Being consistently both exceptionally well animated and well written, Nicholas Gurewitch’s Perry Bible Fellowship (PBF) has earnt the top spot. Starting in 2001, PBF ran until 2008 with weekly updates on Sundays. With so many updates the comic has a wonderfully diverse archive. The comic has no real theme and very few recurring characters, and both the styles of humour and artwork are very broad, which is probably PBF’s greatest strength – there’s simply a plethora of good writing. The only constant within the PBF universe is that it’s really quite dark, often using child-like simplicity to set up a darkly comic joke that’ll have you reeling with laughter. So if youwant to be giggling away like a manic child all afternoon check out www.pbfcomics.com and have a browse over the archive.
From beautifully crafted comic strips tocolourless stick-men, xkcd takes the number two spot. Drawing is not Randall Munroe’s specialty, but what the comic strip lacks in terms of art it more than makes up for with humour. Often dark, at times silly, but always funny, xkcd is one of the most intellectual comics around. Munroe is a physics graduate from America who, before working full time on the comics, was an employee at NASA; which makes it understandable that some of the humour can derive from mathematics, computing and science. That doesn’t stop it being ridiculously funny. It’s still running and is updated three times a week without fail so it’s got a great archive to delve into, and my advice is to just get yourself onto xkcd.com and hit the ‘random’ button for hours; I’m not exaggerating when I say your sides will hurt the next morning.
Next are the Cyanide and Happiness comics; highly recognisable with their simple not-quite stickmen characters and their dark and inappropriate humour. It’s the best kind of inappropriate though. No subject is taboo for the four writers, with jokes being made about sex, drugs, cancer, AIDS, gender, race; the list goes on. If you shouldn’t make a joke about it then C&H probably already have. The comic is updated daily, which is a mixed blessing; the quality of writing can differ massively between the four. But for every comic that leaves you stony faced there’s a dozen that’ll have you grinning like a madman. Check out the expansive archive at www.explosm.net and enjoy yourself as you cry laughing. Or cry at the inappropriate subjects they touch on. Either way you’ll cry, but they’ll keep writing the comic.
Last, but certainly not least in the line-up are the delightful Dinosaur Comics, written by Ryan North. One of the most interesting and indeed impressive features of these particular comics is that the panels are fixed, they very rarely change – the characters, their poses, all the artwork are set and only the text around the images changes. They are rather text-heavy and can be hit and miss at times, but North manages to make a living by only writing the comic so must be doing something right. They’re highly witty and are known to deal with rather deep topics; God and the Devil sometimes feature from outside the frames to offer their own input to the dinosaurs. Definitely worth checking out at www.qwantz.com. Unfortunately given the text-heavy nature of the comic the example to the left is only the top section! To check out the full comic go to http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=1795.
I can guarantee that this top four has something for everyone, from the intellectual to the silly, from beautiful artwork to black and white stick men. If you don’t find something to laugh at then comics just aren’t for you. If comics are for you, then you might like to check out one of Southampton’s own comic enterprises. Three of Southampton’s humanities students, Alex Mann, Toby Marshall and Catherine Heath have joined forces to create Tenapenny.net. The website is relatively new with a rather short archive at the moment, but this is sure to grow and is already host to some wonderful comics, with a varied art style and broad content. Check it out at www.tenapenny.net.