Over the last 10 years, many changes have happened within the world of comics. Updates in technology have allowed people increasing access to the Internet at all hours of the day. As a result, webcomics and independent publishers have had more and more chance to shine, giving us daily doses of weird, risky humor that mainstream publishers might not have taken chances on.
With the ever-growing success of superhero films at the box office, geek culture and superpowers are IN, in a way that’s never really happened before. This has encouraged DC and Marvel to put a lot of effort into reinventing themselves for the new audiences just now checking out “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain America.” In all the reinvention and experimentation that’s been going on, humor has had a chance to shine in comics. With that in mind, here are 15 of the funniest comics from the last decade.
15. SCOTT PILGRIM
Imagine a romantic comedy set inside a world that uses video game logic. Unlocking special swords after a moment of emotional honesty with friends, battling pompous vegans whose healthy lifestyle has granted them psychic powers… this is just normal life for the titular Canadian slacker in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” series of books. However, when he starts dating the love of his life, Ramona Flowers, all seven of her evil exes decide to battle him one-on-one.
Most people are familiar with this story through the 2010 movie “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,” and while the film does a spectacular job getting the tone and humor of the books just right, it diverts quite a bit from the plot-line of the original graphic novels. If you loved the movie, absolutely check out the comics. There are many hilarious moments that never made it to the big screen, from an incredibly homoerotic shit-talking session between Kim and Knives to Scott mistaking every person with glasses for his arch-nemesis Gideon. It’s definitely worth a read.
14. THE FLASH: SEASON ZERO
Following the success of the recent TV adaptation of “The Flash,” DC released “The Flash: Season Zero.” This graphic novel, set between early episodes of the live action series, focuses on a Barry Allen dealing with his newly discovered powers. While the S.T.A.R. Labs crew keeps researching new info about the inner workings and limits of The Flash’s super-speed, Barry attempts to balance his hero life with his police life.
The series is a bit more silly and easygoing than its TV counterpart. Barry Allen’s narration is great, and some of the villains’ costumes are pretty ridiculous. Not to mention, Barry rescues “a surprising number of dogs!” It’s some good old-fashioned superhero fun, without all the added baggage of figuring out how to get started in DC’s elaborate canon. For people newly interested in the world of “The Flash,” who don’t want a full-time commitment, “The Flash: Season Zero” is the comic for you.
13. ONE-PUNCH MAN
“One Punch Man” is a phenomenal parody both of the Japanese shounen genre (action heroes – think “Naruto” and “Dragon Ball”) and the Western superhero tradition. This story follows the adventures of Saitama, a superhero who is so powerful that he can win literally any fight with a single punch. In fact, it is impossible for him to lose. You’d think this would be an amazing gift. However, Saitama’s overwhelming strength has made his superhero hobby (one of the only things he enjoyed in life) incredibly boring. Plus, he gets zero recognition for his work and still lives an underwhelming life in a single apartment waiting for big sales at the grocery store.
The guy has developed a sense of apathy about life that provides brilliant contrast to the dramatic, ever-monologuing supervillains and monsters who foolishly challenge him. Though many know this series as a mainstream anime now on Netflix, it started out as a humble webcomic by Japanese writer One. The intentionally bad drawings of the original comic are endlessly entertaining by themselves. But mix them with the masterfully written comedy and absurd superpowers present in “One Punch Man,” and you have something really great.
12. MOB PSYCHO 100
Another excellent series by One is “Mob Psycho 100.” Like “One Punch Man,” this comic centers around a melancholic hero whose incredible powers do not bring him fulfillment. However, while Saitama is a grown man who is bored with his abilities, Shigeo (aka, Mob) is an awkward preteen whose low self-esteem leads him to think his powers are bad and unimpressive. Think of that one friend who paints really well but is completely convinced that they stink.
The comedy of the series comes from shy and monotone Mob completely underestimating himself while other characters are endlessly impressed with or downright terrified of him. This leads to all sorts of hilarity, such as Mob’s humble hero worship towards his psychic mentor Reigen, a man who is obviously a con artist. Or the time Mob unintentionally got a rep as a gang leader among the other middle schoolers. The comic has a lot of comedy gold, but also contains many serious moments to balance things out. “Mob Psycho 100” tackles mental health and depression, cults, corruption and all sorts of other issues, all while being laugh-out-loud funny.
11. HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
Similar to “Mob Psycho 100” in its attention to mental health and its stylistically bad art style, we have “Hyperbole And A Half.” This part-webcomic part-blog by Allie Brosh is a frank, self-deprecating series about Brosh dealing with all sorts of issues. These range from geese invading her home to her very real struggles with chronic depression. One of the most renowned segments of the comic is the two-part entry entitled “Adventures In Depression” and “Depression Part Two.”
The first part depicts Brosh’s tearful descent into depression, while a mental projection of herself keeps yelling at her for increasingly bizarre flaws, such as eating pasta too sadly. At the end of part one, Brosh realizes she can no longer feel due to her depression. Initially, she celebrates, proclaiming that she will watch a bunch of horror movies and touch a spider. However, part two shows how not feeling anything is even worse than feeling too much, featuring many awkward interactions with well-meaning but unhelpful friends. The comic is incredibly relatable for many people with depression. It’s also a good way to familiarize yourself with what depression feels like if you don’t have it yourself.
10. DEADPOOL: DEAD PRESIDENTS
As a part of Marvel’s relaunching campaign (Marvel NOW!), fourth-wall-breaking anti-hero Deadpool was given a fresh heroic start, by single-handedly murdering all of the presidents of the United States. Of course, there is a reason for this. In “Deadpool” Vol. 1: “Dead Presidents,” the deceased American presidents have been resurrected and granted incredible powers in order to “save” the US. However, they decide instead to destroy the country and start a new one.
These men must be stopped, but Marvel’s more respectable heroes — like Captain America — don’t want to get involved, since their reputations would be on the line. So, S.H.I.E.L.D. hires Deadpool to do it for them. With writing by stand-up comedian Brian Posehn, the humor of our favorite mercenary Deadpool is on point. But if you’re not into Deadpool himself, remember that this comic also contains space battles with Reagan, a homicidal JFK, and Taft riding around in a flying bathtub. Who could ask for more?
9. SARAH’S SCRIBBLES
When Sarah C. Anderson decided to start posting weekly comics about her life on Tumblr, she never expected to go viral. However, many people found the autobiographical comics to be extremely relatable. Most of Sarah’s scribbles have little context, preferring simply to depict the general feeling of some interaction she had or situation she was in. This allows readers to project similar situations from their own experiences onto the comic and identify with the main character.
Such scenarios include wanting to rip your hair out during finals, still being unsure why your significant other finds you attractive and refusing to get out of bed in the morning. The comic “Sarah’s Scribbles” has been picked up by much larger groups such as GoComics and Tastefully Offensive. Recently, Sarah Anderson was able to publish a graphic novel collection of her work, entitled “Adulthood Is A Myth.” However, you can find most of her comics online as well.
8. HARLEY QUINN AND POWER GIRL
One arc in the “Harley Quinn” comics revolves around Harley tricking an amnesic Power Girl into thinking they are a crime-fighting team, so Harley can experience being a hero. At one point during this storyline, Harley and Power Girl get transported to another dimension for like two panels. It may seem like a very short time to readers, but during those two panels, Harley Quinn and Power Girl go on a six-issue galactic adventure to get back home. The resulting miniseries, “Harley Quinn And Power Girl,” is a brilliant send-up of ‘70s sci-fi, especially to “Star Wars.”
A lot of the humor is very self-aware. The writers know the boob window in Power Girl’s costume is ridiculous, and they are not afraid to talk about it. Plus, the expressive faces of the characters add a lot of humor visually. All in all, “Harley Quinn And Power Girl” feels light-hearted and fun. It’s an excellent departure from the serious, gritty stories of most DC comics.
7. HARK! A VAGRANT
Scottish-Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton’s ongoing webcomic “Hark! A Vagrant” is a New York Times bestseller, so it’s pretty inescapable. “Hark! A Vagrant” specializes in parodies of historical figures and old iconic Western literature. However, it doesn’t limit itself to just one genre. Click on any page, and you can find Edgar Allan Poe looking dubiously at Jules Verne’s love letters or Spider-Man acting like a real spider.
Some of Beaton’s comics have achieved meme status on their own. One in particular that people love to edit is “Ooh Mister Darcy,” a satire of fanfic smut scenes starring the leads from Jane Austen’s “Pride And Prejudice.” Variations of this with different fan-preferred couples from various stories can be found all over the internet. Another segment of “Hark! A Vagrant” that’s super popular is “Strong Female Characters,” which parodies Hollywood’s weak attempts at writing female action leads. This works really well, since it depicts a type of character we have all seen before many, many times. At the end of this sequence, three Strong Female Characters shoot bullets into the air and shout, “SEXISM IS OVER,” while contorting their bodies so viewers can see their boobs and butts all at once.
6. UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL
When first seeing “Unbelievable Gwenpool” on the shelves, many readers were put off. After all, it’s easy to make the claim that this is just a female Deadpool created as a cash-grab. However, Gwenpool is actually a much more inventive character than she seems. In “Unbelievable Gwenpool,” an ordinary comic book fan named Gwen Poole suddenly finds herself in the Marvel universe. Because she sees everything around her as fictional, she has basically no conscience whatsoever. The only reason she becomes a superhero is because she knows extras in Marvel comics get killed off and doesn’t want that to happen to her. However, Gwenpool’s idea of being a superhero mostly just involves shooting at everything in sight.
Gwenpool thinks she is incredibly genre savvy about the world she inhabits, but as the story goes on, that over-confidence leads to many mistakes. In essence, “Unbelievable Gwenpool” is a story about superhero fans and the detached-yet-passionate relationship fans have to their favorite stories and characters.
5. KC GREEN’S GUNSHOW
Even if you don’t know KC Green’s “Gunshow,” you probably know KC Green’s “Gunshow.” Stay with us. This webcomic has been responsible for a large number of memes online, most notably “This Is Fine,” which is depicted above. That image is actually just the first two panels from a “Gunshow” comic entitled “On Fire,” where a dog keeps telling himself that everything will be ok as his entire body melts in a fire. It has become a pop culture symbol of passive acceptance during crisis. Still, the rest of “Gunshow” is definitely worth a look as well.
From 2008 to 2014, this series delivered gag-a-day content with incredibly dark humor. Although the format of the comic doesn’t allow for much continuity, sometimes there are recurring characters with actual arcs. For instance, there’s a recurring storyline called “Anime Club,” now collected on its own website. “Anime Club” is about a group of anime-obsessed kids who get kicked out of their school meeting place after screening some Japanese por- we’re sorry, the term is hentai. They are on an epic quest for a new meeting spot that isn’t Mort’s mom’s basement, but can they stop bickering enough to find it?
Superhero fans have been craving a team-up between Spider-Man and Deadpool for years. The pair even has a popular ship name: Spideypool. So Marvel finally delivered with “Spider-Man/Deadpool.”In this story, Deadpool finally wants to be a real hero and begs his idol Spidey to teach him how to be admirable. Spider-Man begrudgingly goes along, but complications arise when it’s revealed that next on Deadpool’s hitlist is Peter Parker.
Spider-Man and Deadpool make a fantastic comedic duo. Both are wisecracking punsters, but Spidey has the direction and maturity required to keep Deadpool in check. He’ll even use webs to lift Deadpool right out of whatever mess he’s gotten himself into. On the other hand, Deadpool’s jokes towards Spider-Man have become increasingly flirty, and it’s enjoyable to read the comic as though the two are a bickering couple. Not that it’s that ambiguous. “Spider-Man/Deadpool” regularly recreates the iconic kissing pose from the first live action Spider-Man film, and Wade makes a big deal about the sexual undertones of being tied up in a web with Parker.
3. SAINT YOUNG MEN
This slice-of-life manga by Hikaru Nakamura depicts two tourists sharing a room in Japan and trying to learn about Japanese culture. Pretty normal stuff. However, the roommates in question are Jesus and Buddha, who are on a celestial vacation to visit Earth. Although the premise is a tad controversial, Nakamura treats her subject matter with a lot of respect. The two spiritual figures are well-meaning, good people with attributes based on descriptions from their respective religions. For instance, Jesus is characterized by his intense love of humanity. Meanwhile, Buddha’s very calm and zen-like and shines when enlightened.
A lot of the humor is based around misunderstandings between regular people and the holy contexts Buddha and Jesus think in. One time, Jesus accidentally gains a yakuza following because, hearing him tell a first-hand account of his crucifixion, they think he’s a badass criminal with a father in high places who bailed him out of jail in three days. Whether you are Buddhist, Christian or neither, this is still an endearing comedy with some excellent religious references.
2. SQUIRREL GIRL BEATS UP THE MARVEL UNIVERSE
Although Squirrel Girl has been around in the sidelines since the ‘90s, she was always kind of a joke character. With the strength and speed of a squirrel (plus the ability to talk with squirrels), this nerdy teen was known for being able to defeat serious Marvel villains off-panel in spite of her ostensibly crappy powers. However, due to Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s more respectful yet still hilarious take on the character, Squirrel Girl has found new popularity in her series “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.”
Within the last year, this comic got so successful that Squirrel Girl was finally able to star in her own graphic novel: “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe.” In this story, Squirrel Girl must stop an evil clone of herself who is single-handedly beating up everyone in the Marvel universe. The fun in this comic is seeing exactly how it happens. A lot of thought went into how each of these characters gets taken down. Writer Ryan North literally spent a week mapping out flowcharts in his office – one of which appears in-comic — so if you want to know how to defeat everyone from the Hulk to Deadpool, this one’s a must-read.
1. SEX CRIMINALS
One super popular work from Image comics is “Sex Criminals,” by Matt Friction and Chip Zdarksy. In this ongoing series, a young woman with the power to freeze time when she orgasms finds another man with the same ability. They screw around, one thing leads to another, and suddenly they are using sex in order to rob banks.
The premise itself is ridiculous, but it doesn’t end there. “Sex Criminals” isn’t really erotica so much as it is a story about how bizarre sex is itself. Like in real life, there’s a lot of miscommunications and emotions about sex that get played up both for drama and for laughs. On the one hand, one of the main characters used to have a sex addiction that seriously messed up his life. On the other hand, he gets a dildo thrown in his face, and it’s freaking great. In general, “Sex Criminals” is a nuanced depiction of sex that will have you tearing up or crying with laughter.
What are some of your favorite funny books? Let us know in the comments!