Welcome to What a Webcomic, a series by the enigmatic Sergio Alexis, where they cover the best webcomics they read since…the last time they did one of these. Hold onto your butts, because these comics are queer, they are female lead, and they are wonderful! For now I will not be repeating entries from my previous webcomic series, found outside of Women Write About Comics, but you can read all three former lists here, here, and here. The Diverse Elements section will have creator information. If I should be adding or removing information please let me know via comments or @TransComics on Twitter.
Agents of the Realm created by Mildred Louis
This is the most established comic on my list for today. This is a powerhouse of a webcomic that you should be reading. Take magical girls, make their lineup diverse and undeniably queer, and throw them back into a drama filled world, and you got this. This comic is a “realm” filled with lots of intrigue, great character relationships, amazing lore, and great history. We have a united front of women and a story that just works on every single level. Want romance? Check. Want action? Check. Family drama? Check. Comics about black women by a black woman. Check! You get everything you need, and more, from Agents of the Realm.
Agents of the Realm’s art direction is spectacular. The comic isolates it’s own living, breathing art style that is hard to compare to anyone else. From the monsters they fight to the people, everything in this comic feels like it is locked into Mildred’s artistic vision. It doesn’t feel derivative of magical girls, not slavish, only taking some recognizable story beats from the genre. There is some very powerful use of facial expression to totally encompass emotion. Even in panels in which the characters are out of focus, we get lovely facial expressions. With great uses of shadow, face, and panel layout, the book knows exactly how to capture emotions in subtle ways. Which isn’t even starting on the way the comic uses color either. The use of color here can instantly take you to other worlds, with stark purples that invoke an eerie sense when more sinister stuff is going on.
Immortal Nerd created by Hanna-Pirita Lehkonen
Created by the asexual, non-binary, and amazing Hanna-Pirita, Immortal Nerd is a stand out in future-story telling. We follow Nokia, a non binary nerd in the far future who has just been given their immortality. They move to Earth to become a meme archivist, and so follows the tale of a lazy, immortal, nerd. This is a comic where every chapter makes me laugh. It’s just a joy filled comic. This might be the best future world I’ve ever seen, with such a queer-positive setting, and it’s all played very naturally. Most world-building information is given visually and through action in wonderfully clever ways. You can see tons of comments, people not getting that Nokia is non binary in particular, in the early sections. The way gender, sexuality, and society work in Immortal Nerd is a future I want to fight for.
Immortal Nerd’s art invokes a very nice, almost Adult Swim-like feel with it’s art. It’s not overly complicated and has it’s own powerful identity. Even just the color pallet used is strong. The art feels so key to the world itself. The style allows for the world to really take a life. It invokes a sense of life that adds to the comedy of the piece with vivid facial expressions. There is this sense that the character designs are of a society that isn’t post gender, but has the advanced ideals of gender that our current gender experts would love to see go mainstream. The fashion design here is another major highlight–lots of outfits I would love to wear
Diverse Elements: Non binary lead, person of color lead, lesbians, gay men, queer people, poly positive, and non binary asexual creator.
Up and Out created by Julia Kaye
Up and Out is an interesting case of directional shift. You can read 127 chapters that fit a limited panel, joke comic format. Then, in recent times, we’ve gotten open and honest limited panel format comic that shares feelings about being trans. While the webtoon run of the previously mentioned jokier stuff is great, we get with it off of webtoon (now hosted on it’s own website and on Julia’s Twitter) a whole other tale. It removes the colors, and while invoking some similar feelings to Assigned Male, Trans Girl Next Door, and Manic Pixie Nightmare, manages to stand out.
It’s such personal tale, as if we are being brought into Julia’s life and hearing her thoughts. While both tones of this comic are great, it’s refreshing to have a comic that is more of a diary then a haven’t you noticed joke (not that I don’t love them). The art in this one is super simple, it’s like a newspaper comic, in particular the newer stuff. Simple designs in the new content feel nice and add to that sense of a personal diary. I feel like this is just the part of her mind and life that is normally activate.
Diverse Elements: Trans woman lead and trans woman creator.
The Order of Belfry created by MJ Barros and Barbara Perez
You like knights, you like queer ladies, you like groups of them? Well gee, we got a tale for you! In Belfry we follow a princess who goes off on a mission, and as a ramification of her actions, winds up in an order of women who are knights, The Order of Belfry. There are some deep familial emotions here, some really sweet moments, lovely romance, and endearing characters. There are really great action scenes; this is a story I can’t wait to keep watching unfold. It has a strong sense of royal intrigue and power struggles that are lovely. It manages to give you that tension without being bogged down in a grim-dark tone. What it does even better is suggest a lot of history, between characters and of the world, that readers want to engage with. That lore building doesn’t overtake the story either, as some fantasy epics can find themselves doing.
Oh, women in actual armor, where have you been all my life? Body diversity in this comic is pretty good too, a nice amount of muscular ladies for you to dream of snuggling. I love the way color plays with everything from skin tone to settings; color, in this comic, is used to it’s best potential. A really subtle (but very important) touch to this comic is it’s use of body language. The bodies of these women tell so much about them in that moment, their emotions, their goal, where they are right now. They don’t feel like they are being posed, but instead that these are still frames captured of real living people.
Diverse Elements: Lesbian lead, queer lead, female lead, and Latnix female creators.
Starward Lovers created by Miki B
Right from the start this comic invokes the feelings of the work of Studio Trigger. Readers follow Jen Gurrera, a girl who is crushing hard on this buff women she met once. From there things go off the wall in an action scene that made me automatically think of works like FLCL and Kill la Kill. Only unlike the works I am reminded of, this book doesn’t have a male gaze; it doesn’t promote heteronormativity or patriarchal power structures. In a world of wild space stuff we see women in power. This is a webcomic that almost instantly became a favorite of mine, and there’s not too much to catch up with. The creator Miki B launched a lot of pages when the comic began, but only since updating a few times.
The art direction shares the scale of FLCL, as I mentioned before. The outfits are fantastically designed, the character designs join this in a way that makes my little gay heart sing. This art takes everything great about the visual direction in a Studio Trigger anime, but removes the bad parts! We get lovely body diversity. We see people of varying skin tones right up front. There is an overall sense of inclusion just from the art direction. The black and white, colourless format is something I didn’t even notice while reading, because I was so with it the whole time.
Diverse Elements: Lesbian lead, queer lead, women of color lead, and female creator.