Never Mind The Gap

Single Sentence Scrutiny: 44 Science Fiction Webcomics

This is another Single Sentence-Scrutiny post. This time I focus on Science Fiction webcomics. Each one gets one single sentence of explanation.

Note that neither order nor sentence length are indicative of relative awesomeness. The same goes for sentence quality. Much to my dismay I have to focus on quantity rather than quality in this article, because I want to list as many comics as possible. Note that I only mark comics as NSFW in very strong cases.

I grouped the comics based on whether they are set in space or on Earth, and whether they qualify as spy-fi rather than sci-fi. I’ll move from Earth to outer space in several steps.

Here we go! Do you like or dislike any particular comic? Let us know in the comments.

Embellished Slice-Of-Life

Here are a couple of webcomics that are mostly slice-of-life but also feature some futuristic element:

Never Mind the Gap is a romantic story (of the steamy kind, if you catch my drift -> definitely NSFW) set in a world that has undergone dramatic changes from our current one but doesn’t really feel post-apocalyptic, let alone dystopian.

Drugs And Wires is a pretty dark and disturbing take on Cyberpunk.

Questionable Content is a relationship-drama-driven slice-of-life comedy webcomic, featuring humans that need to grow a pair and robots that are to cocky, with lots of humor and drama that are true to the characters.

Spy-Fi

A Girl and Her Fed is an astonishing twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-supernatural-elements espionage webcomic that features really evil villains, but also shows political antagonism coming from different viewpoints and goals rather than from moral deficiency, and how the good guys sometimes make questionable choices as well.

Three Minute Max is an action-packed dramatic story with teleportation technolgy and sorta-kinda superheroes that is sometimes over-the-top but has a heart that never stops (unlike that of the hero).

Spy6teen is high-tech espionage meets high-school drama, well written and professionally visualized.

Amazing Agent Luna and its prequel Amazing Agent Jennifer are high-tech espionage stories, with cloning technology at the forefront, set in High School, adhering to many of the Manga-stlye tropes, even the more disturbing ones, but also with pretty solid storytelling.

Retro-SF

Deep Dive Daredevils is an exciting pulp-style adventure webcomic that combines historical submarine action, retro-science-fiction thrills, supernatural chills, and bunch-of-ragtag-misfits shenanigans, and craftily employs all the old, well-known tropes and twists them like no one else, delivering entirely new levels of surprising, yet inevitable.

Westward is a very weird story on Earth and in space, in the past, the present and the future.

Far-Future Earth

Two webcomics that are set on Earth, but in a far away in time future:

Datachasers is very dark and disturbing, but also full of drama and excellent action.

Alice Grove is mostly irreverent fun.

Not Yet In Space Or No Longer In Space

Opportunities is a webcomic that will develop into something like space opera, but since the entire first book is set on Earth, it is a twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-aliens-and-spaceships espionage story, and it relies on continually rising dramatic tension instead of mindless action, and constantly surprises the reader in spite of being very upfront and hiding very little from the reader.

Relativity is about the aftermath of an experimental space flight that has strange unintended consequences that unravel mankind’s knowledge of space-time as well as the relationships of the protagonists in crazy ways.

Space

First lets look at some science fiction webcomics that play out in space:

Schlock Mercenary is a science fiction webcomic that applies poignant satire on many levels (visual, narrative, dialog, plot), with multiple scopes (personal, relationship, professional, technical, organizational, strategic, political), and to different effects (silly, funny, weird, dramatic, dark and disturbing).

Space Mullet is a dark-and-gritty-but-also-quite-funny science fiction (in space) webcomic, where the guys are valiant and wise-cracking, the girls are tough and pretty, the aliens are alien and relatable, the moons and planets are gourgeous, and the weapons and spaceships are top-notch designs.

Greasy Space Monkeys is special for being a webcomic that spices up Gibsonian high-tech-low-life underdog-in-space slice-of-life shenanigans with Crocodile Dundee-esque romantic comedy sprinkles, including courtship rituals ranging from impersonating a spaceship captain to refusing to either confirm or deny allegations of being a murderer to threatening inevitable nuclear annihilation.

Galaxion is a wonderful webcomic featuring Live. Love. Hyperspace., which means that it got its priorities right.

Trekker is a cool webcomic that starts from a pretty standard science fiction setting and premise, but the story is interesting, the plot is well executed, and the visuals are easy on the eyes.

Quantum Vibe is a science fiction webcomic that populates an epic world in a setting limited to our solar system and speed-of-light communication with an incredibly diverse set of characters even without any aliens. (Note: This changes with the new storyline, set a long time after the initial three books.)

Drive is a great webcomic that combines serious, incredibly creative world-building and goofy but loveable characters into an intriguing story.

Space Corps is a science fiction webcomic with world-buildung based on blatant setting rip-off (Semper Fi IN SPACE) enforcing ridiculous constraints on alien design (only the head can be different, and it still has to fit into a standard human-sized helmet), which is great fun because it unflinchingly runs with the concept and includes alien characters which are pretty cool despite the constraints.

Spacetrawler is a very remarkable science fiction webcomic populated by a plethora of incredibly versatile alien designs that take full advantage of the freedom afforded by the medium and accept no constraints whatsoever.

Space Pest Removal is a cute science fiction webcomic characterized by cartoon-style visuals and storytelling that always makes me smile and often makes me wonder.

Crowded Void is particularly nauseating science fiction webcomic. (Seriously, can you imagine any science fiction setting as gross as the intestines of a giant space worm? If so, please tell us in the comments.)

Intergalactic Medical Doctor is a new science fiction webcomic that mixes low comedy, high satire, and a dramatic center.

Supermassive Black Hole A* is a sci-i story that takes the antihero concept to hitherto unknown places, making you root for a selfish mass murderer simply because she is an attractive women on so many levels.

Cassiopeia Quinn is fanservice and funservice, in space.

Space Junk Arlia is about space pirates versus the space fleet, and who’re the more respectable ones?

Terra is all about fighting in space, with a motley crew.

Flight Of The Binturong is a fun little story about a spaceship crew that gets screwed over by the powers-that-be.

Dressed For Success is about two guys running away from the mob, in space.

11th Millennium is concerned with girl problems in space, including, but not limited to, friendship, sex, gaming, betrayal, crime, sabotage, smuggling, militant rebellion, and interstellar war.

Star Shanty features pirates in space! [The site has been down for some time now. I hope it – or at least the comic – will resurface some day.]

Starslip shows us space (and time) adventures with a captain who is a museum curator.

dord is the science fiction webcomic that Samuel Beckett would have written.

Yesterday Bound is all-out fanservice and action, in space.

Praesidium devolves into pure tragedy & death in space!

Space Pulp is called Space Pulp for a reason! Fun to read, but definitely NSFW on occasion.

Merceneiress gets really dark and disturbing on so many levels.

Crimson Dark could be described as Star Wars meets Firefly.

Blue Milk Special is a parody of Star Wars that will be lots of fun for fans of the franchise.

The Lydian Option is pretty much the webcomic equivalent of a Die Hard style action movie in space.

Velocidad is an action-packed space pirates/rebels/renegades story, set in a fairly standard sci-fi world, but with a twist, and with a visual style that took some time for me to get comfortable with, but is certainly unique and interesting, an dfull of cool space-stuff designs.

Note: There are more science fiction webcomics than I could possibly cover here. And if I don’t like them, they may nevertheless be very good (because my taste is just my taste, duh).

Can you express in one sentence why you love your favorite webcomic? Tell us in the comments!

Of course, many of the explanations given in the one sentence descriptions above deserve further exploration. I will revisit them in forthcoming posts.

Note that my next blog post is Single Sentence Scrutiny: 11 Action/Thriller/Crime/Espionage Webcomics.

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Diversity In Webcomics

Diversity is a hot topic. Lack of diversity is an even hotter topic. How to overcome it, is the hottest topic of all. There are many aspects to this topics, personal, social, legal, political etc. But I won’t talk about these, because Provocative Praise is not about such issues.

Provocative Praise is, among other things, about webcomics. And webcomics constitute the most diverse medium that exists, or that could possibly exist. Whether for creators or audiences, webcomics are the easiest way to explore diversity.

Note: Today’s post contains only minor spoilers, if any.

The Easy Way

From a reader’s perspective, webcomics are the easiest way to explore diversity. Actually, to explore anything. At minimal cost.

Just look around for something that might potentially be interesting. Take a closer look. Follow the story for a couple of pages.

  • The worst that could happen is that you find out you don’t like the story, stop following it, and forget about it. No money lost, and very little time. And maybe you learned something, anyway.
  • If the comic you found is wonderful, great, cool, or even just pretty nice, you WIN
    • If it is unlike anything you have read before, you just broadened your horizon
    • If it is similar to the stuff you already read, chances are you will still learn something new
  • Sometimes a comic starts promising, but the storytelling develops in a way that is no longer to your taste. You can just stop reading. You had a good time, you learned something along the way. Maybe you will come back later, maybe you never will. No harm, either way.

Note: Actually, the worst thing that could happen is something very different: That wonderful, great, outstanding webcomic you follow suddenly stops updating. Because comic artists sometimes fall ill, get a new (day) job, or move on, physically or mentally. Hiatus! And then you become so annoyed when your web browser constantly tells you that it – and your whole life – will run better, faster and safer if you disable that sense-of-entitlement plug-in.

Serendipitous Diversity

Keep in mind that I only talk about stuff that I actually read, and can’t do more than scratch the surface of the wonderful and breathtakingly diverse world of webcomics. You can help me dig slightly deeper by recommending your favorite webcomics in the comments. (As some of you have already done. Thank you so much.)

I should note that when I started looking for and reading more and more webcomics, I didn’t explicitly look for diversity, in any of the dimensions that I’m talking about here. And I still don’t look for webcomics written by women, people of color, trans people, …

I look for webcomics that are interesting for me. That usually means science fiction, espionage thrillers, (dark) crime stories, intense drama or even psychological horror, and comedy with a heart and a deeper soul. Sometimes I stumble upon fantasy or zombie stories that unexpectedly draw me in. And occasionally a story with a specific message manages to pique my curiosity and capture my interest. That’s how I discovered and continue to discover diversity in webcomics. Successfully.

Moving forward, I have to apologize that I’m not able to name all the creators whose webcomics I talk about. At the moment I just don’t have the time for the diligence necessary to figure out they all are. To be fair to everyone, I’ll just leave out even the names that I now. Bear with me, in the (maybe far) future I’ll talk more about creators, and refer to them properly. And please note that I link to all comics directly, and do not use any image without – thus implied – credit.

Diverse Creators & Diverse Teams

Everyone with good internet access, a suitable computer, and whatever viable drawing device (from pencil to tablet) can create and publish a webcomic. Technically, this still excludes the majority of people living on this planet. But is also means that the entry barrier is lower than with any other medium. The organizational dynamics that often shut out or keep down creators who are not straight, cis, white, and male do not apply to webcomics.

Just like I don’t explicitly look for diversity in topics, I don’t do that with regard to the creators. And of course, I don’t evaluate the webcomics I love based on who wrote them. For example, I love Opportunities In Space ever since I found it. Over time I found out that one of the creators is a woman, and finally that they both are. That didn’t change my appreciation of their comic in any way.

By the way, from the slightly more than fifty webcomics on my Wonderful Webcomics page, fifteen are created by one woman (each) or an all-female team, and about a dozen by a team that includes at least one woman. Some examples for the latter are Spare Keys For Strange Doors, The Other Grey Meat, and Space Junk Arlia. The last one is also created by a team that’s not all white.

Diverse Cast

When I wrote that I don’t look out for diversity specifically, that’s not the whole truth. When it comes to casting, I tend to appreciate stories more that have a diverse cast. I’m not adamantly against skewed demographics in any possible case; some settings and some stories work best with a cast that consists of only one set of people. But in general, I like stories with ensemble casts that are diverse in many aspects, age, gender, race, sexuality, as well as personal attributes like intellectual and emotional capability or temperament.

Fortunately, there is no scarcity of webcomics featuring diverse casts. No doubt there exist numerous examples of stories where a couple of white dudes hang out and talk about gaming, superheroes and babes. But I’m in the happy position that no one forces me to read those.

An example for a cast that is racially diverse, including people of color and Asian people, is Ramen Empire, which also directly addresses racial stereotypes and prejudices.

The slice-of-life webcomics Girls With Slingshots and Questionable Content do a very good job at displaying diversity with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. They even manage quite often to make fun of difficult topics while taking them very serious – you my recall how that is my personal definition of satire – and they never, ever denounce their characters.

And as a proof that even when I restrict myself to my favorite genre/theme/topic I can still have diversity in the cast, just have a look at A Girl and Her Fed.

Diverse Topics

Webcomics can also, and do so with gusto, tackle topics that tend to be marginalized in commercial media. An example would be the specific issues faced by transgender people, which are addressed pretty well in Rain and in an awesome way in Validation. In both cases, I didn’t start reading them, or continued to read them, because I absolutely wanted to learn about transexuality, but because I wanted to read interesting stories. These comics entertained me very well. I also learned a lot on the way.

Diverse Storytelling

Diversity in storytelling methods is also something that the webcomic mediums sustains like no other:

  • Very unusual worldbuilding and combination of supposedly disparate genres in Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether
  • Beautiful but very strange panel composition and framing in Next Town Over
  • A story that gives equal weight to the serious & the outright funny, the technical & the slice of life, the human condition & and the alien influence, and in consequence moves along with glacial speed, Galaxion just keeps running – or, if you must, crawling – with momentum
  • Comics that combine gag-a-day with short storylines and with longer plotlines in a mix-and-match fashion like Johnson And Sir and Space Pest Removal live most comfortably on the web
  • An affectionate media parody like Monster Of The Week (X-Files) can get away with stuff that might otherwise be difficult to sell, and it’s awesome

The Diversity Paradox

By now you should have noticed that I’m all: Yay, diversity! It rocks!

But there’s something that bothers me.  Sometimes, the argument for diversity is understood like this: Audiences need diversity, e.g. they should read about women, people of color, LGBTQ issues, etc., therefore the pool of creators needs to be diverse, e.g should contain women, people of color, LGBTQ people, etc. This is absolutely right, of course we need diverse creators, and especially as part of the large teams that are needed for some kind of media, but it would be wrong and dangerous to imply that each issue X can only ever adequately addressed by people who are X. This thinking is dangerous because it reinforces stereotypes about X instead of taking them down: Men write action, women write romance, only gay people can create stories about gay characters, etc.

It is also demonstrably false.  Just to address one point, consider the plethora of wonderful female characters created by male writers and artists in Protege, Never Mind the Gap, Spacetrawler, Quantum Vibe, Questionable Content, Schlock Mercenary, Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, Space Mullet, and Trekker. Don’t believe my word, check them out yourself!

Sometimes ‘t Ain’t Easy

Here’s the dirty little secret about reading webcomics: It’s are all about Easy. You want webcomics to be easy. Easy on the eye, easy on the brain, easy on the budget. And at the same time, they should be interesting, inspiring, and intriguing. In other words, what you look for in a webcomic is what you would look for in casual dating. (Disclaimer & Disclosure: I’m faithfully married for more than twenty years. I don’t know anything about how casual dating works. I’m simply talking out of my *ss here.)

So let me talk about an It’s complicated situation here. Or rather, a journey:

I discovered Supermassive Black Hole A* a long time ago, but I only got really interested, one might say invested, when the storytelling got much more coherent, with more consistent visual style, more precise plotting and more effective pacing, with the assassination storyline. (And yes, the picture subtly hints at one additional reason I got more interested). That storyline pretty much ended, as is only fitting, with the death of the mark.

The next storylines were great as well, but some time later, the creator started to experiment with new visual techniques, fancy art style, adding color, and indulged in beauty in a way that affected plot focus and pacing in a way that made me lose interest. (I’m sure there are people who were enthusiastic about the change).

A short time ago, I revisited the comic and found out that while the new visual style was there to stay, the comic was back on track with regard to drama and action, and it is now back on my reading list (and on my Wonderful Webcomics page). And I’m so happy about this.

As always, you are encouraged to agree or disagree (or go on a tangent) in the comments.

See you next week: