Webcomics became a “thing” in the late 1990s, and by the early 2000s, it was already possible to find LGBTQ content on any number of platforms. By 2003, I was keeping bookmarks of aggregate lists of lesbian and “Yuri” webcomics from half a dozen sites. Finding webcomics wasn’t hard, but finding really good ones, well that’s always been the challenge. ^_^ As time has passed, webcomics have gone from being a junior league for upcoming artists to being a marketplace in their own right. Webcomics can successfully raise money from backers for print books, publishers are looking at Pixiv and deviantart for talent, and with Patreon and Webtoons, comic artists can get get paid for the work, as well as for the finished project. This particular niche in the comics ecosystem has only just developed those bridges to the larger comics landscape, and I don’t think we’ve more than just barely begun to see their potential.
Which brings me to one of the best webcomics I have read. Ever. Today we’re talking about Always Human, by Ari North. Ari sent me a message in 2016, asking me to mention her comic to you as part of a YNN report and I was glad to. I’ve been reading Always Human on Webtoons ever since. This week I finally had a chance to catch up and complete it and all I can say is that this is one of the best uses of the Internet for comics that I’ve seen.
Ari’s art is colorful watercolor-like washes, with a vertical scroll and a lot of white space. It could, of course, be reformatted for print, as Pulse was, but the larger, more open format of the online page, means that you can enjoy the details that fill up your screen, and not lose any of it. Often chapters comes with an original soundtrack, which you can listen to for free on Soundcloud. This really added to the atmosphere of every chapter.
The story is sweet, honest and realistic. It’s also a lot of fun. Set in a future Earth, where virtual reality allows for body modification, gaming, communication – humans are working in deep seas and space- the people who populate Always Human are indeed quite human. Designer Sunati meets college student Austen, and they fall in love.
While the story is primarily romance, it’s a romance that doesn’t isolate Austen or Sunati. Theirs is a world with colleagues and friends and family, which is so important to me as a reader. Unlike mainstream media, which seems to want to wallow in alternative worst scenarios, without allowing us to work through our uncomfortable realities first, Always Human provides a more progressive world for us to spend time in. Austen has two fathers and Sunati’s parents have a boyfriend, and none of that is a “thing” that must be dealt with, beyond the stress of meeting one’s lover’s parents, which is – as we all know – stressful enough in itself.
Sunati and Austen are adults living adult lives, but they are still young adults, so they are neck deep in the process of creating the lives they hope to live. They aren’t perfect, they make mistakes and deal with the consequences, as we might expect. Even when they annoyed me – and they did – I was rooting for them As Ari says about her comic,”This is a story about nanobots, genetic engineering, and two girls falling in love. No matter how technology changes us, we’ll always be human.” And so they are.
Art – 10
Characters – 10
Story – 10
LGBTQ – 10
Service -1 on principle
Overall – 10
If you’re looking for a really good webcomic to read, I recommend Always Human. Luckily for us, Ari’s working on another comic for Webtoons. I’m waiting with bated breath for more from this talented artist.