20 imaginative web comics to inspire you

Web comics may be free to read, but are they any good? We round up the very best web comics around.

If you're busy working from home or in the office and want a quick break, reading a comic is a great way to get some much-needed downtime and inspiration. Some of the world's most well-known fictional characters were born through the medium of comics. The likes of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man have all won the hearts of successive generations of readers – to such an extent that, despite the rise of the internet, the printed comic industry is still booming.

That doesn't mean the web is irrelevant to comics, though – far from it. Indeed, it's given birth to an array of inspirational online-only creations that have transported the medium into the modern age. Here, we pick 20 of our favourite web comics...

01. Bird Boy

imaginative web comics: bird boy

Hellboy creator, Mike Magnola, is a fan of Bird Boy

Anne Szabla's Bird Boy follows the story of Bali, a 10-year-old Nuru boy who is keen to prove his worth to his tribe. After being banned from the ceremony that would make him an adult, he stumbles upon a legendary weapon and must flee across a dangerous land of gods, men and beasts to prevent it falling into the wrong hands!

The story was picked up by Darkhorse comics and has been compiled into a graphic novel to be released this May. With a thumbs up from Mike Mignola, it's definitely worth checking out!

02. Hark! A Vagrant

imaginative web comics: Hark! A Vagrant

Kate Beaton uses her comic to remind us of women's forgotten history

Canadian comic artist, Kate Beaton, blended her expertise in history and anthropology with a talent for visual storytelling to give us this popular webcomic. Kate started the web strip during her breaks from her dayjob and were suprisingly all created on MS Paint (I know right?!)

Her simple, whimsical style, caricaturing Western historical figures from James Joyce to Ada Lovelace make Hark! A Vagrant a particular favourite of ours, and won the artist multiple awards.

Step Aside, Pops, a collection of her Hark! A Vagrant comics, topped The New York Times graphic novel bestseller list in October 2015 and in the same year, a poll ranked Beaton fourteenth among the top all-time female comics artists.

03. Necropolis

imaginative web comics: necropolis

Within a month of the comics online release, Image were already in talks to publish a print edition

Written and drawn by Jake Wyatt with a helping hand from Kathryn Wyatt, this on-going fantasy web comic is the tale of one girl's quest for revenge. Updated every Wednesday, the duo have been pain-stakingly developing the story and stunning visuals for over a year.

It is yet to be revealed when the comic will conclude, but there are already plans to release a graphic novel with none other than Image, when it finally finds its ending.

04. Supermutant Magic Academy

imaginative web comics: supermutant magic academy

SMMA blends superheros with magic, witchcraft, comedy and quirky illustrations

Teacher of illustration at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, Jillian Tamaki started Supermutant Magic Academy in 2010 on a whim after being asked to contribute a comic to Marvel's Strange Tales II anthology. The artist wasn't particularly familiar with the superhero genre, finding more creative stimulus in the likes of Archie comics and strips like Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, and For Better or For Worse.

His webcomic is a melting pot for all those influences, and he says, "a diary of sorts too". An outlet for creative passions, Tamaki's illustrations are unpolished and the very opposite to his client work. Drawn & Quarterly have published a book collecting the online strips, available here.

05. Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero

Creator, Michael Deforge was approached by Adventure Time's creators to audition as an artist on the show

One of the most bizarre comics you will read. Each strip has a self contained gag, often with a grosteque sense of humour. The surreal webcomic is the brainchild of Michael Deforge, whose work can most noteably be seen in the equally surreal, and darkly humorous animated series, Adventure Time.

The series has a blunt, bleak humour that has a rather "marmite" appeal, but with the monochromatic pink colour scheme and heavily stylised illustration, it's hard not to be inspired by the visuals.

06. Michael

imaginative web comics: Michael

Graham was commissioned by Vice to create an ongoing web comic series

Belfast based illustrator Stephen Maurice Graham is a member of the PUCK collective and has a playful flair that has caught the attention of many. 'Michael' is a web comic Graham is currently embarking on for Vice; the series sees the character of Michael going through the motions of life – whether that's his obsession with Final Fantasy VII or his love for Sheryl Crow.

"I like to draw everything out rough in pencils before scanning, inking and colouring digitally using Photoshop," he explains. "I have a Wacom Cintiq which I really love as there's a lot of flexibility in the brushes I can use quickly without a lot of mucking around. I still like to work half and half digitally and analog just to keep both feet in those areas and keep experimenting."

07. The Sad Ghost Club

imaginative web comics: sad ghost club

The Sad Ghost Club was created to be an outlet for anyone who's ever felt alone

Run by Lize Meddings and Laura Jayne Cox, The Sad Ghost Club is a web comic with a cult following. "The Sad Ghost Club is a club for anyone who’s ever felt sad or lost," they explain in their manifesto. "It's the club for those who don’t feel like they're part of any other club; we love creating comics and zines to highlight the issues that a lot of ghosties go through."

Branching out into tote bags, beanies, tee-shirts, badges and more, the duo have come a long way with their tales of a lonely little ghost. Meddings' and Cox's approach ensures you'll be smiling through each story, knowing you're not alone in the world after all.

08. Oglaf

imaginative web comics: oglaf

Oglaf isn't for the faint hearted – this is one of the tamer offerings

Created by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne, Oglaf is often a very NSFW web comic centered on a medieval fantasy realm which is decidedly sexual in nature. Not for the faint-hearted, Cooper and Bayne bring their world to life through hilarious short stories and inspirational illustrations – just don't let your boss catch you reading it.

09. The Order of the Stick

imaginative web comics: order of the stick

You'll love The Order of the Stick if you're into medieval shenanigans

If you've embarked on role-playing games or dipped your toes into the world of medieval fantasy stories, you'll know that people tend to take both very seriously. The Order of the Stick is a web comic that pokes fun at the subjects with a unique flair. Created by Rich Burlew, the artist brings the stick figure into the modern age.

10. Gunshow

imaginative web comics: gunshow

KC Green has also created the comic HE IS A GOOD BOY

KC Green is the artist and illustrator responsible for the Gunshow comic series; an adorable and often hilarious web comic series that sees a wide range of characters embark on life's daily struggles. The short stand-alone approach means you can enjoy a story in a few seconds, whilst Green's style is enough to inspire just about anyone.

11. Scatterlands

imaginative web comics: Scatterlands

Warren Ellis collaborates with the brilliant Jason Howard for Scatterlands

Warren Ellis is the award-winning writer of graphic novels responsible for the likes of Transmetroplitan, Fell and Gun Machine, as well as the original novel the film Red was based on. Scatterlands is his beautifully improvised collaboration with Jason Howard, and one of the best web comics around.

12. Botched Spot

imaginative web comics: Botched Spot

Smack down! James Hornsby pokes fun at professional wrestling

Artist and writer James Hornsby has been parodying and lampooning professional wrestling culture with his hilarious Botched Spot ever since 2008. Creating his own characters including Olav Orlav and Rad Bad DeBone, this is one of those web comics that anyone can enjoy - whether you like wrestling or not.

13. Ellerbisms

imaginative web comics: Ellerbisms

Ellerbisms is a brutally and hilariously honest look at young relationships

Starting out as a web comic, Ellerbisms is the story of a relationship told in pictures through the autobiographical comics of Marc Ellerby. Online during the years 2007 - 2010, the series proved so popular that Ellerbisms went on to be printed, published and loved more so than ever before.

14. Deathbulge

imaginative web comics: Deathbulge

Deathbulge hosts an array of hilarious heavy metal characters

Deathbulge was initially a comic series about a death metal band, but illustrator and writer Dan came to believe that was too limiting, so decided to draw whatever he felt like. It seems his change in direction worked, as the web comic has become a firm favourite among web comic fans. With out a new issue every Monday and Friday, there's always something fresh.

15. Bad Machinery

imaginative web comics: Bad Machinery

Bad Machinery channels the wit and charm of our favourite '90s girl Daria

Bad Machinery, by John Allison, tells the stories of six young sleuths - three boys and three girls - attending Griswalds Grammar School in Keane End, Tackleford. An inventive web comic with colourful illustrations and witty dialogue that MTV favourite Daria would be proud of.

16. Bimba

imaginative web comics: Bimba

Bimba showcases the very best UK female comic talent

The girls at Bimba love web comics. Creating an awesome anthology to showcase the best home-grown UK talent, this site offers up the freshest female talent in the comic pool. They also promote talks and workshops to get even more girls involved. We love their title comic, 'Bimba', for its weird and wonderful colour-fuelled illustrations.

17. Sin Titulo

imaginative web comics: Sin Titulo

Self-published web comic Sin Titulo has just been printed by Dark Horse Comics

Cameron Stewart is the Eisner Award and Shuster Award-winning artist of such comics as Batman & Robin, Assassin's Creed and The Invisibles - not too shabby, eh? Currently based in Montreal, Sin Titulo is Stewart's self-published web masterpiece that has just been printed by Dark Horse Comics.

18. Nimona

imaginative web comics: Nimona

Anyone and everyone will love the adventures of Nimona

Noelle Stevenson is an avid maker of art and illustration who loves all things comic book based (just take a look at her brilliant Tumblr). So, it comes as no surprise that her own comic, Nimona, is brilliant. Mixing inspiring illustrations with hilarious anecdotes, it's a web comic for anyone and everyone.

19. You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack

imaginative web comics: You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack

Tom Gauld's hilariously witty comic strips have made him a favourite among fans

Tom Gauld is a hero of sorts among the illustrator and comic-loving crowd. Based in London, not only does he draw a weekly cartoon for the Guardian newspaper, he's also created a number of comic books. Although You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack is indeed, a printed publication, you can sample its delights on his Tumblr.

20. Daily Diary

imaginative web comics: Daily Diary

Gemma charts her 'mostly boring' life in her daily diaries

Gemma Correll describes herself as a cartoonist, writer, illustrator and all-round small person. It's arguable whether her daily diaries technically count as a web comic, but they're so charming that we just had to include them here. Charting her 'mostly boring' life, cute illustrations teamed with refreshingly honest observations make for some delightful reading.

Words: Sammy Maine and Alice Pattillo

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