Best Webcomics of 2014

I present to you, dear reader, my favorite webcomics of 2014. And posted before year’s end (for once)!

First, the honorable mentions.

The Sorensen Monologues by Jen Sorensen
Gunshow by KC Green
Kingdoms Lost by Boulet
Existential Comics
Subnormality by Winston Rowntree
Hey Pais by Sarah Bauer
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
Garfield Minus Garfield by Jim Davis/Dan Walsh
This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow
Batgirl/Supergirl by Mike Maihack
All Along the Wall by Emily Carroll
The Hole the Fox Did Make by Emily Carroll
Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran

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And the top 14 of 2014.

14. Priya’s Shakti by Ram Devineni/Vikas K. Menon/Dan Goldman
shakti
Some webcomics are worth more simply because of the message the contain and the importance of the message that is being delivered. Priya’s Shakti is a call for sanity regarding the abuse of women, especially in India. Gender-based violence is so commonplace it is considered practically natural in some parts of India. This comic not only interactively manifests itself as a breathing form of activism, but does so nicely with Goldman’s trippy photo-meets-illustration art and Devineni and Menon’s effective narrative as well. The literal intervention of the gods in the story gives us a reason to believe that change doesn’t require a deus ex machina, only an liberal dose of humanity instead.
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13. Axe Cop by Charlotte O’Brien/Amelia O’Brien/Tom Martin
axe cop
Ya’ll know Axe Cop, right? Well if you don’t then shame on you! Axe Cop is an online strip that started in 2009 by 5-year-old Malachai Nicolle and his brother 29-year-old Ethan Nicolle. Malachai used the wild untamed imagination of his little kid brain to draft the most insanely amazing surrealist tales, which his illustrator brother Ethan turned into a fantastic action-packed comic. (The strip was collected into print comics and eventually turned into an animated TV show on Fox starring Nick Offerman.) But recently, the Nicolles turned the reigns over to 9-year-old Charlotte and her sister 5-year-old Amelia, with art duties transferring to their 37-year-old uncle Tom. The results were delightful. Axe Cop has always spoken to me, especially since I’ve done a similar concept in my Comic Book Workshops that I hold for kids in Brooklyn, NY. Hey writers out there, if you are ever suffering from a creative block, ask a kid for story advice!

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12. Blimpakind by Talya Modlin
blimpakind
Beautiful napkin-sketchy artwork combined with an intriguing and captivating ongoing narrative make Modlin’s strip one of my faves. The pretty, purposefully cluttered layouts and use of primary colors are winning eye-poppers (and brain-poppers). Super piece of work that is a definite must read.
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11. The Key by Grant Morrison/Rian Hughes
the key
Master writer Grant Morrison and master designer Rian Hughes didn’t just combine to make the amazing Multiversity Map for DC Comics this year, they combined to make a short scroll-down webcomic for BBC News’ Freedom 2014 as well. With no words, the comic is simple yet effective, reflecting the current patriarchal/capitalist/corporate society in which we live, through the lens of an elegant sci-fi tale about a totalitarian quasi-future a la Repent Harlequin Said the Ticktockman. Sometimes the best stories don’t require any text. This is an example of visual storytelling at its finest.
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10. As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
as the crow flies
A teenage queer coming of age story set in the unassumingly scary backdrop of a Christian summer camp. What’s not to love? Gillman’s art is cute but serious all at once, an achievement only heightened by the fact that the whole strip is done entirely with colored pencils. This is the kind of heart-filled sex-political comic that should be educating our high-schoolers instead of what passes for “sex ed” in school these days.
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9. Demon by Jason Shiga
shiga demon
Demon is a definite page turner (or page clicker, I guess I should say). Shiga starts with his main character committing suicide over and over (akin to the best scene in Groundhog Day) for the first forty plus pages before getting to the meat-and-potatoes concept of a fugitive demon that can hop from body to body. Shiga’s simple cartoon style (done only in shades of red and black) mixed with gratuitous and graphic violence only add to the striking nature of his narrative.
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8. Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling
tom the dancing bug's richard scarry
A slight Michael Kupperman vibe gives this funny satire comic enough dadaist edge to make it one of the best of the year. Tom the Dancing Bug has been around since 1990, but now that the popular strip has firmly made its digital mark, Bolling is still as culturally and politically relevant as he ever was. Having already garnered numerous awards in the past, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tom the Dancing Bug continued its winning ways based upon recent offerings. Bolling was bitingly on-point in 2014.
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7. Flowertown, U.S.A. by Rick Altergott
flowertown
Like Bolling, Rick Altergott has been making great comics for a really long time. Having long ago conquered the hearts, farts, and minds of print comics, Altergott has continued to make funny (and make weird) online. The latest version of Flowertown, U.S.A., given mainstream delivery via VICE.com, was an R Crumb/Peter Bagge-esque romp that showcased Altergott’s signature comix-style art and crass cultural commentary. Destined to be a comedy classic.

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6. Trigger Warning: Breakfast by anonymous
breakfast
One of the best things to happen this year was the introduction of The Nib at Medium.com, an amazing host for indie webcomics of every kind. I didn’t get to read as many comics on there as I wanted to, but I did read Trigger Warning and it blew me away. Nothing so simple and succinct and blunt (in recent memory) expresses rape culture quite like this comic. Rape culture surrounds us. It is everywhere, not just in the form of back alleyway assaults and acid attacks in India. It permeates every facet of our daily lives here in America and much of society doesn’t even realize it—either via ignorance or because society is a masking-construct that normalizes date rape, fraternity mentality, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, sexism, misogyny, etc… Our patriarchal nightmare has also turned “no means no” into a game of lose-lose semantics. And the author of this work portrays all of those ideas and more in quick, devastating fashion. This is a must read for all. Powerful stuff. The first step in changing the world is prying open the world’s eyes.
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5. Comics, Everybody by Eugene Ahn/Chris Haley/Jordan Gibson/Jessica Marrs
p9-colors
For years, ComicsAlliance.com has been sporadically publishing Comics, Everybody, a spin-off of Chris “Adam WarRock” Ahn’s Let’s Be Friends Again. And for years, folks have enjoyed how Ahn and company neatly spell out the convoluted and confusing continuity histories of our favorite superheroes. However, no one has ever really given enough praise to Ahn, Haley, Gibson, and Marrs for just how great this comic really is! Informative and hilarious, I get excited whenever a new one pops up in my blogroll. (They only did five comics this year and I wish they did more.) For fans of superhero lore and fans of good humor, Comics, Everybody really is for everybody. And everybody should read it.

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4. Blobby Boys by Alex Schubert
blobby boys!
Blobby Boys rules. This comic is beyond dope and I love it. Schubert’s fucked-up, cracked-out nods to Nickelodeon, Adventure Time, Snoopy, Wayne Coyne, Etsy, and hipsterdom make this one of the most hilarious of the year. A Koyama Press indie strip turned mega huge via VICE.com, Through the bizarre and often dadaist misadventures of its main characters, Blobby Boys gives us something that is so cutting edge and relevant that it seems to be coming to us from the future (of pop culture).

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3. Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters by Patrick Dean
hp lovecraft
Noticing a trend? If it ain’t political, satirical, or non-sequitur weird, it’s something that forms mini-synopses of something else. And such is the case with Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters, which takes HP Lovecraft stories and adapts them into comics, albeit with a funny or silly point of view. A true genius concept (wish I’d thought of it!) that never fails to satisfy. Imagine the scariest Lovecraft tale, the one that sends shivers down your spine to the tips of your toes and through the ground into the mad dark chaos of the Old Ones. Now imagine that mind-altering ground-breaking story as part of a simple six-panel funny-cartoon. Solid gold.

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2. Super-Enigmatix by Richard Sala
sala
Richard Sala has a fabulous bibliography dating back to the early 1990s. If you aren’t familiar with his work, please treat yourself and check it out. This year, Sala created Super-Enigmatix, a narrative webcomic about a dastardly but charismatic super-villain in the vein of Fantomas or Diabolik. (This webcomic has been collected as In A Glass Grotesquely.) Sala’s signature art flair shines through here down to the last detail, including the elegant lettering. And the story is riveting to boot. This story is something straight out of Alan Moore’s Black Dossier—Super-Enigmatix could easily have been dueling with the Les Hommes Mystérieux in the background of that book. I won’t spoil the story, but suffice to say, if you are into beautiful illustration, pulpy detective tales, throwback anti-heroism, and classic masked super-villainy, this is a gem made just for you.

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1. Failing Sky by Dax Tran-Caffee
dax 1dax 2dax 3Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 9.51.05 PM
I can’t even do this comic justice by showing mere images. There simply has never been anything like this before. Peter Knapp calls it the “Sleep No More of the Internet.” I concur. The sheer innovative format of this comic alone makes it not only worthy of the accolades it has received already this year (see list of Eisner Award nominees) but also makes it a joy to navigate. This comic was made for the web (and made with the web in mind). Scrolling up, down, left, right, and in zigzags to get the full scope of the images and story, you couldn’t ever really do this with print. Even the images I’ve chosen to show above are merely parts of a greater whole, taking up the space of multiple screens, that have to be scanned and panned with your track-pad or mouse to see in full. And the “node” structure of the tale puts the concept of non-linear to shame. Chapters in Failing Sky can be read in a myriad of different ways and orders—and that’s half the fun. Tran-Caffee’s gorgeous art is something to rave about as well. His perfect white charcoal-looking inks and pencils only add to the mesmeric vision of ghosts, robots, lovelorn sailors, and genderqueer detective-heroes. The story is beautiful too! I’ve decided to separate my Webcomic Top List from my Print Top List this year, but if I hadn’t Failing Sky damn well might have been number one anyway. It really doesn’t get any better than this in 2014.

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That being said, please stay tuned for my Top List of PRINT COMICS, coming soon!

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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