The 20 Best Webcomics of 2012

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As we tried to sift down the best webcomics to a reasonable number, Paste realized one thing: There are many, many, many webcomics on the internet. Most good and some great, their panels stretch endlessly throughout cyberspace like stars in the galaxy. The biggest challenge for webcomics authors isn’t just providing captivating content, but letting the public know it exists. Every binary nook and cranny hides an amazing amount of talent that could very well be published by any major comic hub, which unsurprisingly, has been happening quite a bit lately.


10. JL8: A Webcomic

by Yale Stewart

DC may supports its own line of comics for young readers, but fan project JL8 might be the best iteration of Superman, Batman, and Wonderman running around in onesies to date. The central concept is incredibly simply: what would The Justice League of America look like in elementary school? Writer and artist Yale Stewart’s crisp line work and composition are simply stunning, with plots that strike the perfect pace of funny and progressive. Who cares about the Joker’s murder spree or Clark losing his job when you can check out the puppy love triangle forming at Wonder Woman’s birthday party? (SE)


9. Sarah and the Seed

by Ryan Andrews

As far as the human experience is concerned, pregnancy carries an extreme spectrum of fears and pleasures in its process of introducing a new person into the world. Ryan Andrews masterfully addresses these highs in lows in his touching modern fairy tale, Sarah and the Seed. The 5-chapter narrative follows an old man and his wife, Sarah, as she miraculously gives birth to the titular bulb. The couple plant the seed and we, like them, wait. What grows is a gorgeous, emotional journey through burgeoning parenthood illustrated with quirky style. (SE)


8. Dinosaur Comics

by Ryan North

The openness of webcomics allows smart writers to cheaply self-publish with little resources, relying on acrobatic word play and storytelling instead of production budgets with artists and editors. To see this model at its best, look no further than Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics. When the Canadian writer isn’t translating Adventure Time into its fantastic monthly comic, he’s recycling pixilated Geocities-grade dinosaur graphics to make you lose your shit in myriad creative ways. Recent examples include using economic models to assess friendship and questioning the semantics of multiple oceans. After two comics, the fixed graphics melt away to reveal a genius mind delighting and challenging the Internet.


7. Hark! A Vagrant

by Kate Beaton

What’s not to love about Kate Beaton’s tableaus of history gone absurd? After blowing up in 2011 with a printed collection and repeated real estate on lists such as this, the Canadian cartoonist has left her fingerprints on history lessons and pop culture icons alike. Insightful and whimsical, Hark! recasts famous figures as goofball parodies with startling respect to their source material. Though Beaton is currently working on some mystery projects that have slowed the flow of her insidious work, we’re still hitting refresh daily for her alternative history lessons.


6. American Elf

by James Kolchalka

American Elf is an enticing peephole into the household of its manically inventive author, James Kolchalka. Each day offers a real-time sample of the love, frustration, and learning that occurs between Kolchalka and his family. For more than 14 years, readers have watched the domestic ebb into the transcendental, immersed in Kolchalka’s lush colors and eccentric line work. Its author often contemplates the end of this massive project, but that would be a great tragedy; this is the real modern family.


5. Battlepug

by Mike Norton

When he’s not illustrating monthly books like Revival, Mike Norton packs a surplus of Frank Frazetta fantasy, left-hook jokes, and snorting lap dogs into his addictive webcomic, Battlepug. The story of a vengeful warrior and his titular “bug-eyed freak” of a canine, Battlepug reads like Conan the Barbarian filtered through Mel Brooks’ slapstick. This year saw the cast expand with a foul-mouthed child mage and a buxom rogue, as a medieval band or heroes confronted an evil sorcerer and his menagerie of marauding fuzzies. With eye-catching colored art and playful writing, Battlepug stands shoulder to shoulder with its printed cousins. (SE)


4. Bucko

by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen

Are we double-dipping? Yeah, we’re kinda double-dipping here, but how could we not? Jeff Parker and Erika Moen have crafted such an engaging, kinetic riff on the modern noir that it deserves praise in both its printed and digital formats. Sprouting four chapters and 102 “pages,” this rollercoaster narrative will make you feel guilty for consuming an end product so awesome yet utterly free. Erika Moen’s expressive art fits the winding story in pitch-perfect shades of muted blue. (SE)


3. xkcd

by Randall Munroe

xkcd may bill itself as “A WEBCOMIC OF ROMANCE, SARCASM, MATH, AND LANGUAGE,” but these dangerously clever panels can tackle anything from biblical passages to microwave buttons with intelligent humor. Former NASA Roboticist Randall Munroe skips from left-brained analytics to right-brained zingers with effortless grace, finding hidden humor in the dorkyest of places like an indie Big Bang Theory. Conclusion: more NASA scientists should quit their jobs and make comics. (SE)


2. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

by Tony Cliff

It’s not so much that writer/artist Tony Cliff knows what to say in his enchanting costume epic Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (though, he certainly does write wonderful dialogue), but he also knows when to pull his pen back and show arresting vistas like airborne sailboat crash landings and sweeping Mediterranean mountains. Of course, protagonist Delilah Dirk is the greatest vision of all. A proto-manic pixie dream girl who kicks all manner of ass, Dirk has mastered 47 different sword-fighting techniques and is a member of three royal courts, but will probably burn herself into your memory with her cute smirks and witty asides. In this opening volume, Delilah befriends a conservative outcast of the Ottoman Empire before pursuing booty from a militaristic pirate lord, but many questions are left unanswered. Such as: will the pirate lord get his revenge? Is Delilah Dirk based on a real person? Is that real person currently single? (SE)


1. The Abominable Charles Christopher

by Karl Kerschl

Karl Kerschl’s contribution to the webcomic arena is enchanting and unforgettable. For the past three years, the artist behind some of DC’s biggest heroes has used the digital medium in all the right ways, staggering vignettes and storylines with memorable guest spots (hello, Skottie Young and Becky Cloonan) and hilarious asides. Charles Christopher, the lovable Bigfoot without a past, remains the heart throughout the unspooling narrative, walking readers through a wood full of anthropomorphic critters including intoxicated birds and tabletop gamer porcupines. The result feels like the brainchild of Jeff Smith, Walt Disney, and Hayao Miyazaki, yet holds its own unmistakable identity. Simply put, The Abominable Charles Christopher is a delight. (SE)