A Big List of the Best Webcomics of All Time ( that are free, still available to read and just plain brilliant)

Still active?: Yes
In colour?: Sometimes

XKCD started when its creator, Randall Munroe, was digitally preserving some old notebooks and decided to scan some of his more artistic doodles to the net. He didn't have a dream or a plan, but his old drawings became a Cinderella story when another site linked to his and he started to get traffic.

Nearly eight years later and still strong as ever, xkcd (sometimes XKCD but never Xkcd) is a mix of physics and maths jokes, sarcasm, and irony. It is almost always presented with a cast of stick figures, so the visuals won't blow you away, but then you don't visit xkcd for its pretty art. You go there to read the algebra jokes and pretend you actually understand them.

Body World
Still active?: No – story complete.
In colour?: Yes

Dash Shaw's dark and sometimes violent story is about Paulie, a man who arrives in a small town to research a newly discovered plant that he hopes to put in the third edition of a botany book he is updating. The presentation of the comic - each chapter is a full scroll-down page on the website, rather than in the traditional three frame 'previous' and 'next' format you see on most sites - is as original as the story itself, and you will find a lot about Body World that feels new and that you don’t understand at first.

The theme behind Shaw's story is communication and the consequences telepathy would have on it if it were to actually exist. From the bloody prelude set on a train to Paulie's first meeting with Miss Jem, Body World is a must-read work and one that is quite different from anything else you will read.

The Abominable Charles Christopher
Still active?: Yes
In colour?: Black and white

The winner of the 2011 Eisner Digital Comic Award, the Abominable Charles Christopher was created by Karl Kerschl, an artist that cut his teeth on popular titles like Superman and Teen Titans. Despite his work on more mainstream comics his internet-based one is his greatest love, and this shows in the level of craft that goes into it.

The story follows a dummy-sucking sasquatch as he makes his way through a forest. Along the way he makes lots of friends and enemies, including a cheerful parrot and a sting-happy bee, and there is an overall story about how the forest is in danger. The artwork is ACC's greatest strength, as well as just how damn adorable the animals are.

Still active?: Yes
In colour: Yes

Erfworld sells itself on its highly original premise. It is about Parson Gotti, a master strategy game player who is summoned into Erfworld to serve as warlord for a city under siege. It doesn't sound completely original so far, I'll grant you that, because The Medieval Dead had a similar concept with more demons and a more badass hero.

Erfworld's standout unique selling point is the fact that the characters must all act like they are in a turn based strategy game. For example, if it isn't their sides turn then they can't move out of their immediate area. It's touches like this, as well as the fact that the story world is so rich it needs its own Wiki, that makes Erfworld great.

What's new with Phil and Dixie
Still active?: No
In colour: Yes

It hasn't been updated since June 13th 2010 but it's worth taking a trip back to the beginning of the What's New With Phil and Dixie's archives to experience a super strip from the start. This is a cartoon that has prospered in the digital age, but it strangely enough it wasn't born in it.

Phil Foglio's story about table-top role playing games was first printed in Dragon magazine way back in 1980, but Foglio has always said that he wished online publishing had been available back then. This much is obvious to anyone familiar with Foglio; as well as this one he also created another brilliant title, Girl Genius, and is one of the best writer/artists on the web.

Ends ‘n’ Means
Still active?: Yes
In colour?: Yes

Ends ‘n’ Means was created when Barry Hoare decided he didn’t want to be stuck in a dead end job anymore. He turned his hand to webcomics and straight away filled his site with adult jokes, cynical rabbits and cruel lizards. His characters are socially awkward, crude and unlucky in love, just like most teenage guys, really.

Initially a series of jokes built around a loose theme, as the comic has progressed so has the narrative, and these days it is a lot more plot driven. Head over to Barry’s site, have a few laughs and get involved in the active community that congregates in the comments sections of his new strips.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Still active?: No – story complete.
In colour?: Yes

Delilah Dirk is written and illustrated by Tony Cliffe, nominee for two Eisner awards and by all appearances a busy and talented guy. DD & the Turkish Lieutenant is just one of a series of stories with Delilah Dirk as the protagonist, and all of them are brilliant.

Cliff openly admits that he’s never actually been to Turkey, though if you read the story and see how immerse a setting he manages to create you probably won’t believe him. This series is an example of what talent and dedication can bring – namely great art work and an insanely fun story.

Still active?: Yes
In colour?: Yes

There aren’t many web comics that have gained enough popularity to pay their writers a full time wage, but CTRL+ALT+DEL has gained such a massive following over the years that its creator Tim Buckley can devote himself to the series permanently. This means we get top-notch strips on a regular schedule, and this is a great thing.

Full of video game and pop-culture references, CAD is about the lives of Ethan, an obsessive games fanatic, his roommate Lucas, and his girlfriend Lilah. It won numerous awards early in its life and gained a giant following, but some feel that Buckley’s attempts to insert more meaningful plots into the series have taken it too far away from its original feel. Read it and judge for yourself.

User Friendly
Still active?: Yes – updated every single day
In colour?:Yes

Another computer-themed work, User Friendly is one of the oldest on this list. Its creator, J.D. Frazer, is nothing if not tenacious; there has been a new strip published every single day for the last sixteen years. I can’t even claim to have taken a shower every day since 1997, let alone written and drawn a comic.

The target demographic of User Friendly is bored I.T workers looking for a laugh, or perhaps some empathy, but everyone can find something to bring a smile to their face here. You don’t have to work in an office cubicle to know how annoying spyware is, for instance. Frazer builds his jokes around stuff like that; things that annoy anyone who ever sat down at a computer.

Ant Comic
Still active?: No – story finished Feb 2013
In colour?: Yes

It ended February 24th of this year but you can and should read the whole of Ant Comic right back to its September 2011 beginning. Although it is sad to see something you enjoy finish, in many ways it is refreshing that this site's creator had a definite end in mind for his story. It means he actually thought ahead and had the story planned out, even if his planning at the beginning was a bit bare-bone.

You only have to look at shows like Lost to see what make-it-up-as-you-go writing doesn’t always work out; Lost had a great set-up, an up-and-down middle but an extremely disappointing end. As a contrast, Michael DeForge’s work stays at a consistently high quality throughout.

Sin Titulo
Still active?: Story finished October 2012
In colour?: Yes, duo-tone

Sin Titulo is a classic mystery story which starts when the protagonist goes to visit his grandfather at a nursing home, only to discover that he's been dead for a month. In his grandfather’s belongings he finds a photograph of his granddad with a mysterious blonde woman, and the plot spirals deeper from there.

The first thing you'll notice about Sin Titulo is the duo toned artwork, which gives the tale a subdued, peaceful feel. This, along with its effective use of silence in many strips, makes it a highly original work. If you like plot-driven narratives rather than one-off jokey strips then Sin Titulo is for you.

Still active?: No, creator recently started a new site.
In colour?: Yes

You often find that a lot of the top webcomics are created by people who are professionals in the business; maybe they freelance here and there or they work for a publishing house, but they primarily make their living writing or illustrating someone else’s title. For them, creating a webcomic is a way to work on your own labour of love rather than having to create something that another person profits from.

Such is Bucko, the work of Jeff Parker (writer for Marvel) and Erika Moen (cartoonist at Periscope Studio). Bucko is about Rich Richardson, a hopeless romantic who stumbles headfirst into a murder mystery when he has a bad case of the runs. This isn’t how most mystery stories start, but it sure is a damn good opening.

Still active?: Yes
In colour?: Yes

Tarol Hunt, creator of Goblins, is a big fan of one of the entries in our 100 best graphic novel list – Elfquest - and this shows in his online work, Goblins. This has one of my favourite story premises out of any entry on this list; a group of goblins start out as the type of monsters you’d expect to find in a dungeon crawler game like Ultima, but not content with their stereo typical role they decide to break character and become players themselves.

The result is a funny, table-turning story of a group of monsters trying to carve out a story of their own beyond being sword-fodder in a hero's dungeon quest. There’s a lot of video game in-humour and some violent, graphic scenes, so if you hate blood and video games then you might want to stay away.

The Adventures of Dr.McNinja
Still active?: Yes
In colour?: No

I know what you’re thinking; you had me at the title. It’s the sort of story name that just begs to be read, especially with the popularity of doctor shows like House at the minute and the everlasting popularity of ninjas. What I really like about The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is that it is exactly what it says on the tin – it’s about the adventures of Dr. McNinja. Simple as that.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja does everything differently, and the creator seems to revel in doing whatever he wants and whatever he feels is cool at the time. This is a good thing. On the site, there isn’t an 'about' page for the author or the story; instead there is a montage of Dr.McNinja's greatest achievements, which include punching a snake and surfing a robo-dracula. If you like tongue-in-cheek humour and stories that are over-the-top for the sake of it, Dr. McNinja is for you.

Still active?: No – this is a one-off story.
In colour?: Yes

At only twenty-nine panels long this is the shortest entries on this list, with most of the others clocking in at hundreds or even thousands. Exterminus only needs twenty nine to tell its story though, and even at such a brief length it is one of the best works on the web.

The story is a little bland; a boy and a girl sit next to each other on a train, except instead of the usual staring-down-intently at their book or feet that usually happens on public transport, this boy and a girl actually talk to each other. From here the surreal art becomes the star of the show, with multi-coloured tentacles sprouting from the sky and the front half of the train ripping open. You have to see it to understand.

Still active?: Yes
In colour?: Yes

Battlepug started life as a wacky t-shirt design by artist Mike Norton, but it quickly turned into one of the most awesome webcomics around. Beginning long ago in the far away tribe of the Kinmundy, Battlepug is the story of The Warrior, a hero who was orphaned as a boy, and his trusty sidekick Battlepug.

The story doesn't take itself too seriously, as you probably guessed from the title, but it still manages to get you hooked and drag you along. With influences coming from fantasy works like Conan the Barbarian, this is a good story of action and revenge. It's is funny and exciting, it is crazy and imaginative. It's a must read, and it is Eisner Award winning work.