My best friend Jasmine got married last year to this guy who used to be one of my college roommates. It was a bit weird, though not a surprise -- they've been dating since we were all at college, which seems like a trillion bajillion years ago. Nevertheless, I stood there in the church that day swathed in my floral bridesmaid dress and watched the girl I had known since I was 12 years old publicly proclaim her love for the dude who used to blanket my couch in farts.
I know. You're reading this and thinking, "WHAT A LOVELY FRIENDSHIP. THAT ASHLEY IS SUCH A NICE GIRL" but fear not, I am getting ready to shake that angelic image of me you have in your mind.
Yes, I was happy for Jasmine. Of course I was. I'm not a monster.
But a tiny part of me, a very selfish, tiny part of me, was annoyed that of ALL THE FIFTY-TWO WEEKENDS IN THE YEAR, Jasmine chose to have her wedding the exact same weekend as Small Press Expo, an independent comics convention held in my city.
Boom. Angelic image dissolved. Turns out I actually AM a monster.
There are approximately one thousand billion independent comics out there on the Internet and I am a fan of almost all of them. Crudely-drawn one-panels or intricately inked, sweeping stories -- there's something out there for everyone, really.
One of the things I love most about webcomics is how accessible they are. They're drawn by people just like you or me -- they have jobs, they fight with their significant others about doing the dishes. They take public transit and accidentally step in rain puddles. But in my mind, they're like superheroes: mild-mannered blue-collar worker by day, but by night, they churn out these amazing works of art.
Here’s the thing: there are a lot of really lovely, female-positive webcomics out there created by dudes, but this list? This list is for the ladies.
The first things you notice about Kate Leth are her magnificent tattoos. The second thing is her hair -- her bangs are perfect, not a hair out of place. I don't understand this wizardry, but I make a mental note to ask her in the future.
Spoiler alert: I forgot to ask her.
The 25-year-old Canadian works at a comic shop and has been making comics since 2010. Her comics range from Neil Gaiman love to explanations of sexual identity. She proclaims a love of "weird sex" and her wide-eyed characters' mouths can sometimes be found stuffed with ball gags.
She sells a mini comic called Ultimate Kate or Die through her Etsy store and has created buttons for the popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast. You can also find her art in the Adventure Time spinoff comics. She regularly posts comics on her (occasionally NSFW) Tumblr.
YOU'LL LIKE KATE IF YOU LIKE: ladies appreciating ladies, handcuffs, comics about girls being awesome, tattoos, girls with perfect eyeliner.
Danielle Corsetto lives in my home state of West Virginia, but I promise that her proximity to pepperoni rolls has absolutely nothing to do with her place on this list.
Corsetto is the author of Girls with Slingshots, a serial comic that has been in existence since 2004. Do you guys not just die at the dedication of this artist? She juggles multiple characters and story arcs and publishes a strip 5 times a week. Her characters, both male and female, go through dating woes and job woes and all the woes involved with being, well, a person.
(I will put my two cents in here briefly and talk about how I’m not a huge fan of serial comics -- I find it difficult to hop in the middle of one, not knowing all the backstory. And sometimes when you come across one, it’s in the middle of an arc and you have to go back like 8 comics to sort of get the gist of what’s happening. But Corsetto has alleviated that issue in her archives by separating out the arcs into manageable chunks, which makes it very easy to read her comic!)
She’s been putting her comics on the web since the early 2000s, and appreciates the ease of webcomics -- she says it’s easier to share a website with people rather than a physical book. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t have printed books available: she’s got 7 books for Girls with Slingshots (the 8th one is forthcoming), and she’s also written two Adventure Time original graphic novels.
“Becoming a cartoonist [had] been my dream job since third grade, and how many people actually get their third grade dream job?” asks Cornetto.
Thankfully, she did.
YOU’LL LIKE DANIELLE IF YOU LIKE: sexy drawn cleavage, journalists lamenting the death of journalism, cats, librarians.
Here's the thing about Ramsey Beyer: I had never heard of her before I came up to her table at SPX a few weekends ago. Within 5 minutes of saying hello to her, I easily talked myself into buying her massive Year One tome, a tribute to the first year she spent in Philadelphia. I bought a lot of really cool things at this year's convention, but Beyer's book was the first thing I picked up and read. It's so personal, this diary of her first year in Philly, and I'm reminded of the first year I spent in DC.
Beyer went to art school in Baltimore, but started drawing comics for fun. She prefers the autobio format, and makes her art with the intention of printing them in a zine. Though that's not to say that she only sticks to printed work -- in fact, the entirety of her Year One book is available for free on her website.
(Warning: you will not be able to stop clicking the "next" button. Let it go. Just accept it and give yourself about an hour's worth of free time to just keep clicking.)
Along with Year One, Beyer just released another memoir called Little Fish that illustrates what it was like for her to transition from a small-town teen to an independent city college student.
YOU'LL LIKE RAMSEY IF YOU LIKE: true life autobiographical comics, punk music, girls taking charge of their lives
I first discovered Lucy Knisley when she did a set of illustrated posters of all of the Harry Potter books. They were fun and cute and summed up the series quite nicely. And that's pretty much with Lucy Knisley's illustration style is like: it's fun and it's cute.
Despite how cute her illustration style is, her comics are well-crafted, well-thought-out and well-written about multiple topics: birth control, online dating, love. And with reason - she's an old pro at this, having been drawing online comics since she was a teenager.
Knisley, based in NYC at the moment of her responding to my e-mail (a quick perusal of her Twitter feed tells me she's moving and I am secretly hoping she is moving to Washington DC to become my new best friend), has five published graphic novels. The most recent, released in April of this year, is New York Times bestseller Relish, a book about growing up in a “food” family.
YOU'LL LIKE LUCY IF YOU LIKE: comics questioning your place in life, the idea that true love conquers all, food, food, and food (she draws a mean hot dog!)
The fanboy antics of my bff Gary led me to read Abby Howard’s Junior Scientist Power Hour comic. Having watched her on Penny Arcade's Strip Search (she was the runner-up), he developed a massive crush on her that I'm assuming still stands despite my insistence that she is much too young for him.
And she IS young -- only 21 and she's got a well-funded Kickstarter to write a weekly online graphic novel called The Last Halloween, which she’s hoping to launch soon.
YOU’LL LIKE ABBY IF YOU LIKE: thinking about how ripped Barack Obama is, butts, comics about cats being jerks, being socially awkward.
The header image for Madeleine Flores’s Help Us! Great Warrior comic is bubbly and rainbow-colored, which is a lot like how your heart will feel when you read her Post It Love Note comics.
The Oregon-based artist got her start by posting her drawings on Livejournal, and now posts her comics on her Tumblr. Help Us! Great Warrior is a fantasy comic about a very powerful female warrior who tries to protect her villagers while being stylish and amazing and eating pizza. While also looking at butts.
But she’s really gained a following with her Post It Love Notes, created to document the funny and sweet conversations she has with her boyfriend, which you can find not only on her Tumblr but also on her Instagram.
Flores’s first book “The Girl and the Gorilla” was published by Blank Slate Books, but her current and new work is self-published through her lulu.com store.
YOU’LL LIKE MADELEINE IF YOU LIKE: butts, sassy female characters, pizza devotion, cute snippets into a person’s love life.
1999 was a fine year for American pop culture. Britney Spears released her first album. Fight Club came out. Sega released the Dreamcast.
And Dorothy Grambell began her webcomic Cat and Girl.
You guys. 1999. That is a long-ass time to write a webcomic. There are very few things that I have continued to do on a regular basis since 1999. Sleep, I guess, and bathe myself. Read books, maybe? So for that alone, I kind of feel like Grambell deserves a medal. Like the Nobel Prize or something. Who do we contact about that? Obama, right?
The weekly updated comic Cat and Girl is smart and filled with commentary about society as a whole. The archives are, of course, extensive and can be daunting to get through. Luckily, it’s not a serial comic, so I recommend just clicking the “random” button to get a taste of it. You’ll end up clicking about 80,000 times.
Another fun project of Gambrell’s is her Donation Derby -- if you donate to her, she’ll draw a cute comic of how she spent the money.
Gambrell has five printed books available for sale.
YOU’LL LIKE DOROTHY IF YOU LIKE: dry wit, literary references, not fully understanding the joke and so it makes you go into a Wikipedia spiral to understand it thus you learn tons of awesome new things, bad decisions
So even though I couldn’t attend last year’s SPX due to bridesmaidial duties, my friend went and brought me back a mother lode of amazing things that he thought I would like. Things like awesome prints and minicomics. And a little mini-anthology of Liz Prince’s “Alone Forever” comics.
I fell immediately in love with it. FINALLY, I thought, FINALLY SOMEONE WHO GETS IT. The style was cute, the wording was witty. I wanted nothing else but to befriend Prince and take her dancing to scope out cute bearded dudes.
Prince started posting comics online in high school, and even though she never really considered herself a web cartoonist, she’s “pretty addicted to the instant gratification of posting comics online.”
Her comics are easy to read and relatable - at least, I understand what it’s like going to the grocery store and coming back with nothing but chips and cookies. It’s hard to be an urban unmarried woman in your early 30s in this day and age -- I feel young enough to go to a punk rock show and wear glittery eyeliner and eat a jumbo slice among the youth in their tottering heels. But at the same time, I also feel old enough to go to bed at 10:00 and snuggle up with my cats and watch the news and not answer any texts.
Prince GETS it, this walking the line, and for that alone, she deserves a place on your RSS feed at least, but I’ve made room for her on my bookshelf too.
She has a multitude of books and comics available in her shop, including the award-winning “Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed?” graphic novel, which is not so much about pee and more so about relationships. She also has a collection of her Alone Forever comics coming out in February 2014 (“just in time to be the best Valentine’s gift ever”) and another graphic memoir called “Tomboy” in the fall.
YOU’LL LIKE LIZ IF YOU LIKE: those Buzzfeed lists on your late 20s versus your early 20s filled with gifs about eating and sleeping, cute bearded boys, Saves The Day lyrics
LIZ SUGGESTS READING: Carrie McNinch, Nicole Georges (she “had a book called "Calling Dr. Laura" come out earlier this year and it's a serious contender to be my favorite graphic novel of 2013”), Alec Longstreth’s longstanding minicomic Phase 7 (he just started a series of issues about being a “crazed Weezer fan”).
I want to start this off by saying I don’t really have any hangups about sex. Get me in a room with the right kind of people and I’ll talk about dicks and tits all night long. Writing about sex, though, that’s where I fall short. So I have a real respect for people who can write about sexytimes well, much less DRAW them.
There are quite a few webcomics out there that you shouldn’t pull up while you’re at work, and Erika Moen’s Oh Joy Sex Toy is one of them. Which, really, is a total shame because Moen’s OJST is one of the most positive-in-every-way comics out there.
The basic premise of the comic is a review site for things related to sexytimes. Vibrators, emergency contraception, masturbation sleeves -- Erika, her devastatingly handsome husband Matthew, and the Masturbateers plow through sex toys like it’s their job. Which, it kind of is.
Let’s talk for a second about the Masturbateers. This ragtag group of sex fiends are the most diverse comic characters out there. All different body shapes, races and sexual orientations, and Moen makes sure to mention in her guide to new readers that the Masturbateers are intended to be gender-neutral, saying “we respect and support that real life people do not all refer to their own genitalia with [medical] terminology.”
Y’all. I just got some warm fuzzies.
Moen, another Oregon-based artist, took comic drawing classes at her high school, and created her own major in college called Illustrated Storytelling, but she said her greatest education cane when she joined Periscope Studio and worked with two dozen comic artists. She was also featured on Penny Arcade’s Strip Search webseries.
Her journal comic, DAR!, ran from 2003-2009, and Bucko, a murder mystery comic collaboration with Marvel writer Jeff Parker, ran from 2011-2012. Archives for both are available on her website, or printed in book form through her online shop. Moen also contributed to the book Smutpeddler, an anthology of porn comics for women.
YOU’LL LIKE ERIKA IF YOU LIKE: positive portrayals of gender and sexual identities, body-positive comics, doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well.