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The 10 Best Webcomics of 2011

December 28, 2011  |  5:23pm

As we pointed out earlier this year, webcomics, born in 1985, are older than digital cellular phones, the oldest Jonas brother, the Power Rangers (though not older than Japanese Sentai series in general), the disposable camera, the first 3D video game, disposable contact lenses, the use of Doppler weather radars in the US, Prozac and the World Wide Web. In honor of the unsung and underpaid artists who’ve created them, here are the 10 Best Webcomics of 2011.

10. Scenes From A Multiverse
Jonathan Rosenberg is one of the older webcomic artists, starting way back in 1997 with Goats, a popular webcomic that ran for over 10 years before Rosenberg put it on hiatus to focus on his latest venture Scenes From A Multiverse, which launched in 2010. The webcomic is updated daily Monday through Friday, with each strip highlighting an entirely new setting somewhere in the everyday happenings of the multiverse, skewering pop-culture from alien and/or futuristic perspectives.—KAS

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9. The Loneliest Astronauts
Kevin Church and Ming Doyle ended their outer space anti-buddy comedy with a swing into pulp serial adventure. From its beginnings as a desert island workplace comedy in space to its final Flash Gordon homage epic, “The Loneliest Astronauts” was a consistently funny strip with a strong voice and style. It could’ve run in newspapers for decades if it cut out the swear words and scrunched Doyle’s charmingly ragged art down into an imperceptible mush.—GM

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8. Three Word Phrase
Ryan Pequin’s absurd gag strips can be vulgar and immature, but they’re almost always hilarious. Pequin finds truth in the crass and shocking by mining such fixations as sex, animals, bodily functions, aggro bros and our culture’s obsession with nostalgia and the flotsam of our youth. Pequin’s year ended with a guest residency at BlackBook.com that ran throughout December.—GM

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7. For Lack of a Better Comic
A fairly recent entry onto the scene, Jacob Andres’s brainchild For Lack of a Better Comic covers a variety of pop culture topics with a charmingly simple art style and an often self-deprecating sense of humor.—KAS

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6. Feel Afraid
Christopher R.’s “Feel Afraid” shares a perspective similar to “Three Word Phrase”, but with a slacker/skater-dude voice not unlike Joe Daly’s excellent Dungeon Quest series. Dude loves ghosts and bone dragons and other spooky shit, though, which makes “Feel Afraid” feel a tad more surreal than Pequin.—GM

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5. Penny Arcade
Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins have built a lively media playground out of their colorful, caustic web series about videogame culture. Sporting a serialized documentary, downloadable role-playing game, indie convention and charity that donates games to hospitals, the Penny Arcade behemoth has evolved into a digital institution. Even so, none of this would exist without the dorky misadventures of two condescending couch jockeys and their very, very inappropriate fruit juicer.—SE

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4. Bayou
“Lee Wagstaff, the daughter of a black sharecropper in depression-era Mississippi, and Bayou, a blues-singing swamp monster, trek across a hauntingly familiar Southern Neverland, confronting creatures both benign and malevolent, in an effort to rescue Lee’s father and Lily, Lee’s white playmate.” Written and drawn by Jeremy Love, Bayou differs from the other entries here in that it’s not a free online series, though it is hosted online and the first issue is available for free at the comic’s portal linked to in the title. Despite this, it’s too hard to ignore such a beautifully drawn work that features a haunting, magical trek across the imagination of the deep south by a young African-American girl on a journey to save her father.—KAS

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3. Registered Weapon
Cash Register. Robot. Cop. From the site’s own description, “Frank Gorman is LA’s toughest homicide detective. His partner FELIX is a robotic cash register programmed to be a walking CSU. Crime may pay…but justice is all out of change.” This is one of the most entertaining hard-boiled detective parodies you’re likely to come across, with witty dialogue written by Gardner Linn & Chris Thorn and crisp illustrations by Dave Lentz & Rob Simmons.—K. Alexander Smith

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2. xkcd
xkcd is what you get when you cross a former NASA roboticist-turned-cartoonist, a lot of stick figures, and a hilarious tri-weekly web comic. Started by Randall Munroe in 2005, this is the best binary distraction for the gifted few who find humor in the periodic table of elements, advanced calculus and giant robots. Think of it as Harvey Pekar for rocket scientists.—SE

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1. Hark! A Vagrant
It’s printed compendium wasn’t ranked runner up in our Best Comic Books of 2011 list for nothing. In Hark! A Vagrant, Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton makes history, literature and anything else relegated to the professor’s lounge way funnier than it has any right to be. Where else can you read about Tesla’s groupies or watch Charles Darwin ride a tortoise?—SE

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