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Let's lay down some ground rules here: yes, this is a list of best of '08 comics. However! It's a list of the best of '08 comics that first appeared on the internet, and it only deals with the comics that survived a not-very-well-planned adventure that began eleven months ago, before your correspondent joined the comiXology team, back when he carried an even higher opinion of himself—I know!—and his ability to keep a schedule.
The plan, like all plans, was incredibly ridiculous in scope, doomed to near-immediate failure, and designed with no real true end goal in mind. (Like Mad Max before him, This Ship entered Thunderdome back in January with a whole heap of webcomics. The webcomics won, and this is what he was able to shove in his broken gullet on the way out of the cage.)
Now, there's a ton of great webcomics out there—besides local heroes Narbonic
& Skin Horse
, the Zuda team seems to be successfully finding an audience, Wondermark
is a realiable laugh getter, and there's at least 100 others your correspondent has yet to see and therefore fall in love with. So it's with more than a little bashfulness and a depressing lack of imagination that we present a list of comics—three of which you're probably sick of thinking about—that end up making what we'd like to call….
The Top Five Best Webcomics of 2008 Final Authoritative List
1. Get Your War On, David Rees
Admittedly, this wasn't the best year Get Your War On
ever had--that title will forever remain the province of 2001, when GYWO
took shapeless rage, fear, exhaustion, four-letter words and a blistering intelligence, shoved them into the mouths of clip-art office workers, and pointed them at any and everybody that David Rees couldn't stand. In the process, he came up with the funniest—and best—piece of 9/11 art available.
By 2008, a lot of the jokes had gotten a little bit stale and way too meta, something Rees obviously knew himself; after all, when your comic ends up in Rolling Stone alongside their constant Pink Floyd retrospectives, you've clearly left the underdog domain. Thankfully, the strip's been replaced by an intermittently funny cartoon, one that's less frequent and more gag-driven than before.
But if anybody is going to get the top spot, it should be the cartoon that started working the hardest when it was hard to work, and it's difficult to imagine somebody else claiming the title, especially when this looks to be the last year that it could have.
2. Achewood, Chris Onstad
Now that Achewood
has crossed the realm from "popular webcomic" to "Time Magazine's Number One Graphic Novel of the Year," it's ripe for a backlash—which, of course, it seems to get just as much as it seems to gain new readers. In the earlier days of Achewood
, that was something I felt a bit of contempt for—the old school playground idea that if somebody didn't like Achewood
, they probably ate live puppies—but now, it's just easier to swallow.
Everybody isn't going to like Achewood
, sure. But a whole hell of a lot of us do--and the days when Roast Beef fans were outnumbered by those who pig out on Paul Dini's Detective Comics
or Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve
are long gone. Good riddance.
3. Bodyworld, Dash Shaw
I was introduced to Bodyworld
late in the game, when a friend of Mr. Shaw spoke at great lengths about the comics exploration of space in its presentation—at the time, the comic sounded less like something that would be interesting to read than it would be to study, but those assumptions were slaughtered whole after sitting with the comic for five minutes.
Now, if artistry were the sole name of the list-making game here, Bodyworld
would easily take the top spot, if only for its masterful use of color and design sense. For me though, a major part of enjoying webcomics is their ephemeral nature, their existence as bits of data over an internet connection—humor, the kind in Achewood
, helps make for a quicker, more immediate experience. Bodyworld
is a fantastic comic, a brilliantly structured story that I couldn't imagine explaining without doing it a serious disservice.
After all, a major part of my love for it came from my first ignorant immersion in its wickedly cool universe—and while I may find myself laughing at it the way I do at Achewood
, and I don't find myself as pat-on-the-back satisfied as when David Rees starts calling Henry Kissinger a blood-drinking mass murderer, Bodyworld
is an experience that sticks with you for hours after a new portion of the story is revealed.
It's a brilliant piece of work that leaves you—like any great comic—yearning for it to continue. (And eventually, there will come a time—possibly even this year—when Bodyworld
will break free of the "only a webcomic" distinction and start to be mentioned when it's time to talk "Best Comics of The Year.")
4. Kate Beaton, anything, and everything, by Kate Beaton
Above, it was mentioned that I'd grown out of the tendency to take it personally when somebody said that they didn't like Achewood
. And I totally have! If you don't like Achewood
, that's fine. I know and like people who don't enjoy Achewood
. A fat cat that wears a thong, a serial killing lunatic and an overly cute seal? That's not for everybody. It would be creepy if it was.
But if you don't like Kate Beaton's comics—I mean, seriously, if you don't like at least one
of Kate Beaton's comics---then you've got something wrong with you, and I hope that you never have children. You will raise them badly, and they will be humorless little bloodsucking ticks.
If everybody who thought they could be a funny cartoonist would just spend five minutes at her site, then this world could be saved from a massive amount of terrible comics—because trust me: your mom might say you're funny. Your girlfriend probably does. But trust me.
You ain't as funny as Kate Beaton.
5. Dinosaur Comics, Ryan North
There's something pretty amazing about the fact that one of the best webcomics on the internet is one that never changes its six panels of clip-art dinosaurs. And yet there it is, Dinosaur Comics, and it just keeps going, on and on, for over four years.
North takes weekend breaks, there's an occasional vacation, but otherwise he just keeps coming up with a sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always absurd cartoon that has yet to exhaust itself. If it were just a contest for the longest running weird idea, he'd win it. Here's hoping he never gives it up.
All images found at the linked websites and © the creators
Tucker Stone's writing can be found in print from time to time. He currently blogs about comics at The Factual Opinion and Savage Critics.
This Ship Is Totally Sinking is © Tucker Stone, 2010