College Roomies From Hell! by Maritza Campos turned eighteen years old this year, and is now one of the oldest webcomics still active. Its first strip went online on January 1st, 1999. Despite a shaky update schedule, it doesn’t seem intended to end any time soon.
Its longevity is only surpassed by a few other comics. Sabrina Online, an anthro comic by Eric W. Schwartz, updated for twenty years on a monthly basis until ending on its 20th birthday. In addition, Bobbins by John Allison first began on September 21st, 1998, eventually spawning Scary Go Round, Bad Machinery, and a Bobbins reboot in the same universe, although the original comic is long since retired.
Flashback to 1999
College Roomies From Hell! began as a newspaper-style serial, chronicling the adventures of hapless, involuntary roommates Mike, Dave and Roger.
It’s a standard cast lineup – Mike the asshole jock, Dave the boring everyman, and Roger the cloud cuckoolander try not to kill each other.
However, the comic’s defining feature came along late in its first year. In a quest to help Dave forget his broken heart, Mike and Dave take him on a “misery journey“. After their night of binge drinking, they wake up in a tree, decide to take a bath in apparently radioactive water… and all three of them end up with mutations.
Mike’s tentacle, Dave’s laser vision and (to a lesser extent) Roger’s third eye are now prominent features of the comic.
‘College Roomies From Hell!’ In The New Century
Over the following seventeen years, Maritza’s art style changed dramatically. This is both a reflection of her developing skills and the changing direction of the comic. Compare Dave (the center figure above) from 1999, to Dave in 2017, below:
This is only a single example of how webcomics at large have been a tool of self-improvement for independent artists. It’s enough of a known phenomenon to have its own page on TV Tropes – compare the first strip of Questionable Content to one more than three thousand strips later.
Narratively, CRFH! has also developed far beyond its days as a sitcom. Satan became the main antagonist by 2001’s Adversary storyline, and Mike, Dave and Roger also encounter a group of mad scientists on the mysterious DunDun Island. Entangled through all of this are their various romantic adventures with the girls across the hall – Margaret, April and Marsha.
Maritza Campos’s art and narrative skills, practiced on the long-running College Roomies From Hell!, are now mostly focused on the online graphic novel Power Nap, although CRFH! is still continuously updating.