One of the things I probably do way too much of is read webcomics. I started with Unshelved, which came recommended by my husband on his previous blog. Unshelved, by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, is about librarians. I am not a librarian. However, the humor is easily appreciable by the reading public and on Sundays features recommended books. It is a very conventional-looking, 3-panel black and white comic strip produced daily, and is an easy introduction to the seductive world of webcomics. I read it every day.
From Unshelved, I found Sheldon, by Dave Kellett. This is another very conventional style of comic strip. Soon, I started reading more and more webcomics in very short order (mostly over the summer, when I had time to read the comics from the beginning of their archives). A physics teacher on one of the e-mail lists I am on sent a link to this xkcd comic, for example. Last year, I didn’t know anybody who read xkcd (a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language) by Randall Munroe. This year, all my AP Physics students read it. Xkcd is the one webcomic that I actually bought a t-shirt from:
I do get sucked in by plot, in particular. I have always loved reading novels, and comics that are serials with a complex plot that unfolds over time are like potato chips to me. I can eat way too many potato chips at once, and I can get sucked into a plot to the detriment of getting necessary things done. I have learned to buy novels when I have a break from school coming up, and I don’t go to the library during the school year. Comics, at least, regulate how much time I can spend by publishing new panels only a few times a week.
My favorite webcomic with plot is Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius. It follows the life of Agatha Heterodyne (the girl genius) who discovers that she is the lost heir to the famous Heterodyne Boys, scientist/inventor/heroes who mysteriously disappeared at about the same time Agatha was born. The story takes place in an alternate-history Europe ruled by Baron Wulfenbach, a tyrant whose focus is stamping out all remnants of “the other,” the enemy who presumably destroyed the Heterodyne Boys and wreaked havoc over most of Europe. Like xkcd, the Foglios update their comic every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Unlike xkcd, you can buy paper versions of the story to read without the aid of a computer. I own volumes 1-6.
A webcomic with plot, physics, and obscure references geared toward the well-educated is Dresden Codak, by Aaron Diaz. Dresden Codak usually contains a plot in every comic (some of which are long for comics–you have to scroll down a lot to read the whole page) except for the Hob series, which is still incomplete as of today. I am highly skeptical that Diaz can earn a living at this, as he claims to be attempting, since he updates the comic less often than once a week. However, I certainly appreciate his work, especially this one and this one. It does help to have already taken a course in modern physics (intro to quantum physics) to understand the second one, but wikipedia does a good job of explaining it.
These few webcomics are not all the ones I read, but I don’t feel like making an exhaustive list here. I would feel obligated to review them all, and I have other things I need to do. I definitely recommend Unshelved to just about anyone who likes comics, but the others are for people with certain tastes. Sheldon is similarly geared towards a general audience, but I don’t find it as consistently funny as I find Unshelved. Maybe you will really like it, I don’t know. Xkcd is really pretty geeky, and Dresden Codak is highly intellectual (I feel smug if I think I get all the references, and feel bummed when I don’t). I recommend Girl Genius for its art, humor, dialogue, and engaging story, but if you are a person who hates reading fantasy/science fiction you probably won’t enjoy it.
I know there are a lot of other webcomics out there that I have never heard of. If I find any more to recommend to you, I’ll try to remember to post about them here.