My Top Choices in Science-Oriented Webcomics

We all need a break from time to time. Where can you turn for a bit of lighter Science online? It’s elemental: Here’s a look at some of the best, totally nerdy online science-oriented comics, listed in no particular order. This is only a sampling of the phenomenal work being posted online.

Xkcd: A Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math and Language by Randall Munroe, is probably the most widely known. A cast of stick figures addresses topics ranging from science research to philosophy to relationships and the absurdity of daily life. The illustration to the left mocks Frank Drake’s infamous Drake Equation, which attempts to calculate the number of ‘intelligent’ extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy — a topic I’ve discussed quite a bit.

phd Comics: Piled Higher and Deeper: an ongoing chronicle of the life (or lack thereof) in Academia. This comic focuses on the complications of modern scientific research, and the difficulties of graduate school. Written and drawn by Jorge Cham. The selected comic shown charts the perennial ups and downs of graduate student motivation. I spent a lot of time on the down side of that graph!

Strange Quark Comics by Dalin S. Durfee, featuring Dr. Ingenio, his nerdly son and assorted grad students. An insightful look at the quandaries of life in the laboratory, from someone who’s obviously been there.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner Sometimes about science and research, but more generally about God, superheroes, dating, the meaning of life…and much more. The cartoon to the left questions how scientific research is translated into the real world. I’ve gotten many a laugh out of the unexpected punch lines and spot-on insight from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Lab Bratz This cartoon offers geeky science humor focusing on laboratory mishaps and disasters waiting to happen, with a cast of hapless professors, frazzled lab managers and sleep-deprived graduate students. Written by Ed Dunphy. Drawn by Helber Soares

Tree Lobsters! You can’t prove they don’t exist! by Steve DeGroof The illustrations are consistently and incongruously of (guess what?) red lobsters sitting in trees. The humor is in the captions and conversation – of the inexplicably wise tree lobsters. One comic read: For a good time call 6.02 x 10 23 Ask for Avogadro. Tree Lobsters takes on big topics such as Creationism: one lobster asks, “So you think the universe was created by this invisible space pickle? “ A second lobster answers, “Our intelligent pickle theory is just as valid as your ‘scientific theories’” To which the first responds, “Well, if the pickle created everything, what created the pickle?”

Abstruse Goose: a cartoon about math, science and geek culture. One of my favorites is: How Scientists see the world, shown to the left. Does an understanding of the equations underlying light make a sunset less beautiful? Or, did Newton “unweave the rainbow” by reducing it to a prism, as Keats contended? The tools of science, from the first microscope to the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes have so vastly expanded our ability to perceive the universe in all its breathtaking beauty. Science has only enhanced our ability to see and appreciate the marvels around us.

Girl Genius, offers gorgeously detailed steampunk technology, set in an alternate-history where mad scientists rule the world. It follows the adventures of the flamboyant and brilliant girl genius, Agatha Heterodyne, in the city of Mechanicsburg. This beautifully drawn comic, by Phil and Kajo Foglio, has twice won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.

Schlock Mercenary, The Comic Space Opera, by Howard Taylor This science fiction strip, twice nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, is set in a distant future that has achieved faster-than-light travel and artificial intelligence, and made contact with aliens. It follows a band of space-faring mercenaries as they travel through wormgates, loosely following a handbook of rules, “The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.” A vivid exploration of far-out futuristic technologies and their implications for humanity.

Scenes from a Multiverse: A colorful (in more ways than one) comic about life in an ordinary Multiverse, by Jonathan Rosenberg. In one recent strip, set in the “Psychcloaked debris belt of the Third Foundation”, an alien claims, “Using my brand-new science of neurofuturism, I can predict overall historical trends of the multiverse for the next ten thousand years!” He describes a series of disasters, finishing with, “After that it’s mostly apocalypses and bank holidays. Not very interesting.” Har!

Electric Sheep & Apocamon: The Final Judgement, by my friend, the talented Patrick Farley. Apocamon is an insightul and hilarious look at the Book of Revelation.

But this is only the tip of Farley’s iceberg. He is by far the best artist and the one taking on the deepest issues. His “Spiders” online graphic novel has been seriously studied at the Pentagon, to try and understand how citizens might get involved in defense, if we enter a transparent society.

Sci-ənce! is a  wonderful new webcomic that addresses the difference between science and pseudoscience, with a constant reminder to bring a sense of skepticism to our search for knowledge, The sample shown here mocks the between the build-up and the reality of the big NASA press conference about “microbial extraterrestrial” life. By Maki Naro and Nadir Balan.

And Dresden Codak is an award-winning science fictional webcomic written and illustrated by Aaron Diaz, who describes it as a “celebration of science, death and human folly.” Its highly intellectual humor, not for the faint of heart, ranges from physics to philosophy. A beautifully imagined vision that deals with the far future and the results of a technological singularity and humanity’s role in the cosmos.

Calamities of Nature, by Tony Piro, provides piercing insight into the scientific mindset, and how science research trickles down to influence the general public. The sample strip pokes fun at scientists for their questionable imagination in naming the wonders of the universe: supernovae, superconductors, supersymmetry…

Here are a few more suggestions for sci-fi comics:
Space Trawler Sample comic at left
Drive
We The Robots
The FlowField Unity
Freefall
The Abominable Charles Christopher
Quantum Vibe

And finally, a few Math-oriented Comics:
Spiked Math Comics
Math Bunnies: Mathematically Enriched Hares
The Twisted Pencil
Brown Sharpie

Have a laugh or two, or many — and follow some of these talented (and under-appreciated) artists.

42 Comments

Filed under media, science, science fiction

42 responses to “My Top Choices in Science-Oriented Webcomics

  1. I had no idea this genre even existed…fun!

    Mikalee

  2. These definitly look like some comics to invest my time in… I love science, fantasy and philosophy so these are something for me! Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and Sci-ənce! seem like they willbe quite intruiging

  3. I won’t be able to get any work done until my kids are in college. Life in our house came to a shutdown here when we discovered GPF Comics’s “Fred the Slime Mold” series: http://www.gpf-comics.com. Now we’re going to spend all our free time reading THESE comics. Thanks for the great suggestions!

  4. thecandiedmango

    I love Charles Christopher but I don’t really see how it’s a sci-fi comic.

  5. Pingback: My Top Choices in Science-Oriented Webcomics (via Contrary Brin) | Surf Monkey

  6. Jennifer Lockett

    Great collection! Thanks for sharing. I”m going to be laughing all day now. :)

  7. I’ve never heard of any of these. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Nice list, personally I can only follow around 4-5 comics including the first 2 in here.

  9. I absolutely love Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, but I see quite a few others I need to add to my reading list :) Thank you!

  10. Saturday seems interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  11. ALIVE aLwaYs

    I have known xkcd for some time now, it can definitely be regarded as a benchmark. for such a segment. Loved the cloud joke and yes, I always laugh at the warning below that page, sarcastic.

  12. Eva McCane

    entertaining…thanks!

  13. Thank you for sharing this– I especially loved xkcd and Abstruse Goose. Cannot wait to share these comics with my lab techs! Do you know of any great science comic strips in Spanish as well?

  14. Thank you for clearly organizing these…am sharing with my daughter, science teacher.

  15. These make my brain hurt. Just like my Professor Layton nintendo games. Says more about me than about the comics…lol.

  16. Pingback: The Science of Funny « Exploring Light & Life

  17. obsidianfactory

    Hey ▬ that’s a cool list ^_^

    I was thinking your name sounds familiar ▬ nice to know you wrote “The Postman” ^_^

    Well, keep on writing ^_^

  18. As Mikalee stated above, I had not the slightest idea this genre existed, either! Interesting-er and interesting-er…I will have to check some of these sites out. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Freefall. I love that comic. Also xkcd, but Freefall has continuity and brilliant in-jokes referencing sci-fi writers.

    If you love comics, and more importantly, if you love snarking about bad comics, you should check out Josh Fruhlinger’s “Comics Curmudgeon.” Some of the syndicated cartoonists even hang out there.

  20. News from the Islands

    Great blog! Thanks for the cool comics! Gave me a great laugh. A few were a little hard to read, however, because of the small print. I wonder if there would be a way to enlarge them a bit or add a bit of resolution. Thanks a lot and keep inspiring! Dave

  21. I’m happy to see another Dresden Codak fan!

  22. Pingback: Cool Sciency blogs « Lovisa M – AcaboGames

  23. Nice list! Xkcd is must-read comic for geeks!! ;-)

  24. Thanks for this, I especially liked the ‘Cancer Cured’ cartoon. As a medical student I can totally relate to this, it’s quite frustrating and very true.

    Regards,
    thecuriouscupcake

  25. Nice compilation. Thanks. I’ll be looking at this list in detail.

  26. that’s great. Never knew about these comic strips.

  27. I am flattered that my strip (Quantum Vibe) is listed, even as an also-ran. Thanks!

    • Scott,

      And I’m flattered that you looked over my suggestions! I didn’t mean to imply ordering, that any comics were better than the others. I was simply overwhelmed by all the marvelous work out there!

      In any Renaissance there’s a strange problem: so many wonderful, creative guys doing amazing things. I’d rather have too many of you than live in a time when creativity is squashed and guys like you are too few. Keep up the great work.

      David B

  28. I love xkcd too.

    Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll check them out!

  29. Hi there! I thought I commented a while back, but I guess it didn’t go through.

    Just wanted to say thanks from those of us at Sci-ənce for putting us on this list among so many greats. We are both honored and humbled.

    The sciency-webcomic community is relatively small so I like to think we all inspire—and are inspired by—each other. This post can only further that inspiration, as even I found a few new comics here.

    Love what you’re doing on the blog. Kudos!

    Maki

    • Thanks Maki, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about all the insightful and creative science comics out there. So many people have recommended new ones to me, that I may have to do a follow-up posting. Thanks for injecting a well-needed dose of skepticism into the issues of the day!

      David B

  30. Pingback: Webcomics! « A Rushed Joke

  31. I would like to expand your idea further, and will digging out more for further details.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s