T Campbell runs an analysis of Compete, Alexa and Quantcast, triangulates the results and comes up with a list of the most popular webcomics, with a bit of Dilbert thrown in for good measure. XKCD, a darkly funny stick figure comic is #1, showing,once again, that people like to laugh.

The big winners: Alexa and Compete agree on the top three webcomics: xkcd, Cyanide and Happiness and Penny Arcade. Those of us who believed in our hearts that Penny Arcade would remain the #1-ranked webcomic for the rest of our natural lives… we may need a moment to absorb that. The rise of xkcd has been greeted, belatedly, with a rash of mainstream media articles, gatherings of the fan base and other usual signs. Cyanide and Happiness’ gains have been a bit less perceptible, but its canny use of online video and community-building has served it well. Both sites have done well by adapting to certain changes in the Web, and in its audience– but that’s another blog post.

[Link via Dirk.]

For more on XKCD, which is the brainchild of ex-NASA employee Randall Munroe,
see this profile.

NASA roboticist-turned-car- toonist Randall Munroe started the increasingly popular comic strip back in January of 2006 when he discovered sketches and doodles drawn amid the graphs and equations of his old math notes. Munroe decided to put them on his website, and before he knew it, a cult following of comic readers emerged. He started to draw more seriously, and now makes his living as a full-time cartoonist.


  1. XKCD is one of my favorite webcomics.

    Rare is the body of work–any body of work–that can make me laugh, but then also make me feel a hollow sadness.

    It speaks to the loneliness of growing up geeky, and remaining so as an adult.

    But on the other side of that, it really highlights how much damn fun geeks are when we get together.

  2. I think we need a more specific definition of “Webcomic” for lists like these because it’s really apples and oranges to compare a comic strip like Garfield to a comic-book-style story like MegaTokyo, especially based on hit-counts. The reading experience and audience is totally different.

    At least for me, clicking by for a second to read XKCD before lunch or during a break is easy. That’s what comic strips are for. Looking forward to and keeping up with ongoing stories like Gunnerkrig Court involves a different set of motivations and payoffs. Those who read Zuda offerings are not generally the same people who get e-mailed a daily dose of Dilbert.

    Comic strips update much more frequently and their archives generally have a lot of re-read and pass-along value, so their hit-counts will always be huge compared to ongoing story comics. Humor also gives them a wider appeal. That’s all good, and that’s why I think they deserve a list all their own.

    I usually scan these lists looking for a good story and always come away disappointed because those kind of Webcomics always get bumped off by the strips. It would be nice and more informative to put these very different animals in two separate cages.

  3. I think the problem, HABE, is that a lot of gag comics also have ongoing story lines. Order of the Stick started out as gag-a-strip and became a story that was a lot more epic, a change that has been difficult for some fans who are still expecting a gag in the last panel. I’d call Questionable Content mostly a gag comic, because each page has a beginning and an end, and the end is usually funny, but the characters throughout grow and change.

    Those webcomics are between traditional strips, non-traditional strips like XKCD, and full on narratives like Cowboys and Aliens II (which I’m writing for). So drawing the lines, as much as it might need to be done, could get very messy…

  4. Penny Arcade is the only webcomic i really follow, there are certainly many other good webcomics around but none who are as consistantly funny everytime

  5. It’s difficult to categorize comics by length. Pogo was a gag a day strip with an ongoing story. The first collection was edited into what would now be called a graphic novel. MAD Magazine runs both comic strip gags (Sergio Aragones) and single page comics, yet most do not consider it a comicbook.
    Here are some possible classifications and criteria: previously published (Dilbert, She Hulk), original licensed comics, Original To Web; daily publication, weekly, irregular; format and length (strip, page, issue, animated, hybrid); cost (free, subscription); Google strength (how many people link to it); independent, co op, studio, corporation…
    myself, I like Maridee,Unshelved, Last Kiss, and Retail.

  6. I only follow 3 web comics: Beaver and Steve (beaverandsteve.com), Multiplex 10 (multiplexcomic.com), and Penny Arcade (penny-arcade.com)

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