The 20 Best Webcomics of 2014

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10. Ducks
Writer & Artist: Kate Beaton
Schedule: Completed
Kate Beaton is better known for her Hark a Vagrant comics, which take inspiration from history and classic literature to produce hilarious results. But Ducks, published online this year in five parts, presents a more serious and complex story. Based on Beaton’s experiences while working at a remote mining site in Canada, it proves her to be capable of translating a long narrative into comic form. —Hillary Brown

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9. Failing Sky
Writer & Artist: Dax Tran-Caffee
Schedule: Updates Sporadically
To be honest, Failing Sky is challenging to describe. The indie webcomic weaves four interrelated stories into its narrative: the memoir of a failed sailor, the quest of a traveling ghost, the adventure of a genderqueer nancy drew and the destruction of some rampaging giant robots. Add Dax Tran-Caffee’s exquisite artwork, and you truly have discovered a gem. But what kind of gem? You’ll have to explore it for yourself. —Frannie Jackson

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8. xkcd
Writer & Artist: Randall Munroe
Schedule: Updates M-W-F

Randall Munroe’s webcomic of “romance, sarcasm, math and language” has encountered no shortage of content to tackle this year. As our lives become inevitably more enmeshed in the technological, Munroe’s nameless stick figures have challenged the arbitrary correlations between cell phone reception and pineapples and have made some adventurous moves in browser text replacements (aka replace “force” with “horse”). This strip is not designed for the layman—it simultaneously engages and dissects the technorati and science buffs of the modern age. In other words, it’s like The Big Bang Theory for people with a sense of a humor. —Sean Edgar

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7. The Abominable Charles Christoper
Writer & Artist: Karl Kerschl
Schedule: On Hiatus

Long before pencilling the sleek, gorgeous spires of Gotham Academy, Karl Kerschl escaped into the woods with The Abominable Charles Christopher, chronicling the most benign yeti since Harry and the Hendersons. Though this webcomic’s frequency has lagged since its author joined the Batverse, the title remains one of the most well-written, disarming and downright gorgeous examples of what the medium can accomplish. In addition to charting the epic battle between a child-king and the primordial avatar of nature, Kerschl keeps his strip disarmingly buoyant. This cast of critters also posts hilarious dating profiles and creates scenes of domestic hilarity more entertaining than anything found on the television. At its center, though, exists Charles Christopher: a beacon of calm, childlike wonder grounding the chaos and noise around him. —Sean Edgar

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6. When the Darkness Presses
Writer & Artist: Emily Carroll
Schedule: Completed
When the Darkness Presses begins with familiar ingredients—an isolated location, mysterious sounds in the dark, hints of something awful—and then takes them to unexpected places. For all its focus on the fear of the unknown—and that can be found in abundance here—it’s as much about our fear of isolating ourselves … and of what terrors may occur in doing so. The dread Emily Carroll creates has a haunting payoff: a tense scene of exploration that’s all the more powerful when it reaches its inevitable conclusion. There’s fear of the unknown, and there’s fear of the known; this taps into both. —Tobias Carroll

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5. The Oatmeal
Writer & Artist: Matthew Inman
Schedule: Updates Sporadically
Of all the ubiquitous social media staples we encounter on a daily basis, The Oatmeal finds itself on the short list of those universally deemed “Not Annoying.” As a result, Matthew Inman can claim to be one of the few individuals who got internet rich without inspiring anyone to wish they could punch him in the face. While the art has never been sophisticated, the brilliance of The Oatmeal is its ability to tell honest, emotionally compelling testimonials about its author’s obsession with marathon running alongside simply-stated life advice. Do you hate doing dishes? The Oatmeal tells you how to avoid it! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drink dinosaur pee? The Oatmeal has your answer! (Spoiler alert: You already have). —Barry Thompson

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4. Ava’s Demon
Writer & Artist: Michelle Czajkowski
Schedule: Updates Monday/Thursday
Ava and Wrathia, the demon who has tormented Ava since birth, are the central characters of this large-scale narrative, which takes place across multiple planets dominated by a maniacal overlord. And with Michelle Czajkowski’s decision to work on the webcomic full-time this year, Ava’s Demon has explored stunning new worlds and has introduced several surprising characters. Combining gorgeous panels with an intriguing story, Ava’s Demon will enthrall new and seasoned webcomics fans alike. —Frannie Jackson

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3. Battlepug
Writer & Artist: Mike Norton
Schedule: Updates Weekly
Having cranked out a page of Battlepug once a week since 2011, Mike Norton would’ve been forgiven for dialing 2014 in. Instead, his cute-animal-meme-meets-George R.R. Martin project has gazed inward, expanding its mythology with commendable righteousness and relatability. (We all need a rock mage, a plant mage and a beast mage to get things done, naturally.) But when life takes a turn for the profoundly unexpected, will proxies of Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler narrate our personal crisis? Of course. They always do. Battlepug is real life, yo. Real life, as it would be drawn by Bill Watterson. —Barry Thompson

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2. Tuki Save the Humans
Writer & Artist: Jeff Smith
Schedule: On Hiatus
Jeff Smith returns to the cartoon escapism he perfected in Bone with Tuki Save the Humans, a webcomic devoted to man’s unending mission to cross borders and challenge the established. This theme should ring familiar to anyone who also indulged in Smith’s last project, the hardboiled, physics-abusing RASL. But instead of dimension-hopping sci-fi, this new venture dives into prehistoric fantasy, featuring an affable hunter/gatherer who dares to travel beyond the cradle of civilization. Within these lively panels, the titular hero hunts for grub, protects wayward children from sabertooth tigers and battles a hulking gorilla god. And it’s all overwhelmingly delightful. Divided into digestible seasons, Tuki moves with kinetic agility from gorgeous set piece to gorgeous set piece, delivering concentrated webcomic joy from cartooning royalty. —Sean Edgar

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1. Nimona
Writer & Artist: Noelle Stevenson
Schedule: Completed
The highlights of my Tuesdays and Thursdays this year involved reading a new page of Nimona. Yes, Noelle Stevenson’s tale of a (not-quite-evil) genius and his shapeshifting sidekick with a penchant for violence is that good. From its first panel, Nimona draws you into a narrative combining shark jokes, a shadowy institution and a startling amount of heart. So whether you’re young or old, a comics newbie or a seasoned veteran, make the decision to explore the fantastical world Stevenson has created. You won’t regret it. —Frannie Jackson

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