Top 5 Webcomics… of SCIENCE

If you're anything like me, webcomics get you through the day. Since my day involves mostly science, I enjoy webcomics relevant to that interest. Seeing as how quality is a spectrum, the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff is some sort of list-based expression of appreciation. So without further ado, here are my 5 favorite webcomics… of SCIENCE!


5. Dark Science

Aaron Diaz is a nerd of the highest order, which coming from me is nothing but a compliment. Dark Science is the new comic that he started last year and which is still being worked on. It thus far seems to be a sprawling epic and I can’t quite tell where it falls on the spectrum of sci-fi to fantasy but will enjoy finding out as the story progresses. This is the only comic on the list that is both a continuing story and not a comedy. I think just because of the way I personally consume webcomics I tend to prefer the single joke that I can absorb quickly then get up and walk away from. My Google Reader list is so bloated that when it comes to serialized storytelling, if I miss one piece in the torrent of other info then it becomes increasingly difficult get back into the groove. All that being said, the work of Aaron Diaz it is worth your effort to pour over the archives. Of all the comics on this list, Dark Science is the one that brings the art chops. Not that any of the below comics aren’t good to look at, it’s simply that Dark Science is exceptional to look at. But in the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that the snippet above (which is only a small selection of the entire comic) is not from Dark Science. It’s from a one-shot called “The Sleepwalkers” involving characters from Diaz’s pre-Dark Science series called Hob. It’s what initially got me hooked into Diaz’s work and now whenever I see him at a convention we catch up on dinosaurs, at least, we try to when he and my girlfriend aren’t geeking out over Tolkien. What did I say? Nerd of the highest order.


4. Dinosaur Comics

Ryan North’s long-winded series is subtle with its science, but that’s about the only area where it’s subtle. There’s a gimmick behind Dinosaur Comics, and it’s that every comic uses the same six panels. Every single comic. Ever. So in that sense, it’s easy to forgive North for getting a bit wordy. The other reason you should be excited about the wordiness is that North is a former computational linguist. I used to read Dinosaur Comics and wonder why the cadence seemed to pop, why the dialog crackled and why the intonations of the characters could be heard in every syllable but now I know: Ryan North has used his computer wizardry to hack the language centers of your brain. Fortunately his goal is comedy and not world domination, otherwise we’d all be speaking precise, computationally sound Canadian (whatever the hell that sounds like, eh). Now as you sift and sort you way through the archives, make sure you find ALL the available easter eggs hidden in each strip. I tried to give hints on how to find them when I interviewed North but he cut me off, he really wants you to find them yourself. Enjoy the hours we both just stole from your life!

3. PhD comics

Walk the halls of any science department in any college and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts you’ve seen a PhD comic. This strip focuses on a wide ranging cast of characters all of whom are at varying point in their graduate school education. It hits the nail on the head every. single. time. It isn’t always about science grad school but I would at the very least say it’s heavily biased. It may be a bit too Inside Baseball for some, but to someone in the club of academia it's like a window to all our lives. Even if you've never been to grad school, if you've had to deal with TAs or eccentric professors, there's probably something in this comic for you.


2. xkcd


Everybody knows the instantly iconic stick figures of Randall Munroe. The one failing of Munroe’s work is that sometimes it’s too smart. I’m sure to an engineer or a programmer it’s clear as day, but there are times when the joke just misses, and I’m not diligent enough about my webcomics to look up what he’s talking about a dissect the joke until I get it. If I was doing my own comedy webcomic, maybe, but I’m a consumer and I want the jokes to be viscerally funny even at their most cerebral.

However, that is my only criticism of this brilliant series. Hopefully this is the once comic in this bunch that I don’t already need to sell you on, but few other comics (or really any media for that matter) make me fist pump the awesomeness of science as often of xkcd. Oddly enough, even though everyone is drawn as stick figures, this comic also manages to be the most romantic of not just this list, but any other webcomic I read, science or not. If you're not already reading it, dive in and never look back.


1. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

What is there to say about the madness that is Zach Weiner and his comic SMBC? Zach is some sort of weird cartoonist mad genius. Originally his comic trended towards single panel gags, but nowadays it can be either multi-paneled, single-paneled or even… a graph! I’ll be honest, I have no problem with graph comics, but then again my life leans heavily toward creating, interpreting and understanding graphs, even ones with no potential for comedy, so I don’t mind it. On the other hand, I have no idea how non-scientists feel about graphs as comedy comics (and I know that in the truest McCloudian sense of the word they shouldn’t be called comics, but go with it). Do you guys have to use graphs often enough that you can find the comedy in a well-constructed joke graph? But I digress. Weiner (it's ok to laugh) simply gets it. He gets logic, he gets math, he gets science and he gets the underlying absurdities of the cutlure connecting all three. He turns his logical outlook on life towards all manner of absurdity: superheroes, science, culture, and sex. As much sex as you know you really think about every day, but presented in a cartoonish and often hilarious way that makes it almost safe for work. It's that blend of all the things that I enjoy most about life put in a single well-executed comic every single day that earned SMBC it's spot at #1 on my list.

I’m sure, thanks in no small part to Austin’s excellent weekly webcomics roundup up, that you yourself have opinions on your favorite webcomics and how they get you through daily drudgery.


Ryan Haupt just successfully turned something he uses to procrastinate into something productive. And now he's late. See if you can catch up by following him on twitter or listening to his podcast Science… sort of.


  1. I’d never heard of any of these, but after a few minutes of browsing, I love all of them, especially Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  Thanks, Ryan!

  2. God, Dinosaur Comics is so great. A comic that somehow managed to be brilliant and sophomorically retarded at the same time, resulting in the creation of a new, pure element I call “Hillarium.” Also, despite (or perhaps, due to) the fact that North uses the same images every day, he’s able to play with our expectations and deliver amazing phisical comedy! GENIUS!

  3. XKCD RSS feed is a permanent in my Google Reader. The still sampled here got a laugh out of me.

  4. Thanks for sharing that specidic xkcd cartoon! I’m an ornithologist at an environmental consulting firm that includes a few herpetologists so of course had to immediately send this around the office. I especially love the herpetologist’s poster in the second panel.

  5. Aaron Diaz’ comic is called “Dresden Codak”.  The current story arc is called “Dark Science”.

    All the “story” comics on Dresden Codak star Kim Ross in a continuing story.

    My favorite one-shot non-story comic is “Caveman Science Fiction”.

    Everyone should also check out Diaz’ art blog “Indistinguishable From Magic” for some great “craft” info.

  6. xkcd is beyond wonderful.  

  7. check out its wonderful and has good content, have been following since last 1 year.