The Best Webcomics of 2005



Chosen by The Webcomics Examiner Advisory Board


A Lesson is Learned, but the Damage is Irreversible
Dale Beran and David Hellman
Free



Dale Beran’s mind is wired in to the logic of dreamtime, and David Hellman’s optic nerves are mapped onto the vistas of sleep. What counted as a discovery last year has become a cult phenomenon as more and more people are tapping into the naptime knowledge of this dynamic duo.

A triumph of form and concept, A Lesson Is Learned stands shoulder to shoulder with Kazu Kibuishi’s Copper (see below) as astounding affirmations of the power of a single page to move mountains and reinvent the world.

Read our review.

Read this comic.



A Softer World
Emily Horne and Joey Comeau
Free



You’ve all seen those webcomics, you know the ones, with random, grainy photographs, and vague, poetic text pasted over top of them.

Horne and Comeau have got the look of these comics down cold– but appearances are deceiving, because the sly inferences in each Softer World strip are variously acidic, achingly funny, or casually disturbing.

Read this comic.



Achewood
Chris Onstad
Free



A nimble way with dialog and a mercilessly caustic outlook on modern society is this comic’s stock in trade. There is no funnier strip on the Web, and the humor isn’t easy humor: it’s the real stuff, born of humanity and pain.

Plus, Chris Onstad deserves some kind of special Holy Crap award for keeping regularly-updated, consistently hilarious
blogs for all the major characters.

Read our review.

Read this comic.



American Elf
James Kochalka

Subscription



Mundane events are filtered through a poetic consciousness and a singularly imaginative eye, as Kochalka’s "sketchbook diary" chronicles the artist’s life one day at a time in colorful, spontaneous, richly inventive cartoons.

Read our review.

Read the Roundtable entry.

Read this comic.



Bee: Motel Art Improvement Service
Jason Little
Free

The "bubblegum noir" adventures of the young carrot-top, Bee, continue in this sequel to Shutterbug Follies. A tense and puzzling road trip ends in a roadside accident that lands Bee in a motel to recouperate.

Little is a very accomplished cartoonist. His linework is clean, his storytelling smart, his action fast-moving. Now if he can only work on his update frequency…

Read our review

Read this comic.



Copper
Kazu Kibuishi
Free

Kazu Kibuishi’s short, simple tales of a boy and his dog are essential reading for webcomics fans. Elegant artwork and stories with surprising depth make this an all-ages comic adults can heartily recommend.

Read our review.

Read this comic.



Dicebox
Jenn Manley Lee
Free


Will technological progress bring about the elimination of the working class? Not in Jenn Manley Lee’s estimation. Her futuristic story follows two migrant workers from one toxic assignment to the next. Along the way we get to know the travelers, two complex women fated to play a part in a larger, galaxy-spanning epic.

Read our review.

Read this comic.



Digger
Ursula Vernon
Subscription (Graphic Smash)


Ursula Vernon’s persistent, pragmatic wombat makes a wonderful, if reluctant hero. Along with Ursula’s excellent black and white art, her wit illuminates a wonderful cast of characters, including depressive canine exiles, oracular slugs, intermittently insane monks and Ganesh. Read along as Digger attempts to unravel the mysteries of this new world she’s found herself in.

Read this comic.




Dinosaur Comics
Ryan North
Free


If anyone questions whether webcomics is a writer’s medium, they need look no further than Ryan North. In a daring and unprecedented move, North conceived of a comic in which the same six panels of artwork are repeated unto infinity. Only the words change, but what words they are!

Read our interview.

Read this comic.



Flick
Mikael Oskarsson
Subscription (Graphic Smash)


A free-ranging spoof of comics traditions, this fast-paced farce is a sumptuous showcase for an artist who can mimic styles ranging from Arthur Rakham to H.R. Gieger to Jack Kirby to Hieronymous Bosch!

Read our review.

Read this comic.




Girl Genius
Phil and Kaja Foglio
Free



This erudite newcomer has been turning heads since its debut as a print comic in 2000. After its recent move to the Web, however, the mad-science gaslight fantasy has gotten even better. The colors are brighter, the art livelier, the story more engrossing.

This series’ affable online presentation should be studied by all cartoonists working on Web-to-print hybrids.

Read this comic.




Hotel Fred
Roger Langridge
Subscription (Modern Tales)



Roger Langridge is the gold standard for well-rendered wacky side splitters. His grotesques sometimes remind you of Basil Wolverton’s, but his themes have a warmth that’s all his own.

Read our roundtable about the artist.

Read this comic.



Jellaby
Kean Soo
Free


Portia is a lonely little girl in purple pajamas–no Dad, no friends, no intellectual peers. But things start to look up when she finds a giant purple monster roaming the woods behind her house.

This story of childhood alienation is still in its early stages, but Kean Soo is already demonstrating an admirable knack for filling the world of Jellaby with charming characters and lovable monsters.

Read our review of the artist.

Read this comic.



Little Dee
Chris Baldwin

Free



A kindly bear, a dog, and a vulture find a little girl lost in the woods, and decide to adopt her, in this quiet, gentle fantasy. A charming twist to the tale is that all the animals can speak, but the child can only make sounds.

Read this comic.



Cat and Girl
The New Adventures of Death

Dorothy Gambrell

Subscription (Modern Tales)
Free



Dorothy Gambrell knows how to write characters. Cat and Girl are self-conscious hipsters whose social commentaries invariably double back upon themselves. Death is a sublime innocent, a Candide who stumbles over irony with every step. With either strip you can’t lose.

Read our review.

Read Cat and Girl.

Read New Adventures of Death.



Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life
Adam Reed
Free


This laid-back interplanetary road trip in the company of two bohemian-drive-enhanced robots is a quiet gem of subtle characterization, rendered in a lean but vivid style that travels well.

Read this comic.



The Perry Bible Fellowship
Nicholas Gurewitch
Free

Gurewitch’s morbid sense of humor is always a delight, but what sets this strange series apart is his versatile talent and dedication to craft.

Each episode is a tiny masterpiece, a wildly fantastic scenario with a sly heart of darkness. Not a word is wasted, not a line goes astray.

Read our review.

Read this comic.



Salamander Dreams
Hope Larson
Free


The story a young girl and her totemic animal friend, Salamander Dream uses a very limited color palette to excellent effect, while creating a dreamlike world of magic and science. With a minimum of words, Hope Larson captures the energy and loneliness of growing up and leaving your secret friends behind, while presenting a hopeful picture of a grown-up world as full of magic as any child’s imagination.

Read our review of the artist.

Read this comic.



Schlock Mercenary
Howard Tayler
Free

This long running strip has provided action, a little drama and a huge dose of humor, with a balance of well thought out science fiction and multi-galactic vistas. And an intelligent blob of green goo that looks like excrement with a penchant for an ominoushummmmmmm.

Read this comic.



Smile
Raina Telgemeier
Free

In the past year, Raina Telgemeier has become a major rising talent and a representative of the new breed of creators who move easily between print and Web. Her print work includes a new series of Babysitter’s Club graphic novels from Scholastic Books; her online work includes
this sweet autobio comic about how preteen Raina lost her two front teeth. She has a clean, cute art style and an easy grace with
storytelling. And she and “Astronaut Elementary” cartoonist Dave Roman
form a fearsome comics power couple, as their collaboration “How We Got
Engaged!” demonstrates.

Read this comic.



Something Positive
R.K. Milholland
Free

This strip which began life as a caustic commentary on the vagaries of life and the joys of violence, has progressed to more in-depth characterizations, emotionally gripping arcs, and a wider scope, all without losing the dark sense of humor which jumpstarted its popularity.

Read our review.

Read this comic.




The Stiff
Jason Thompson
Subscription (Girlamatic)

Jason Thompson’s sprawling graphic novel in progress defies categorization: it’s a high-school coming-of-age drama, a long, slow burn of a horror story, and webcomics’ most bizarre manga romance. Thompson’s obsessively detailed, hypnotically absorbing linework bucks all the trends, and you know, sometimes that’s a good thing.

Read our review.

Read this comic.



Templar, Arizona
Spike
Free

Spike is one of the most interesting cartoonists on the Web, with a strong line, a forceful style, and a sharp ear for dialogue. Unfortunately, her comic “Lucas and Odessa” is currently on hiatus; fortunately, her new comic, “Templar,” is a blast. Templar is a small Arizona town in a universe just a few degrees askew of our own. The comic is alternately an exercise in world-building and an oddball human comedy; either way, it’s fun.

Read our review of the artist.

Read this comic.



Whispered Apologies
Various
Free

Ryan North and Joey Comeau (see above) are the inventors of this collaborative series. The rules are simple: an artist creates a comic page without words, then turns it over to a writer, who completes it.

As practiced by the various participants, including Kean Soo, Nicholas Gurewitch, Dean Trippe and David Hellman, this collab-athon is a frothy delight of improvisation and gamely guessed intentions.

Read this comic.



All images copyrighted by their creators. Descriptions by A. G. Hopkins, Shaenon Garrity, Alexander Danner, and Joe Zabel.



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