5 Comics on DA That Manage To Do Things RIGHT

9 min read

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Droemar's avatar
By Droemar
Wurr by Paperiapina
Linkage: wolfpearl.deviantart.com/art/W…
The skinny: Horribly deformed, heroic hellhounds seek out a new home in a land forbidden to their kind.
Why It Doesn't Suck: First off, the whole premise brilliantly takes the Beauty Equals Goodness trope and completely turns it on its head.  Aside from that, it just about subverts every wolf comic trope there is.  Sleek, beautiful, romantic icons these guys ain't.  There is no prophecy, no aesop about man being evil, and probably above all, no romanticizing what it means to be a hunter.  The pack has almost no petty squabbling, puts up with each other's foibles, and has to because they know the alternative is death.  No angst, no whining or existential crises, just shutting up and putting up with each other because it means living another day.  Considering most wolf comics take the opportunity to put whiny teenagers in wolf form, Wurr starkly examines the label of "bad guy" from the bad guys's point of view.  The characters are lovable, their struggle real, their stakes unbelievably insurmountable, and you have no trouble at all rooting for these guys.  Themes of prejudice, stereotyping, and moral absolutism (dare I say hellhound disenfranchisement?) are quietly in the background where they belong, which is a refreshing break from so many comics that hit you over the head with a sledgehammer moral.
Special Mention Goes To: The character designs.  Again, considering most wolf comics have cookie-cutter cartoon Balto-knockoffs that depend on garish color schemes  and/or anime hair to differentiate themselves, the cast of Wurr has highly unique attributes and striking silhouettes.  (My favorite being Ilrabe, who has eyes on his tongue.)  WolfPearl has a knack for expression, and lets her  characters convey their emotions through her charming drawings, instead of depending heavily on dialogue.  (Is it just me or do most wolf comics have snarl and pant as their only expressions?) Wurr has a downright huggable cast, despite their bizarre appearance, and that's really saying something.

Guardians by akeli
Linkage: fav.me/d21czak
The skinny: Big cats meets high fantasy; what more do you need?
Why It Doesn't Suck: While the art could probably allow a lot of forgiveness on the reader's behalf (we'd follow those pretty drawing anywhere), the author, bless 'em, actually provides some decent characterization. The six page exposition drop at the beginning had me worried, but the protagonist Kotu gets his character defining moment on page 9 as a naive, generous little cub.  That's right, folks, a main character labeled as such with a  characterizing moment in the first ten pages.  Gasp!  The world is not heavily expository and dumped all over us; rather, we get to explore it through Kotu's eyes.  Double gasp!  A protagonist used as a mechanism for the reader to explore the world!  Character is action in Guardians, and considering the sheer amount of work that must go into each page, the author makes each panel count.  Which is how it should be.
Special Mention Goes To: The religion of Akasha.  Spirituality as part of world-building almost never shows up in comics; most of the time, especially in fantasy, the simple morality of good versus evil is all we get.  We don't know why these ethics are instilled, what shaped them, or even what their rules are, but in Guardians, Akasha represents a respect for all life and a unity of all living things.  This religion informs the ethics of Kotu and his mentor, adding a richness and specificity to their good-ness that makes them unique.  Too many heroes are treated blandly ; they're the good guys because the author says so. People would have loved Kotu anyway because he's a friggin' snow leopard cub, but luckily, we are audience to Kotu's respect for life and like him on a level that is more than just appearance.

The Meek by shingworks
Linkage: www.meekcomic.com/2008/12/27/c…
The skinny: A naked girl sets off to save the world from a mad ruler and his hellish spirit advisor.
Why It Doesn't Suck: I could say the art, and be done with it.  However, I focus on story, and The Meek has plenty to offer.  First, the author knows the value of enticing the reader. Many questions are asked, and not quite answered, to keep you turning pages.  (Or screaming at the author to do more than one update a week.) Secondly, the author  brilliantly sketches well-rounded, sympathetic characters, with a definite nod going to the main villain.  The darkness of the world is broken by quite a few moments of humor, without breaking the feel, another tricky thing to handle.  You get a real feel that these characters use or appreciate humor in order to survive the very dark possibilities before them, as opposed to the author just throwing it out there because it'll make the reader laugh.  The Meek doesn't have just emotional strings; it's a damn harp, playing the reader on every page.  And last, the semi steampunk/cattlepunk feel is one that I wish I could see more often, in addition to giant, Miyazaki-style dragon salamanders.
Special Mention Goes To: The Dagre.  Holy.  Crap.  The Dagre.  I LOVE this villain.  I barely know anything about him, but I want to know more because I can't get enough of the guy.  The author takes full advantage of visual medium to convey how the Dagre speaks, and I love it. It's impossible not to hear his slow, sinuous voice in your head.  The Dagre also has a kind of elemental feel to him; he is a force attempting to influence the world, not just a bad guy.  Since I use this setup in a lot of my own writing, it was just squee-worthy to see someone else use it and use it well.  The fact that the Dagre has the potential to kick incredible ass in addition to causing an apocalyptic war is just icing on the cake.

Lackadaisy by tracyjb
Linkage: lackadaisy.foxprints.com/comic…
The skinny: A 1920s speakeasy run by cats in suits.  Actual cats.
Why It Doesn't Suck: Again, the art of this is enough to reduce me to a sobbing crumple in a corner, but I'll digress.  Character is Lackadaisy's biggest strength.  No one walks onscreen in the comic that you don't immediately "get" in all their glory.  Whether it's the wacky Rocky or his meek brother Freckle, the devious Mordecei, or hep cat Zib, all of them have nuance, sympathy, and reader understanding. The story walks a kind of razor's edge, between the rather humorous antics of the Lackaidaisy heroes, to the realization that much of the humor is derived from their sheer desperation.  These heroes don't have it easy, and in many cases, have no idea what they're doing.  They're just winging it.  This is direct anti-thesis to so many characters in comics who confidently know that they're going to save the day, and/or wind up in situations  that they've been in before.  Lackadaisy's setup is that not only is the world against the heroes, but they're not the best equipped to handle the situation.  We don't get preached at, or suffer ham-handed angst; we just enjoy watching these guys try to figure out the next twist.
Special Mention Goes To: The pacing.  I realize it's an art aspect, but considering it aids the writing so much, I had to mention it.  The comic reads like an animation, and every page is treated like an entire composition.  There has never been a time when something was out of place, or crowded, or off-beat.  You can practically watch pratfalls and hear interruptions, because the pacing is so brilliantly done.  Dialogue balloons not only convey frazzled shouts or deadpan whats, but they also act as little arrows guiding the reader to the next face and the next action.  Throw in the art to that understanding, and there's a reason why I wish I was the author of Lackadaisy.

Malaak, Angel of Peace by Majnouna
Linkage: www.malaakonline.com/I1.html
The skinny: Lebanon's first female superhero discovers some pretty sinister machinations behind the wars that plague her land.
Why It Doesn't Suck: Malaak manages to put a pretty fresh and unique spin on the classic superhero story.  While the Hero's Journey is all there, the trappings are very new, and very accessible.  That accessibility is truly Malaak's greatest strength.  The culture and history of Lebanon, as well as the city itself as a backdrop, all play an important part in the story.  The author is multi-lingual, and straddles the line between many different cultures.  She's taken it upon herself to become a bridge between those cultures, and damn if that's not what I love the most about Malaak.  The world has some sweet fantasy rules that have nice connective causation, but are also firmly rooted in real-life Lebanese culture and myth.  To read Malaak is not only to enjoy a good story, but to also become educated.  This is probably the last thing on anyone's mind when they're making a comic, but Malaak has an undeniable affection for its own origins.  And, you know, it doesn't fall prey to a lot of stupid things most comics do.  That helps.  Malaak has a flavor entirely its own, and I really can't think of anything else that comes to close to what it is.  The realization that it's the first of its kind is also pretty cool; you're not just reading a comic, but a representation of a cultural and artistic movement, too.
Special Mention Goes To: The symbolism in the story.  Just about everything in Malaak's pages has some kind of significance, either as a real-life landmark, or a real-life element of mythology in Lebanese culture.  I in particular enjoyed the hippocampus and the gryphons, but enjoyed the role they played in real-life history, too.  Malaak carries a theme that nothing is what it appears at face value: the enemies, the heroes, the landscape.  It's very subtle, and comics need more subtlely.
© 2011 - 2021 Droemar
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Majnouna's avatar
I wanted to wait until I could catch up on all the comics listed here before commenting, and as a result I'm WAY late, but I can't tell you how flattered I am to be on this list! :dance:
bazjra's avatar
A bit late-coming, and not really on the subject of DA comics, but... Are you familiar with Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz? [link]
Nightiingale's avatar
Not all webcomics do it right, however.

A friend and I made a drinking game out of comcis doing it wrong [link]

I thought you'd appreciate the humour in it c:
Droemar's avatar
Indeed I do. You should check out my previous lists of top 20 Most Annoying things in Webcomics.
Nightiingale's avatar
Link me them? I can't seem to find them all :c
KuraiDraws's avatar
one day, I AM gonna wind up in a journal like this ;D
krystle-tears's avatar
I read all of those except Wurr, and I just read that one the other day after initially seeing it posted here. Loved it. Makes me want to do comics all over again, but we know how that one goes...
akeli's avatar
OH, I forgot to mention. I freakin' love these other comics. I follow all of them. And Dagre! I loooove Dagre.

Ever think of reviewing some other comics? Wormworld, reMIND, Inverloch, Phoenix Requiem, Off-White, or Witch Eyes perhaps? I would love to read a Tumblr blog by you.

Also, are you planning on another comic? Maybe even illustrating/comic-izing Highsong?
Droemar's avatar
I've read Off-White and Phoenix Requiem, and can't give them the props I can to the 5 I just did. Requiem just took for friggin' EVER for shit to start happening (I"m amazed at the level of art she dedicated to pages and pages of NOTHING HAPPENING) and Off-White has some plot holes and the unfortunate reality that what's happening on page 15 is pretty much what's happening on page 115. I kind of fear reprisal for saying something on DA sucks, whether DArama or the mods getting involved and accusing me of flaming. The others I haven't read; I'll have to check them out. I've had alot of people lobbing "Hey, this is a good comic!" at me all of a sudden.
I've kind of, sort of got this comic called "Canis" that I'm working on. Short, 15 pages, and kind of deconstruction of wolf comics. But it's so far down the list of priorities I can't promise when I'll post it. I've got about 6 pages done, but don't want to post and then feel obligated to continue posting. Especially with my dino illustrations at the fore. Comics and I don't get along. Aaargh!
Highsong actually has a bigger chance of being made into a video game than a comic. But I think there's a sequel in there somewhere, that I'd release as another ebook.
CailinLiath's avatar
The only webcomic I keep track of on dA is :devmliev:'s [link] (the locked maze). I'll have to look into these.
Lit-Twitter's avatar
Chirp, it's been twittered. :)
akeli's avatar
Thanks, dear <3 <3 You're too nice to me :P

And actually, the exposition pages weren't intended to be included. I used them only to draw in readers, and my readership actually skyrocketed when I included them. :P If you check the dates, they were made after I was already started on the comic.

I am 100% with you on that subject, but too many people were complaining that the story was "too slow" at the beginning. In reality, when completed, it will take a couple minutes to read the first issue...so I added something that would entice people to wait out my insanely slow page making.

The actual creation story/whatnot will be included in the 2nd issue, written in to the story, and the first exposition pages are not necessary.
Droemar's avatar
I noticed that myself, but I suppose it's a sad testament to a readership's attention span that they wouldn't be on board based on Kotu's character defining moment. Because I certainly was.
Whatever it takes to grab your audience, I suppose. Maybe it's the divide between critics and the general population.
I still think you should submit Guardians to a professional publisher. Just about every YA urban fantasy agent I submitted to had something in their description that said graphic novels, too.
akeli's avatar
I think after I get into the second issue, I could archive the "intro". I wasn't going to include it in the printed issue...but we'll see. It depends on how big of an outcry from people I get. Maybe it'll just be one of those "you bought the self-published edition" bonuses.

As far as submitting it, I'm not sure. Perhaps I will after I self-publish and the second issue is complete. From what I've heard, I'd make a lot more money going the self-publishing route. While money isn't the overall goal, I need it in the beginning. It depends on what happens with school, I guess.

By the way, thanks for all the time and effort you put into these posts and your advice. Most people don't appreciate it enough. Feel free to critique me on anything, always :P Even if I disagree with something, I still think you're awesome.
Droemar's avatar
Ditto here. Especially when the time comes for an Ideal Reader for Mark of the Conifer. I'm going to have a hell of a time finding people to seriously critique an epic fantasy about dinosaurs.
I agree that self-publishing has more appeal than it did even two years ago. But if my Highsong release taught me anything, it was that traditional publishers have a built-in marketing machine. Indies have to start that machine themselves, and it eats money. (Kirkus Reviews charges $400 to review something!) So I guess it's a six-in-one-hand, half dozen the other, but if your novel got half as popular as I think it would, you'd get a lot more recognition up front with a traditional publisher behind you.
I would trade the amount I made on each copy to have marketing behind my stuff. Stupid agents! Why do you keep rejecting me!?
These days, since it's all email, it wouldn't cost you anything to sent some agents a few submissions and see what their reaction is. I'd be interested to know myself.
akeli's avatar
I think the separation there is fiction vs graphic novel. Jeff Smith's Bone is an example of a highly successful self-publishing effort. He briefly used a publisher after he was already established, and ending up dropping them for the appeal of the indie route. A major studio even purchased the movie rights.

Graphic Novels have the ability to be self-advertised, to go viral. Fiction is hard to self-advertise because no one wants to take a chance on what could be just another badly written fan-story. After all, at least a published book had to make it past an editor. Comics have an instant sell; even if the story sucks, if the artwork was good, it was worth the time.

I think both are worth a look-at. The difference between "the amount made on each copy" is pretty vast between the two. 8-10% is standard, I think, for publishing. 60% would be around the cut for self-publishing. It may be possible to get more from publishers. I've been checking into Diamond (who is rumored to give 40%). Hopefully, I'll be more informed soon.
TheAntimonyElement's avatar
Ooooooh, comics on DA...I feel like a dope now. XD Well, then...I highly recommend :iconpika-la-cynique:'s magnificently funny "Girls Next Door" [link] fancomic of a fancomic...it's based on :iconasherhyder:'s "Roommates," but I feel that Pika's is generally stronger, tighter, and better-drawn, although both are enjoyable. The basic premise is, "What if Jareth the Goblin King, Eric the Phantom of the Opera, Admiral James Norrington the sometimes!Pirate, and Inspector Javert shared a suite? And just about every conceivable Terry Pratchett/Miyazaki/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter/Neil Gaiman/Every other conceivable fantasy universe ever character showed up at least once in a while?" Girls Next Door portrays the flipside, "What if the boys' respective non-love-interests/stalkees shared a room on the next floor up, in a building where Narrative Causality is in full effect?" The author is an avid Troper herself, and it shows. :3 Granted, it is a fancomic and thus engineered to elicit "SQUEES" on every page, but it's really well-crafted, generally stays true-to-character, and the art is great. Even if the premise sounds dicey to you, give it a shot--but having some background knowledge of the main characters' plots is really pretty vital for the humor.

ALSO, for something a little different, I'd recommend :iconxxsmarsxx:'s "Goblyn" flash-comic. First episode is here: [link] His world-building is really excellent and unique--it explores a radically different mythology than any other comic I've read--and I adore his style. The story is really action-packed but also clearly leading up to something bigger. Definately recommended!
TheAntimonyElement's avatar
Haha, I follow and love all of these except Malaak--and from what I've read so far after finding this plug, I really, really like that one too. :D I'd also recommend "Planes of Eldlor;" first page is here: [link] I'm always on the lookout for a halfway decent dragon comic, and this one has such fantastic art and well-done character designs. Gunnerkrigg Court is also a paragon among webcomics in my mind; somebody asked me if my username was based on the main character, and I didn't know what they were talking about, so I looked into it. At first I found it difficult to get into, and there were so many plotlines and secrets that I thought it was getting nowhere fast...but over the past few months things have REALLY started to pick up and everything is finally tying together, and it's going to be HUGE. :D Really fun to follow, if you don't already. :3
Droemar's avatar
Oh, yes, I LOVE Gunnerkrigg Court. I got into it because of Coyote, because he was such a perfect trickster character: someone who never lies, but who you still can't trust. And he's set up to be either a fantastic hero, or the villain of the whole piece ( my money is actually on villain after the "snip off your hand" deal). I love that about it. Carver herself being such a low-key character is also very nice; she gets through her obstacles with a detached calm instead of wacky antics, but you also realize how much it hurts her to be so reserved. (The scene with the cherry trees is pretty early on, but still one of my favorites.)
Tom also has an extremely wry sense of humor. I love a good bunch of his jokes, like the lazer cow rejoinders, Boxbot's first appearance "There are robots all over the place; there's one right over there, Annie." "Helllooooo!", and when she breaks into the robot facility with a logic bomb and Reynardine says "Your powers of trickery and deceit are bewildering, child."
But pretty much ever since the big reveal about Annie's parentage, I've been reading it every time it updates.
TheAntimonyElement's avatar
Ah, I know, right? Reynardine is one of my favorite characters, but I admit I still don't completely understand what's up with him. All his characterization has been very consistent except for his first appearance, when he was possessing the body of Sivo. Why oh why did he try to steal Antimony's body, knowing full well that he would be killing the daughter of his beloved in the process? It makes no SENSE. >:V And the most frustrating part is that I KNOW that it WILL make sense when all is finally revealed, argh. I also really love the ongoing arc with Jean (har har) as well as Ysengrim's development. I agree with you that Coyote will (most likely) ultimately serve as the villain, but I fully expect Ysengrim to do a Heroic Sacrifice or somesuch for Antimony before it's all over, defying his master in the process. Also, EGGLAMORE. DEAR LORD, EGGLAMORE. Why do I love you so? XD 'Cause I'm a sucker for unrequited love stories, that's why. Another interesting consideration is how Siddell is clearly setting up Antimony as an avatar of the Forest and nature, while Kat is becoming more and more devoted to the Court and it's technological inhabitants...I'm expecting fallout at some point. I'm sure the girls are meant to unite the two eventually, but in the meantime their friendship seems a little *too* easy consider the directions in which they are moving...
Droemar's avatar
Hmmmm. I Have to admit, Eglamore went right over my head. The only part I really cared about him was when he said "Your mom never got in trouble, ever" and Carver said "I don't think your advice is very appropriate."
I am not entirely convinced that Ysengrim will be a good guy. If he is, I think he's headed for a redemption equals death or something. But I haven't forgotten the commentary about his sanity when he was first introduced, and Coyote seems to be gleefully watching him self-destruct.
I see Carver's character flaws as what will create the ultimate rift between her and Kat, but you make an interesting point. I like that idea. Carver is very withdrawn and has not been entirely honest with Kat (stealing the photo, copying her homework), and I swear there HAS to be some leftover stuff from the incident with Zimmy and Jack. Carver was drawn very much like Jack was before she went into the forest, with those dark circles under her eyes, and I'm just waiting for that to come back.
Gah! But I could just go on about it all day. I love that about the series, that there's just so much stuff up in the air, and he just gives you such little licks when you're dying for the whole ice cream cone.
TheAntimonyElement's avatar
I'm pretty sure Ysengrim will come around, especially considering the really personal moments that he and Antimony have shared recently...but I do also expect that he won't live through the ordeal. Coyote is so cruel to him, though, you're right; but I think that could make his eventual Heel-Face Turn that much more believable. And yeah, that's the really frustrating thing about the comic, but also the enticing thing about it--there's so much beneath the surface that you're just dying to investigate!
aflartist's avatar
I'm very glad you decided to do this since I want to break into comics myself. Thank you!

I like the realistic exposition of the first comic you've mentioned here. Wurr has a backstory that's gradually introduced and is easy to follow. It's not lost on me which is important. One of my favorites.

I agree, the exposition "dump" of the second, Guardians, is a little clumsy. On the wrong day I probably would drop it in favor of something else because it is a tired way to start off a fantasy. However, once the story picks up the character development and the believability of its progressin lends itself to enjoyment and more then makes up for it.
akeli's avatar
Thank you for the compliments <3 :glomp: I'd like to respectfully disagree with the "exposition dump" statement, though (and you are perfectly entitled to your opinion).

People keep acting like online comics and fiction writing are the same thing.

One wouldn't call a movie trailer or the back of a book summary "unnecessary exposition". The whole point of the three page-spreads was to act as a preview for less-than-patient readers who kept sending me notes.
What is this going to be about? This is too slow! What's going on?

Those spreads were never intended to be included as part of the actual story. Consequently, this is why, on the cover page, I give the option to skip the intro pages and go straight to the story.

Yes, maybe more experienced readers would just say to themselves, "Hey, she's only completed X number of pages.. When she's completed everything, I will be able to read this issue as a complete thought."

Alas, most people are not that astute, nor are they patient.

I know someone is going to think, "But, Akeli, you could just write a summary on your page!"
Comics are a visual medium. Only 90% of people actually READ the stuff I post in artist's comments or on my page. I'm lucky; that number is VERY high for an artist. I have a pretty awesome readership. <3 That doesn't make up for the amount of notes I receive from the other 10%.

You know how many notes I've gotten asking what the story is about since I posted those intro pages? Zero.

The whole goal for me is to keep my readership and myself happy. You can't please everyone, but most people who don't like the intro pages tend to forgive them once they get to the main story anyway.
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