Burrell, Carol. SPQR Blues. http://spqrblues.comicgenesis.com/d/20051120.html
This daily webcomic follows the everyday life of ordinary Romans living in Herculaneum. All the characters are based on real people, though Burrell has added fictional details: the protagonist Felix, for example, is descended from one of Marc Antony’s slave, thus allowing him to speak on issues of race and class. The title is a riff on the popular TV show NYPD Blues, while the subject matter is reminiscent of the French comic Asterix and Obelix; this is not surprising, as Burrell often borrows from many cultural tropes to create trenchant, relatable storylines. Her drawing style is reminiscent of 1960s and ‘70s comics, for it is at once beautifully spare, using clean lines and black ink, but also marvelously detailed, awash in Roman luxury.
Gibbs, Shawnée and Shawnelle. The Invention of E.J. Whitaker. http://www.ejwhitaker.com
Ada Turner, a Tuskegee University student and young inventor’s apprentice, creates a flying machine in 1901. In an effort to have her work taken seriously despite her gender, Ada registers the patent under the pseudonym of E.J. Whitaker. Her invention soon gains national attention, as well as that of two young businessmen, Wlliam and Samuel. However, Ada must keep both her identity and her invention a secret, lest it be stolen from her and used for financial gain. The comic blends science, adventure, romance, and a steampunk aesthetic in an effort to deliver “smart, aspirational, and diverse female characters.” The Gibbs sisters see this comic as building on the legacies of Octavia Butler and Tananarive Due; in writing it, they intended to recruit more women, and especially more women of color, into STEM fields, in which they continue to be underrepresented.
Louis, Mildred. Agents of the Realm. https://agentsoftherealm.com
This webcomic tells the story of a college-age group of women of diverse backgrounds who take on the role of magical protectors, not just of our world, but of a magical sister dimension as well. Louis is inspired by both manga and anime, specifically the mahou shoujo, or magical girl, style. Her characters, however, are far more diverse than traditional manga, in race, sexuality, and origin, thus upending as many of the genre’s stereotypes as she borrows. Even as the story is a coming-of-age one, Louis also steers away from improvement narratives—the characters learn, over and over again, that they are already beautiful, feminine, and strong enough without needing to become idealized, stereotyped versions of themselves. An interesting thing to note about this comic is that Louis often varies the color and font of her text according to the format it is being delivered in (i.e. spoken or typed) and to the speaker, something relatively uncommon in comics; this makes her work much more inclusive for readers, appealing to a range of ages and abilities.
Gibbs, Shawnée and Shawnelle. Fashion Forward. http://www.gofashionforward.com/read-from-beginning-2/
This webcomic tells of an aspiring fashion designer who can travel through time, gathering inspiration throughout history for her creations. The comic explores the competitive nature of the fashion industry, often satirizing through exaggeration some of its more cutthroat behaviors, while also lampooning standards, behaviors, and fashions we take for granted today. It also discusses women’s role in the workplace, and the personal toll that is often required for women to be successful; the Gibbs sisters have an especially trenchant discussion of how successful women are often perceived to be “monsters” and “ice queens.” The visual style is very simple and spare, thus allowing the focus of the text to be on the story and its words; the simplicity of the style also allows readers to step into the shoes of the fashion designer, to some extent, and to fill in details for themselves.
Grant, Shauna. Princess Love Pon. https://www.princesslovepon.com
This serialized webcomic is a magical story about Lia Sagamore, a high school student who becomes an envoy of love. Throughout the story, she has to balance her own high school struggles, such as figuring out her future and navigating her personal relationships, with her duties as an envoy, which include protecting the emotional well-being of others from the Dark Queen who wants to steal their hearts. Princess Love Pon is drawn in a traditional manga style, though unlike some of Grant’s other work, which was drawn in black and white, this comic is saturated with cheerful, girly pinks, purples, and pastels, thus embodying in the visual style the “happy, girly” feel that Grant loves so much and thinks deserves more representation.
Mance, Ajuan. 1001 Black Men. http://8-rock.com
In a project modeled after Elisha Lim’s 300 Butches, Mance has created a portrait series dedicated to representing black men in all their complexity and diversity. Her visual style employs the thick lines and geometric shapes usually found in stained glass windows, thus elevating her subjects to biblical status. Each portrait is drawn in varying shades of the same hue, thus allowing readers to truly focus on the subject, more than the artwork itself. Mance has explained that when she draws, she begins by drawing the nose and lips of her subjects, since those are the features for which black people are most often maligned; she has said that those are the features she finds most beautiful, a beauty which she tries to convey by granting them the most attention.