It's not easy being funny.
A simple look at the world around us can provide a sobering perspective on modern society. For this reason, comics have always been a staple of the newspaper. It's nice to know you can turn to that certain section and spend five minutes catching up on the daily strips, some of which have been around for as long as we've been alive, or longer, and have been amusing — or not — for just as long.
Lately, however, with the daily newspaper in decline, a growing number of people have turned to the web for comics, with spectacularly mixed results. The webcomic Penny Arcade has been active now for nearly nine years. What started as a couple of guys laboring in their cramped apartment in Seattle has now become one of the most influential websites for gaming, with software companies actively courting them for ad space and the hope of a positive review. When they include a link on their site to another, the amount of traffic generated has been known to crash servers or reduce refresh times to a crawl. In fact, the comic has become so influential and successful, they have their own charity.
Of course, this is the standard to which all webcomics aspire, but few, if any, will reach that level of success. More often than not, a comic will get a small, rabid fan following, and the writer/artist will cater to that following as best they can.
What makes the webcomic idea so much more appealing is that, unlike the sanitized and watered-down stuff that you'll find in the daily paper, comics online are much closer to what you would find in the alternative press — they're not afraid to swear, be violent, weird, or frankly, make no sense whatsoever.
Because they're not trying to appeal to the masses, they can appeal to a select few in a way that will resonate with them in a positive way, and keep them coming back for more.
To this end, there are literally comics for everyone: gamers (Penny Arcade, Ctrl-Alt-Del, PvP), Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft players (The Order of the Stick, Looking for Group), math and science geeks (xkcd), anime fans (Megatokyo), slice-of-life (Questionable Content), gay-themed (Boy Meets Boy), science-fiction (Girl Genius, Saturnalia), and so on.
And yes, I'm sure there was some favorite comic of yours that I forgot to mention. Which I would totally apologize for, but seeing as how there are roughly 15,000 webcomics online right now — including my own — I'm not gonna, so shut it.
Because of both the wide variety and sheer number of webcomics, the factor that makes them such a viable force in the new media world we live in is the fact that divisive topics can be confronted head on.
There is no editor to appease, no board of directors who will whitewash or otherwise water down anything they say. It's raw, unadulterated, straight from the hip, emotional, and honest, something that seems to be noticeably absent from mainstream media these days, to absolutely no one's surprise.
Don't just take my word for it, however; go online and track down a webcomic that suits your needs. Trust me, if Monday/Wednesday/Friday you want to read everything about a guy who likes to dress up in a tiger suit and get sexually molested with sushi, there's probably a comic out there for you, along with a few thousand like-minded fans.