I am excited to write this post, and I am kind of surprised that I didn't write it a while ago. Probably my favorite webcomic is Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton. Here, I snipped a few strips from a recent Macbeth post.The whole set can be found here.
I've started reading webcomics last year and there are few that I follow closely, with Hark! securely in the lead. Kate Beaton is a Canadian with a degree in History and Anthropology and a silly wit to her comics. Her education has an obvious influence on her comics. Many of her characters are drawn directly from history, and I think a fair deal of humor lies in the sheer absurdity of seeing venerated historical figures portrayed as less dignified, but perhaps more accurate caricatures of their popular representations. Some of her other characters are her own improvisations to illustrate a specific setting in time. Others still are completely her own, existing within narratives of original inspiration. I also dig her strips that are just about herself and her life; she's got some funny stories to tell.
Something that I dearly appreciate about Hark! is the frequency with which Kate posts. It bugs me that many other comics post sporadically, often failing to adhere to their own schedules. She, however, can be relied on to post at least once a week with a fairly large set of strips, and sometimes multiple times a week, with smaller sets. I think this eagerness is a manifestation of a passion for her subjects that shines through in a big way in her comics.
Art is, unsurprisingly, very important to me in webcomics. Beaton's art features a familiar comic style with a certain sophistication that ink seems to lend to those that can use it properly. I may be biased, because I feel my own drawing style seems made for pen and ink. At any rate, her characters are distinct, which is essential to a comic that is trying to make jokes with the hope that the audience will know who is telling them. Hark! could be considered a comic for smart people in that a knowledge of western history is not required, but many of the jokes make reference to specific events or individuals.
I would be a fool not to mention the costumes. Kate Beaton seems to have a pretty serious eye for historical fashion. I might be something of an oddity, but there is something strangely satisfying about looking at the clothes and facial hair (especially facial hair) of people in the past.
I think you will enjoy reading Hark! A Vagrant.
THIS is my personal favorite.
I will probably do some more web comic posts in the future, so get pumped for those.