaton's Step Aside, Pops is the second instalment in a comics publishing phenomenon". Montreal Gazette .
  6. Arrant, Chris (April 25, 2006). "It's A Softer World After All". Publishers Weekly. Reed Elsevier. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved November 28, 2009.
  7. Rall, Ted (2006). Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists . New York: Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing. pp. 115–121. ISBN   1-56163-465-4.
  8. Hodges, Michael H. (January 8, 2007). "Diesel Sweeties tackles nuts, bolts of love". The Detroit News . Detroit: Jonathan Wolman. p. 1E.
  9. Crane, Jordan (April 2001). "A Silly Little Coat Hanger for Fart Jokes: Talkin' Comics with Leisuretown.com's Tristan A Farnon". The Comics Journal (232): 80–89.
  10. "Michigan State President Acts Presidential". Catalyst Journal of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. November 2000. Archived from the original on January 24, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2009.
  11. McCloud, Scott (2000). Reinventing Comics . New York: Paradox Press. pp. 200–233. ISBN   0-06-095350-0.
  12. McCloud, Scott (July 2001). "McCloud in Stable Condition Following Review, Groth Still at Large". The Comics Journal (235): 70–79.
  13. Acuna, Kristen (February 12, 2016). "Millions in Korea are obsessed with these revolutionary comics -- now they're going global". Business Insider .
  14. Leroy, Joséphine (March 6, 2016). "Balak, auteur et créateur du Turbo Media : "Il y a un marché de la BD numérique"". Actualitte.
  15. Rall, Ted (2006). Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists . New York: Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing. p. 9. ISBN   1-56163-465-4.
  16. Dochak, Sarah (November 29, 2011). "Pioneering the page: The decline of print comics, the growth of webcomics and the flexibility, innovation and controversy of both". Gauntlet. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015.
  17. Smith, Alexander, K. (November 19, 2011). "14 Awesome Webcomics To Distract You From Getting Things Done". Paste .
  18. Peterson, Iver (October 28, 1996). "The Search for the Next 'Doonesbury". The New York Times , Pg. D9
  19. Yim, Roger. (April 2, 2001). "DOT-COMICS: Online cartoons skip traditional syndication and draw loyal fans on the Internet". San Francisco Chronicle . Pg. D1
  20. Newman, Heather. (February 2, 2001). "See You In The Funny Pixels Michigan Cartoonists Draw On Web Sites To Find Readers". Detroit Free Press . Pg. 1H
  21. Martin, Jessica. "Cool Beans or Dead Beans: can the comic barons cross onto the web?". Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved March 15, 2007.
  22. Ho, Patricia Jiayi (July 8, 2003). "Online comic artists don't have to play panel games". Alameda Times-Star (Alameda, CA)
  23. Walker, Leslie (June 16, 2005). "Comics Looking to Spread A Little Laughter on the Web". The Washington Post , p. D1.
  24. Soponis, Trevor. "Publishers Look to Digital Comics". Publishers Weekly . Archived from the original on January 27, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2007.
  25. "PERAZZA ON THE LAUNCH OF ZUDACOMICS.COM". Archived from the original on March 5, 2010.
  26. Perazza, Ron (July 1, 2010). "The Future of Zuda". The Bleed. DC Comics.com . Retrieved July 1, 2010.[ permanent dead link ]
  27. Wolk, Douglas (November 1, 2004). "Web Comics Send Readers Looking for Books". Publishers Weekly .
  28. Dale, Brady (November 16, 2015). "The Webcomics Business Is Moving on From Webcomics". The New York Observer .
  29. Dale, Bradly (November 15, 2015). "Patreon, Webcomics and Getting By". Observer.com .
  30. Staff report (March 13, 2015). "New comic - 'Phoebe and Her Unicorn' - debuts today". News & Record .
  31. Zabel, Joe (June 21, 2006). "Making Lightning An Interview with Scott McCloud". The Webcomics Examiner. Archived from the original on March 24, 2008.
  32. Bosman, Julie. (October 12, 2006). "National Book Award Finalists Chosen". The New York Times , Pg. E2
  33. De Benedetti, Chris. "Bay Area films keep it real at Sundance festival". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved January 16, 2007.[ dead link ]
  34. "National Cartoonists Society".
  35. Boxer, Sarah (August 17, 2005). "Comics Escape a Paper Box, and Electronic Questions Pop Out". New York Times .
  36. "Attack of the Show" Archived April 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine . G4TechTV. Aired August 12, 2005.
  37. Mirk, Jeroen. "comicbase.nl's blog". Comixpedia. Archived from the original on June 15, 2006. Retrieved January 31, 2007.
  38. Wolk, Douglas (November 1, 2004). "Web Comics Send Readers Looking for Books". Publishers Weekly .
  39. McDonald, Heidi (December 19, 2005). "Web Comics: Page Clickers to Page Turners". Publishers Weekly.
  40. Chen, Jialu (September 2, 2011). "See you in the funny pages". The Boston Globe .
  41. Zlatkovský, Michal (September 23, 2013). "Opráski sčeskí historje na IHNED.cz: Jak Češi volili Husákovu KSČ". Hospodářské noviny.
  42. Arora, Kim (September 5, 2010). "Strip tease: Indian webcomics make a mark". The Times of India .
  43. Verma, Tarishi (April 26, 2015). "Laughing through our worries: The Indian web comics". Hindustan Times .

Further reading