Mar 14 2009 3:36pm

Ursula Vernon’s “Digger” now free to read

Wombat fans rejoice! And, well, so should the rest of us. Ursula Vernon’s Eisner-award nominated, fantastic-in-all-senses-of-the-word online comic, Digger, is now free to read at Previously, large parts of the archive were only accessible to monthly subscribers at Graphic Smash, but as of this past week, Vernon and Graphic Smash have made available the entirety of the story so far. Here, from Vernon’s website, is the broad outline:

Digger is a story about a wombat. More specifically, it is a story about a particularly no-nonsense wombat who finds herself stuck on the wrong end of a one-way tunnel in a strange land where nonsense seems to be the specialty. Now, with the help of a talking statue of a god, an outcast hyena, a shadow-being of indeterminate origin, and an oracular slug, she seeks to find out where she is and how to go about getting back to her Warren.

The hook is the gorgeous black-and-white art. Even Vernon’s casual sketches are imbued with personality, and when she pulls out all the stops for a full page piece, the effect is stunning. But it’s the writing that that reels me in completely. Digger has developed into an engrossing epic with tone-perfect mythology in a beautifully drawn world that is alternately, and sometimes simultaneously, funny, creepy, and wondrous. And in a story full of characters it’s easy to care for, Digger herself may be the best of the lot—smart, tough, and sensible. As Eric Burns at Websnark wrote: “...unlike most ‘unlikely heroines,’ you honestly get the sense that when Digger makes it home, she’s going to go to bed, get up the next morning, apply for an Engineer’s job and get on with a proper sort of life, thank you anyway.”

In the meantime, Digger’s unwanted adventure makes for a remarkable comics experience—inimitable art and writing in a work with novelesque pacing that rewards extended reading… like, say, the hour or two I’ll bet you’ll spend in front of the computer if you turn to the first page. And why wouldn’t you? I did mention it’s free now, right?

Note: In addition to the Eisner nomination for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition, Digger has twice won the Web Cartoonists' Choice Award for Outstanding Black and White Art. And more than five years in, it’s still reliably updated twice a week.

Bonus! Vernon is also the artist responsible for The Biting Pear of Salamanca, which you may know from something like this.

1. Diatryma
Digger! It is one of my favorite comics. Some of the art is just amazing-- night scenes are great-- and I really like Digger's slow decline into something between madness, despair, and throwing a hissyfit.
Joshua Starr
2. JStarr
Oh yeah. Any scene where Ursula gets to use a lot of black and/or negative space is good stuff. As for Digger's emotional states, what I like is how practical and solution-focused she is, no matter how bad the situation around her gets. It makes those moments when she DOES skirt the edge of despair even more affecting, because we know that it's not her natural reaction - times must be *really* dark if even Digger is not sure there's a way out. The throwing a hissyfit part, though... yeah, that's entertaining.

I also, of course, like Digger's charming obsession with engineering and geology, which pops up in the most entertaining places, e.g. (without context so as to avoid spoilers) "What good is a god that doesn't fossilize?!"
3. glittertrash
Thank you so much for posting this! Had never come across this comic before and, as you predicted, just spent hours glued to the screen catching up. It's brilliant! Am now a bit heartbroken that I have to wait for the rest of the story in instalments, though.
4. Doug M.
Digger is the anti-Cerebus.

Short, grey talking animal;
much tougher than he/she looks, and thus frequently underestimated;
frequently deadpan and nonplussed;
only one of his/her kind around;
in a fantasy world with a medieval technology, gods, and magic;
who is soon at the center of swirling events of great significance, involving mundane politics, the mystic, and the divine;

and lovely black and white art, done on schedule and never late, year after year.

But Digger is female rather than male, pacifist rather than barbaric, and interested in getting home rather than getting on top of everything. Also, Vernon does not appear to be sliding slowly into deep strangeness.

Doug M.
Joshua Starr
5. JStarr
@3 Oh yay! This is exactly what I hoped to hear. I agree, the waiting will be hard. I had actually stopped following Digger, because when it was behind the subscription wall, only the first hundred or so (?) and the latest comic were free to see, and so if you missed one update, suddenly you were out of the loop. I've caught up now, of course, but my guess is that, after the glee of having the free site available wears off, I'll probably check in once a month or so, to get the story in more significant chunks.

@4 Well, she STARTED in deep strangeness. But it's the good kind.

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