As the majority of the populace may or may not know, this Saturday, May 7, is Free Comic Book Day, a day when comic stores around the country open their doors to give away a nice array of specially-made goods. The selection of comics includes, perhaps most notably, “Captain America/Thor: The Mighty Fighting Avengers,” from the brilliant team that brought the world Thor: the Mighty Avengerthis past year. And that’s not to take away from the other gems — see some recommendations from ComicsAlliance’s Chris Sims here.
That being said, Northwestern is a campus full of busy students who might not have the time, energy or charisma to trek two blocks from campus for free things. No need to worry, though — the Internet has a host of free comics, so you can celebrate in your own way, safely within your campus dorm.
The best of the best:
Who’ll like it: crime aficionados, bibliophiles and hopefully everyone else
A truly great online webcomic, Cameron Stewart’s work nabbed last year’s Eisner Award for achievement in American comics, a decision likely met with universal support. The surrealist, noir-inflected series moves at a great clip, with the slow, lingering “camerawork” from panel to panel displaying a bit of a European, New Wave sensibility. It’s making the jump to print, due by the end of the year.
Who’ll like it: Sci-fi fans, witty repartee enthusiasts and people who can’t quite handle manga
Freakangels stands as one of the most prominent and most reliably published webcomics ever. Warren Ellis (Planetary, Transmetropolitan) manages to one-up himself in the slowly unfolding narrative surrounding psychics in an oddly sunny end-of-the-world-in-London scenario. “Children of Men” this is not, infused with a bright and shiny twist on steampunk and, frankly, more character than almost all the rest of Ellis’ work. Props go to Paul Duffield’s art and well-paced style.
Who’ll like it: Josh Whedon/Buffy fans, punk rockers, ’90s kids and anyone who likes clever art
A fun romp with a brilliant artist and (in my view) a less-brilliant writer, Sugarshock! brims with more than enough quirk to sustain its brief, three-part run. Today, only the first leg of the series is available online, assuming you’re not resorting to illicit means. Alternatively, and more charitably, you could buy the trade containing it. It’s all of $1 like new.
I Think You’re Sauceome
Who’ll like it: foodies, girls who sometimes think they’re fat
Sarah Becan’s webcomic chronicles her daily adventures in food and her musings surrounding them. If nothing else, I Think You’re Sauceome! is very cute, offering a great, culinary destination for your mind to wander to. It’s perhaps a little too cute for my taste, but considering we at NBN host a Cute Animal Blog, I think there’s an audience for it.
When I Am King
Who’ll like it: everyone — it’s effectively perfect
Honestly, this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, but more importantly, it’s also one of the most innovative — probably the single work that best exploits its status as a webcomic. Entirely silent, Demian 5’s sprawling, zany strip involves fire-breathing camels, drug trips and a boatload of penis-related shenanigans. As adorable as it is clever, you’d frankly be crazy to miss out on it.
Phonogram: The Singles Club, Issue #1: “Pull Shapes”
Who’ll like it: music lovers (especially of Britpop), ‘90s kids, Anglophiles and purveyors of wit
The beginning of a truly brilliant comic’s second volume, The Singles Club charts the events of one night at a lively British nightclub with a lot going on. Elements of urban fantasy (magic, namely) flow through the narrative, but fueling the themes more than the plot. Each issue of the volume offers a self-contained story, and “Pull Shapes” is not only the best possible introduction but one of the best of the lot. Jamie McKelvie (Suburban Glamour, Siege: Loki) and Kieron Gillen (Thor, Uncanny X-Men, also Generation Hope) partner up on one of comic’s many excellent, energetic collaborations.
Image, Phonogram’s publisher, also has pdfs of plenty of other first issues, as do Dark Horse and Vertigo. (First issues from The Nightly News, Hellboy, and DMZ from those sites, respectively, are all great.) Aside from that, there are plenty of other previews and free comics floating around online, so don’t hesitate to explore — on Free Comic Book Day or not.