Growing the Beard/Web Comics

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  • The beginning of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, to be frank, absolutely sucked. Then the author resumed updating after a year's absence, at which point the art quality massively improved, the characters' personalities became more distinct, the plot picked up, the worldbuilding started to improve, the separate species were introduced... In general, it just, very abruptly, became worth reading.
  • 1/0 had no point save getting a girlfriend when it started, nor did Tailsteak have any art experience, and it shows. The reason there was No Fourth Wall was that Tailsteak never bothered to put one in, and found he couldn't do much in the way of jokes with one. Then he started taking real advantage of its absence, using it for creative character interactions. Then said characters started spiraling out of control in just the right ways.
  • El Goonish Shive started to grow the beard with the Sister arc and finished at the end of Grace's Birthday Party.
  • Sluggy Freelance grew a beard with the Vampires arc, the first truly serious one in the series, and while it still maintained the humor that was popular with fans, it also showed that it was able to sustain drama and tension.
  • The beginning of Bob and George is all but a mess. Random filler strips, jokes that don't quite take off, and the occasional hint that, at some point, there would be a drawn webcomic with Bob and George. Once the last part was completely eliminated and the "Just Another Day" arc started, it finally got into its true plot and humor.
  • Xkcd started out as a merely okay collection of sketches and comics the author made when he was bored. Then, with comic #70 it finally grew into the intelligent gag strip we all know and love.
  • Megatokyo starts off as a fairly standard 4-panel comic with two video game guys getting into hijinks. It takes about fifty strips before it gets into the ridiculous multi-person romance and off-the-wall zombie-robot-Godzilla adventures at the same time.
  • Brawl in the Family stars various Nintendo characters in wacky situations, such as King Dedede in a parody of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It started out as one-trick pony sketches on GameFAQs about Kirby eating things.
  • Lampshaded in The Order of the Stick: upon his reunion with Haley, Elan demonstrates unusual (for him) wisdom regarding outer appearances, and Haley mentions that she half-expected him to "grow a beard". And he has, figuratively speaking.
    • It also grew a beard when the comic developed a story line instead of stand-alone gags about the rules of D&D.
      • A more exact change for the improvement of the comic would arguably be either the fight against Xykon on the first dungeon or the whole Azure City War, moments by which the comic stopped being just another gag-a-day comic and showed an actually interesting storyline in its whole right while still keeping the jokes and the silliness which the storyline only helped making more funny.
      • Of course, an easy moment to pinpoint is the beginning of the second arc, which also coincided with the enhanced art. Perhaps in OotS's case we should call it Growing the Clasp?
      • Also, before the Azure City War, we saw Xykon as a humorous and somewhat incompetent villain, only a threat because he is quite powerful. Then he forces the entire (bar a few) Sapphire Guard to slaughter each other with one well placed spell on a bouncy ball. And then he acts (in the author's words) like a total dick about it. Sure, he gets his ass handed to him a few strips later, and he remains comedy gold throughout the series, but we never see him the same way again, and we really understand just how much of a threat to the world he is.
  • Achewood began life as a hit-and-miss gag strip about a house full of "alive stuffed animals," but with The Party arc it began to develop into a complex, layered, plot-and-character-driven slacker epic.
  • The exact moment Penny Arcade started being funny can be narrowed down somewhat definitively to "Claw Shrimp." It's definitely the oldest strip you'll hear referenced.
  • Although Problem Sleuth was pretty funny when it started out, the gradual Art Shift, combined with the accumulation of parody Solve the Soup Cans puzzles (each more impenetrably complex than the last), strange characters, downright bizzare game mechanics, Lampshades, Chekhovs Guns and Crowning Moments eventually elevated the series to absurd levels of awesomeness by the time the Final Boss Battle rolled around.
    • Something similar happens in Homestuck (see its entry in It Gets Better). The start of the story deliberately had a slow pace, involving a boy trying to handle his Inventory Management Puzzle. And then suddenly there's reality-altering video games. And then there's meteors. And then things get weird.
      • The definite beginning of the comic's "beard" is the end of Act 3, when [S]: Enter displays just how incredible the flash format could be.
  • Though it took off quickly, the first few storylines of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja were rather different than the current blend of awesome and funny it is today. Chris Hastings himself advises new readers not to start with the first, Ronald McDonald-centric story. The next two stories, while well-done and humorous, were essentially setting up the character and playing off a tired "pirates vs. ninjas" theme. The comic really hit its Cool Versus Awesome-plus-funny stride in the 4th story arc. Specifically on this page.
  • Dead of Summer grew its beard around the halfway point of Book 1, as they focused less on the Ludicrous Gibs and more on Character Development. The Art Evolution happened around that time too, resulting in more detailed, clearer drawings. The beard was fully grown by the time Book 2 rolled around; things soon became very character-driven. And then The Protomen show up.
  • Eight Bit Theater started out kind of shaky and awkward, as none of the characters really settled into their grooves. This is the earliest comic where the writing started picking up, with more original character-based humour. The art improves massively over the Garland arc.
  • The Dragon Doctors: The strip began as a one-shot for a group of TF fetishists fans, and the apparent hasty writing of the first half of the first chapter reflects this. As the author begins fleshing out the world, the comic gets much more interesting.
  • Two Evil Scientists started as a fairly decent Sonic and Mega Man crossover comic, with the first few arcs showing the heroes of the Sonic and Mega Man series battling the titular scientist's robots. The story took a unique turn following the Metal Devil arc, and the quality's been going up since then with no sign of stopping.
  • Black Adventures really got its act together in the third chapter when the story became more tied in with the games and the writing got more consistent.
  • Some fans would state that Slightly Damned grew the beard when Rhea and Buwaro escape from the Ring of the Slightly Damned and meet Kieri. This is not only when the storyline really picks up, but when the improvement of the artwork starts becoming more noticable.
  • The 500th strip of Questionable Content is universally recognized as a turning point, when the strip began focusing less on one-off gags and introduced some real character development and plot arcs. The art was also steadily improving throughout the series.
  • Boxer Hockey started off with sub-par to decent art, had a cast of generally cliche characters[1], and sometimes relied on Dead Baby Comedy and gay jokes. During the strip's four-year life, Tyson Hesse, the author, attended college. Over the years, it resulted in the cast having heavy development, well thought-out jokes, and absolutely beautiful art. Tyson Hesse is now considered a professional artist, and is doing freelance jobs for Reverge Labs and Dark Horse Comics. In short, it went from this, to this, then finally to this, and improves every day.
  • Our Little Adventure, about 80 or so pages in. The characters look less wonky and the story starts to seriously move.
  • A Loonatics Tale began in 2007 as a comic the artist/co-writer drew in her spare time at school, with poor art and writing and awkward layouts that culminated in a style switch (including dropping colour from the pages) halfway through the third storyline. Then the comic went on a several-month hiatus during which the artist entered a few Original Character Tournaments, started attending art college and generally worked on improving her craft. Now the comic is back in full colour, and both writing and art have greatly improved in quality.
  • While writing the first few comics of Princess Pi, the cartoonist seemed conflicted between his desire to give Princess Pi genuinely threatening villains, and his desire to make her adventures as random as possible. This resulted in comics that went too straightforward to allow randomness, and some where the randomness overpowered the conflict. He claimed to have eventually found a "groove" with "Princess Pi vs. The Alpha Bitch". Indeed, the story does an entertaining job of creating random threats without losing sight of the main conflict.
  • Twisted Kaiju Theater started as a small time comic strip with endless toliet humor. It ended up becoming one of the longest running web comics ever and dealing with many dark, mature themes while never losing it's comedic value.
  1. A dumb character, who shared a nickname with the author, the jerk, The Big Guy, the Only Sane Man, and their coach.