I started reading webcomics around the time I went to college, and it’s somewhat astonishing to me just how much my daily routine has been shaped by the familiar regularity of the update schedule. During several particularly lazy summer months when I didn’t have a job or schoolwork to keep me on a schedule, I avoided the calendar and only paid attention to what day of the week it was by which webcomics were updating. To this day, my morning reading list is a continually shifting roster of twenty-somethings in coffee shops, magic and robots, and silly jokes about history and technology.
Because webcomics are largely self-published endeavors, the level of commitment from their authors/illustrators varies wildly. Some creators update on a regular schedule, some only once in a while. Some creators are able to support themselves entirely off of proceeds from their comic, complete with social media tie-ins and bound volume compilations; others hastily script and draw a few panels only when they can scrape together enough time and money to do it. The frequency of updates (plus how long I’ve been reading it, multiplied by how engaged I am with the story or humor) is one the main factor in the complicated equation that determines which webcomics I check first each morning.
First, there’s the Monday through Friday weekday regulars, the daily serials that hold my entire webcomic-reading experience together—Questionable Content is always my first stop, usually followed by Dumbing of Age (which actually updates seven days a week, though I’m sporadic about checking it on weekends). After the dailies come the solid pillars of the Monday-Wednesday-Friday updates, which anchor my week in place with consistent brilliance from the likes of xkcd and Gunnerkrigg Court. Then there’s a continually changing roster of Tuesday-Thursday updates. These ones never seem to last, sadly; it’s like the Friday night death slot of webcomics, which is a shame, because a number of my favorites (Knights Errant, Spare Keys for Strange Doors) all try to keep to this schedule, but frequently disappear into hiatus hell. After that come my beloved irregulars like Sequential Art and Check, Please!, which I check (or not) in order of whichever I’m most impatient to read—and which ones I remember even exist. And finally, if I’m still not feeling satiated—if one of my favorites is on a skip week, or left me dangling with an agonizing cliffhanger—I scope out the even more irregulars, comics like Hark, A Vagrant! or Awkward Zombie that I tend to read only once a month or so, catching up in small bursts.
Over the past year or two I’ve been slowly getting more involved in social media, and trying read the news more regularly. But old habits die hard, and it’s still the webcomic schedules that form the structure of my morning forays onto the internet. Questionable Content has been running for over twelve years, and I’ve been reading it for about six; it doesn’t feel like my morning’s complete until I’ve checked in with Marten, Faye, and the rest of the gang. On those rare occasions when the comic goes on hiatus for a week, I spend my morning feeling like there’s something I’ve forgotten to do. And without the regularity of my Mon-Wed-Fri favorites, would I even remember to check my more irregular favorites? I suspect that without the consistency of my regulars, my entire reading schedule would begin to unravel.
While QC’s still going strong, other comics have come to an end. My old favorite daily drama, Girls With Slingshots, came to an end last March, and I’ve been trying to fill the void in my soul with Dumbing of Age ever since. Nimona got famous, got finished, got published, and got removed from the internet (I’ve since bought the print version). FreakAngels, on the other hand, still (as of writing) lingers online in all of its mad glorious entirety. There’s always a bit of a withdrawal period for me after a webcomic I love comes to an end; I binge-read the archives, my favorite bits, and then go scouring the web to find new ones.
I have no magic formula for finding new webcomics; I’ve discovered them by word of mouth, by online lists, by Tumblr posts, by TV Tropes, and by links on the sidebars of webcomics I’m already reading. But once I find one I like—especially one that updates regularly—it becomes a familiar part of my daily routine, providing just a little snippet of enjoyment in the morning before I begin my day.