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There’s a slew of superb fantasy webcomics to choose from these days, but some of them could get you fired (think Oglaf, one of the most notoriously NSFW fantasy strips on the internet). But you don’t have to be bored at work just because sex and graphic violence are off-the-table. These safe for work comics aren’t just for kids - gorgeously illustrated strips like Stand Still. Stay Silent and A Redtail’s Dream will keep you enthralled, while funny, sweet stories like Digger and Monster Pulse are just the thing to break up your week. Click away with no fear that your coworker is about to report you - unless they’re keen on reporting your great taste in amazing fantasy webcomics.
If you’re a fan of Bone, this one’s for you. Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, Ursula Vernon’s Digger tells the epic tale of a wombat engineer resembling a stuffed toy. Our practical heroine Digger has been transported far from her home by fossil magic to a strange place filled with demons, gods, a creature who eats shadows, human Shaolin warriors, a pathetic hyena named Ed, snails who can foretell the future thanks to a well-meaning Druid, religious fanatics, and a talking statue of the Hindu god Ganesh (he turns out to be pretty pleasant). The story seems to take ancient China as its inspiration at times but also incorporates modern double-take reaction like Digger putting a paw over her face. The art is striking; The New York Times called it “a visually powerful strip.” You have nothing to lose in falling down Digger’s rabbit hole.
If Star Wars, The Hobbit, and Dr. Seuss all fell into a swirling technicolor vortex and popped out the other side, you’d get Rice Boy: surreal fantasy world-building at its finest. Evan Dahm's colorful story of Rice Boy began as a strange bar vignette and evolved into an epic fantasy webcomic (now also available in book form). The eponymous protagonist has no arms or legs and resembles a tiny bright white grain of rice, but Dahm somehow makes him highly relatable and his quest tale gripping. Much could be said of all Dahm’s art, which is simple yet stunning, beautifully colored and fun just to look at, all set in the imaginary worlds of Overside and Underside. His style alone conveys so much emotion, especially a true sense of melancholy. This is a wonderful comic to lose yourself in when you want a story with endless twists and art that's a tribute to the genre.
A Redtail's Dream
Minna Sundberg is an absolute master at the art of the comic strip, emphasis on art. In A Redtail’s Dream, every panel is frame-worthy, but it’s hard to pause for too long when you NEED to find out what happens next in a fascinating story based on Finnish folklore (especially Kalevala, a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled from oral traditions). When an entire Finnish village is trapped in the realm of dreams by a fox spirit, a young man and his trusty shapeshifting dog have to save them before they’re trapped forever in the land of eternal sleep. It’s a classic hero’s journey tale, but the rich Scandinavian-inspired art and the foundation of ancient myths used to build the story make it anything but trite. It’s like a fairy tale, full of mystery and otherworldly power, but not devoid of humorous exchanges between Hannu and Ville (our protagonists). This comic is clean and pure, devoid of the superheroes, violence, sex, and grittiness that are so often hallmarks of the genre. Enjoy the refreshing break from all that and marvel at the beautiful world of A Redtail’s Dream.
Guilded Age: The Saga of the Working-Class Adventurer
Here be High Fantasy in the Tolkien tradition! In the land of Arkerra, the Kingdom of Gastonia is at war with the World’s Rebellion (known to their enemies as “The Savage Races”), the first rabidly colonizing while the second resists. A special team of “Peace-Makers” rescues the aristocratic Gastonian children stolen by pirates and then stays on to head up missions - some diplomatic, some violent. Add to this a CEO from Earth who claims to have bridged the gulf between Earth and another realm with a combination of computer skills and magic and you have a wild story with real consequences for the characters. Penned by T. Campbell (of Penny & Aggie fame), Guilded Age offers up its own unlikely fellowship of sorts to save its world, thoroughly entertaining its readers in the process.
In Monster Pulse, strange monsters spawn from human body parts in a small North Pacific town. The body part monsters are sort of like daemons - they can be apart from the kids whose body parts they grew from, but if one half of the weird duo dies, so does the other. This all started because of a scary organization called Shell - not exactly evil, but more interested in their diabolical experiments than in the health and happiness of the kids and monsters they’ve impacted with their scientific experiments. The kids and their body monsters work to protect each other and keep their existence a secret, finding others like them (X-Men style) and helping them to stay safe too. My favorite is Julie, a tomboy who gets to ride her own hair into battle (though her BFF Bina, an outspoken thirteen-year-old with a heart monster named Ayo, is pretty awesome too). The writing is so heartwarming that the story never feels contrived; both the children (and their parents!) act like real people who struggle with real stuff. Monster Pulse is smartly drawn, profound, and deals with the themes that usual child protagonists struggle with; it’s simply one of the best fantasy webcomics around.
Stand Still. Stay Silent. (SSSS)
Stand Still. Stay Silent (also known as SSSS) is also the creation of Minna Sundberg (whose first big success was A Redtail’s Dream). Also set in Scandinavia, this time we find ourselves in a Middle Earth-esque post-apocalyptic Iceland 90 years in the future with an astounding mythology as a background to the action. The watercolor art makes this much less grim and grisly than many other end-of-days epics, and the adventuring team feels like a group you wouldn’t mind spending time with. Love a good ship? That’s the imaginary pairing of fictional characters if you’re not in the loop, and you’ll certainly know what it is by the time you’re done reading SSSS. Though it’s not completed yet, it’s fully funded from the author’s profits from A Redtail’s Dream, which means you should get updates fairly fast. It looks good so far; get in at the beginning of this intricately painted high fantasy world.
Order of the Stick (OOTS)
Don’t look away just because you saw those stick figures up there. Order of the Stick (known as OOTS) is actually a brilliant satirical webcomic with a captivating story, and the stick figures are actually good ones - the artist, Rick Burlew, is always trying new things with his drawings. OOTS pokes fun at tabletop role-playing games and medieval fantasy and the whole thing takes place in a world that operates, more or less, by the rules of the 3.5 edition of Dungeons and Dragons. The expressive, complete characters don’t just stand around; they’re always moving, always endearing you to their personalities, all while trying to save the world from a diabolical lich sorcerer. Most of the humor comes from the characters’ meta-awareness of the game rules that determine what decisions they can make and their anachronistic knowledge about modern culture as we know it. Get past the pictures and you’ll be swept away by the fun-loving OOTS.