Web Comics - Best of 2008

Other than chatting online, reading news, sports and music reviews... the best part about the internet is web comics. (You thought I was going to say porn, right? Well, that's a story for another time.) When sneaking a "break" at work, or seeking to fulfill a serial addiction for daily enjoyment with a returning cast of characters, these little digital vignettes can't be beat. Now, so many web-artists have a high-tech stylus rig and the ability to free hand their own genius right into the interweb that it's nearly impossible to choose just a handful to follow regularly (and feel connected to the storyline). Despite a lack of scarcity web comics are intensely artistic and feature a wide breadth of excellent humor. There's so much humor we can add an extra "u." Humour.

I used to read the comics in the newspaper everyday as a boy. Many I'd read out of comfort, rather than satisfaction. Like a bad, but tolerable relationship, classics like Hagar The Horrible, The Family Circus (More like The Family Valium...) and Garfield were never truly loved, but never missed. Rare hits like The Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes belie the uninteresting mass of syndicated newspaper "funnies," despite the daily readership. And out of the cultural wasteland a tiny flower did sprout... comics that are actually funny because they aren't regulated by syndicates, and news media corps focused on being only as funny as the most buttoned-down subscribers allow. Yay! Individual media publishing! So now, without further meanderings, my top 5 web comics of 2008:

5. questionable content by jeph jacques

Essentially this is a perpetual dating/relationship comedy-drama, with numerous indie references, pun-tastic jokes, and talking anthropomorphic robots. On a deeper level QC addresses 20-something burnout, and the search for purpose. It's not always perfect, which is why it's number 5. I've read this one everyday for the last 4 years, and I'm attached to the cast in a way that may be mid-90s WB-esque-level cute-disgusting. Guest strips are always pleasant surprises, despite deviation from the usual arc, and Jacques hits incredible crass notes with his other comic, Indietits (about an angry, often screaming, little bird that never moves from his branch).

4. WONDERMARK by David Malki!

The quintessential "Monty Python" of web comics, Wondermark is about excellently crafted jokes, turns of phrase, and plays on pop culture. It is comprised of clip art-style "old timey" images and filled with dialogue written as if spoken by caricatures from the 19th century. Again, there's a pun emphasis here that may be specific to my "sense" of humor, but each strip has an incredible novelty to it. Rarely connecting into a continuing storyline, Malki! is free to be a classic absurdist; something at which he excels! The simple design, and way that the images in the often remain unchanged from panel to panel keep you focused on the words, and often incorporate a greater juxtaposition between serious image and absurd dialogue, or vice verse. And his merch is exceptional too.

3. Penny Arcade by Tycho and Gabe (pseudonyms of excellence)

Video games, one of my guilty hobbies, are the focus of Penny Arcade. But, it doesn't stop there because these two electronically focused misanthropes are also two of the most hilariously crass, self-interested, and delightful characters of all time. 30% shock value, 30% exceptional writing, and 40% excellent, well-styled and unique artwork make up a comic that is continually enjoyable, if sometimes so video game focused that it is difficult to follow without reading the blog aspect of the strips. It's a meta comic in that way, but also one that gives birth to incredible characters like Twisp & Catsby, whose miss-adventures always end in word play, the Fruit Fucker robot-juicer and the Cardboard-tube Samurai. If you can handle being grossed out, confused by gaming references, and a barrage of penis jokes for a juvenile, but often satisfying chuckle you should stop by and peruse the archives.

2. Achewood by Chris Onstad

A fictional, but all too realistic universe of lovable and thoroughly unlovable anthropomorphic animals drops into your lap with each strip. The brilliance of the strip lies in the depth of the writing. It is artistically simple, not overly embellished with details. The individual characters are so well-defined that they feel real, and that's the sign of good writing. There are crass turns featuring womanizing Ray, cute turns with Philippe, and thoughtful ones with the oft-abused Pat. Each character has their own blog, which is an incredible concept in itself. I've only been reading Achewood for about 4 months, but it's made an impression and keeps getting better as I travel the archives. I owe a special shout out to my friend Jared for pointing me to the page in the first place.

1. xkcd by Randall Munroe

Stick figures joke about math, physics, books, et al., and pun the whole way. It touches on pop topics like Rick-Rolling, and surprises with its insight on dating and life. It's all in the jokes, and the perspective, so if you're looking for an overwhelming artistic experience head elsewhere. The writing is detailed and full, often with as many jokes as possible crammed in to each strip. If you want to laugh, again at some terrible puns played perfectly, this is the web comic for you. At the time of posting, xkcd is a hilarious guide to converting to metric. Just to give you an idea. I have many friends to thank for linking me here time and time again based on some joke of context between the two (or more) of us. I rank xkcd at number one because of consistency. I never fail to laugh when I delve in, whether under my own interest or on recommendation.

Check these out. Links are there, so you have no excuse. Click. Read. Repeat.

1 comment:

  1. I would also say Nedroid.com is one of the best, featuring a half potato, half bear creature and his best friend a wise cracking parakeet with enormous dilated eyes.