Hello and welcome to our revived Webcomics Roundup! After each month comes to a close, we will look back on exciting developments in a variety of webcomics. For our first installment, we look all the way back to June of 2018, so let’s talk about Pride! In the distant, rainbow-hued days of last month, webcomics saw everyone from robots to Dumbledore to pie-enjoying Canadians embracing their LGBTQ+ identities, while other comics heralded comings, goings, and great deeds yet to come.
Think of this glance backwards (slightly delayed due to the all-consuming nature of San Diego Comic Con in the middle of July) as an exciting teaser, and our July installment of this series will follow swiftly. Is this the past? Is this the future? Who can say!
Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques
Jeph Jacques sort of stumbled sideways into making QC a comic about exploring the nature of AI identity and rights, which may sound a bit silly and sci-fi, but it’s likely to be an important topic in the relatively near future. It’s also Very Queer. So it wasn’t really a shock when romantic undertones began developing between Faye, one of the comic’s longest-appearing human characters, and Bubbles, a veteran combat robot. Bubbles was presumably meant to be a bit of a gag character to begin with, given the mismatch between her name and her stature, but she’s since been developed into a nuanced exploration of issues that many veterans deal with. Faye is fairly out of touch with her emotions and has fallen into alcoholism in the past, partly as a result of being bad at coping with her feelings in healthy ways. The “will they/won’t they” question has long felt pretty clear; QC thrives on its readers (and Jacques) shipping its characters, and many progressive (and/or transgressive, depending on how you want to look at it) couples have gotten together throughout the comic’s history. Jacques drew this one out for a very long time, however. The relationship was already being heavily developed over a year ago. Then, near the end of July, their ship finally set sail. Jacques has devoted more screen time to them working out the details of their budding relationship than I recall him doing with any previous couple. I have never been so invested in seeing a robot lady bone down.—Annie Blitzen
My Life as a Background Slytherin by Emily McGovern
My Life as a Background Slytherin presents slice-of-life comics about an original character named Emily, who is a student in Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco’s year at Hogwarts. McGovern is slowly working her way through the seven years of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, focusing on Emily’s crush on Draco and weird friendships with other original “background” characters in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. The comic updates every other Sunday, and this month has seen Emily’s increasing paranoia as she realizes that Hogwarts Castle is overrun with spies and magical tattletales. In addition to Emily’s fear of living in a surveillance state, McGovern also offered a bonus comic in June—featuring a very swirling, dramatic Dumbledore—to celebrate Pride. McGovern has discussed in her commentary provided to Patreon supporters (who also get a bonus comic every single week; I like supporting McGovern on Patreon) how she sometimes consciously combines elements from the book and movie versions of characters, and the Pride comic is a good example of that merger.—Emily Lauer
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
Updates one episode per week
Rachel Smythe debuted her modern retelling of the Abduction of Persephone in early March 2018. Smythe brings the ancient cast to life in bold ink and soft watercolors (an example of which appears as our title image for this roundup). And while the comic focuses on Hades and his future bride, it ties in the tales of other members of the pantheon, most notably Eros. Kore, more commonly known as Persephone, has finally convinced her mother to allow her to move from the Mortal Realm to the big city of Olympus, taking up residence with fellow goddess Artemis. Hades, fresh off a breakup with the nymph Minthe, is lonely in his sleek mansion with only his pack of adopted stray dogs for company. They’re a pair whose relationship has inspired countless artists in the thousands of years since its inception, and Smythes gives them new life in a world that weaves ancient Greek mythology with fast cars, designer suits, and the sassiest Cupid of all time.—Laura Stump
Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell
Updates three times a week
Let’s talk about anger. In Gunnerkrigg Court, Tom Siddell’s comic about tweens attending a boarding school that borders a magical forest and educates students in both magic and science, Annie, our heroine, has been learning to cope with incredible rage. A few story arcs back, Annie’s emotionally distant, absentee father suddenly returned and restored his tyrannical role in her life. Torn between being an obedient daughter or a powerful, defiant teen, Annie magically severed herself from her own rage. In the comic’s current story arc, both Annie and her father have begun to move forward from this unhealthy emotional repression, but a different character—Ysengrin, Coyote’s magically-empowered right hand—is now blinded by his own ferocious anger. Coyote finally granted Ysengrin’s greatest wish, and gave the creature his strength. Ysengrin promptly transformed into a huge monster and attacked the school, activating a magical barrier that keeps the students safe, but trapped. Annie is still on her own emotional journey but believes she can cut through Ysengrin’s rage-filled fervor and talk him down, so she and Jones, a strange and possibly immortal teacher, have journeyed outside of the barrier to try to reach him. Siddell’s human characters have done a wild amount of growing up in the last few arcs while Ysengrin has had a more slow burn development, and I know his and Annie’s confrontation is going to be amazing! If you’re behind and need to catch up, NOW IS THE TIME!—Alenka Figa
Scary Go Round by John Allison
Scary Go Round is in its post-Bad Machinery settling period: a new cast of younger kids to mix in with the now-sixteen Bad Machinery protagonists at Griswald’s Grammar, who mixed in with the now-twenties latter-day Scary Go Round version one kids*, who melded with Allison’s now-thirties-to-forties original Bobbins cast. The newbies—Grendel, Sunita, Georgia, and Zebus—have been taken under the wing of familiar faces Linton and Mildred, as they decide to partake of some “community action.” Their town, our ol’ familiar Tackleford, is almost connected to the next one over by a tunnel that’s never been finished. Wouldn’t it be practical to get it done? It’d pass the time, anyway. So the plan is hatched to get famous YouTubers down to town to “unbox” the last connecting cubic feet of soil. As always, in life or in webcomics, doing anything means bringing down hellacious consequences: Mildred’s last name isn’t Hubble, but she’s made herself into a bit of a disaster area anyway.
— Clownhunter (@illusClaire) June 7, 2018
Cartoonist John Allison is taking a break from the daily strips at the end of this story (it began in April and wraps June 29th), as his scripting duties for Giant Days and new BOOM! monthly By Night are, as we English say, “doing his nut.” If you like joy, jokes, and wickedness, here’s an opportunity to go archive diving, because Sweet JA is truly one of our greatest comic strip conversationalists. If you prefer to read a printed paper page, the Bad Machinery case archives (teen detectives! Supernatural happenings! Character by the bucketload!) are published volume by volume by Oni, in two different sizes.
* Giant Days’ Esther de Groot first set gothic boot to digital page here, in schooldays gone but always archived (if you ever wondered what her relationship was like with that boy she cheated on in her first days of uni, dig right the heck in).—Claire Napier
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Big news this month in Check, Please!-world: Ngozi Ukazu’s charming hockey-themed webcomic returned for the beginning of year four in early June after being on hiatus since year three ended in late December 2017! And I had forgotten what an incredible cliffhanger it ended on!
Check, Please! is a very cute, very queer slice-of-life comic about a college hockey team that really digs into what it means to be part of a team and the dreams, pressures and friendships that come along with it. At the end of year three, one of the main characters, Jack Zimmerman, had literally just scored the game-winning goal at the Stanley Cup finals—and in celebration, kissed his boyfriend, Eric Bittle, in public (and on national television!) for the first time.
Jack and Bittle have had a special, tender relationship in this comic for a while now, and finally seeing them come out to the world is incredibly satisfying and empowering—but their anxiety undercutting it is also palpable. The beginning of year four starts to process those mixed feelings of relief and anxiety in a way that feels really authentic. The whirlwind of activity that they’re whisked up in after the Stanley Cup win is wonderfully chaotic—and the love their friends and family have for them even when they’re not sure how people will react is always a powerful force in Check, Please!, with no exception in the newest installments.—Jameson Hampton
So there you have it! We welcome Ukazu’s characters back, even as we tearfully acknowledge Allison needs a rest; we brace ourselves for the next big thing to happen in Gunnerkrigg Court even as we revel in the leisurely exploration of Faye and Bubbles’ relationship in Questionable Content. Welcome to webcomics, my friends. We’ll see you soon.