The total number of incredible Steampunk webcomics is, of course, “Lots”. Webcomics and Steampunk, in many ways, grew up together, and it’s not surprising that some of the oldest and flat-out best webcomic tales are of Steampunk universes and spirit.
Here are a few for you to consider:
1. Girl Genius. Girl Genius is perhaps the best-known of all Steampunk webcomics. With its gloriously splashy, colorful Style and its long-running, intricate-but-never-frustrating plots, it’s been delighting us for longer than most people have even known the world “Steampunk”.
There’s a particular bonus gem here, too – sure, the concepts are fascinating, the plots are intricate, the dialogue brilliant and witty. But even with all that, it took me two or three readthroughs to really appreciate just how much information and invention is packed into each, not to mention each comic arc, Girl Genius isn’t simply a great webcomic; it follows that old Walt Disney concept “Be better than you need to be”.
Check out the comic. If you take a careful look, you will notice that in almost every panel there is some new bit of Steampunk inventiveness, whether it’s in the dialogue or in the art or in the ideas. It is a world of such a Steampunk immersion that what might, in other places, stand out and pop and make you stare–happens in pretty much every single panel, until you’re overflowing with Steamy goodness. What might be a game-changer elsewhere is background or filler in this comic. Girl Genius is full of hidden gems, and even if you’ve already read it, I recommend reading it again, with a careful eye towards seeing just how much they pack into everything they do.
2. Boston Metaphysical Society. This tightly-plotted, articulate, and lovingly illustrated comic does that thing which Steampunk often attempts and seldom does well: it creates its own characters, and has them interact with notable and favorite hereoes of Steampunk, even including Nikola Tesla–and integrates them seamlessly. It’s like watching a movie full of brilliant young actors, with a great script, and then suddenly seeing Bill Murray walk in and do something brilliant, but not world-changing or plot-destroying. You recognize the archetype’s power, but it always enhances, it never dominates.
All too often, we see this in a sort of Mary Sue universe wherein the famous characters end up being essentially invulnerable due to the plot armor of our affection. (Woe betide the Steampunk writer who kills off Mr. Tesla without good reason!) Boston metaphysical has a different take. While those characters are not infrequently in fully mortal peril, none of the characters are not superheroes. They are very smart people with advanced minds, tackling powerful but not invincible forces. And that means that every comic packs suspense, possibility, and intrigue. You never really know what will happen, and when the plot does unfold, you’re left deeply satisfied.
3. Scenes from a Multiverse. I know what you’re saying. If you know this comic, you know that it is not Steampunk, and you know that I have left out many other comics which certainly are very very clearly traditionally Steampunk. Why am I highlighting “From A Multiverse”?
It is because, while the setting and design of that comic is not specifically Steampunk themed, John Rosenberg plays with a vast whimsical universe where just about anything can happen. And then he tightens that focus so that each comic is an individual set up of some sort of unusual extrapolation of reality, taken to the next level for comedic and intriguing effect. It’s incredible – and absolutely, completely in keeping with the spirit of our wild, yet mannerly, Steampunk culture.
If you are looking for a mind-expanding but completely coherent, splendidly and gorgeously (if simply) drawn comic, then this is a brain explosion of potentiality. I recommend every Steampunk read it and have their minds just a little bit blown.
Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks). He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.