Required Reading: 40 of the Best Webcomics

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  • bestonlinecomics2016 abominable The Abominable Charles Christopher
    Cartoonist: Karl Kerschl

    Karl Kerschl’s contribution to the webcomic arena is enchanting and unforgettable. The artist behind Gotham Academy 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. Sean Edgar
  • bestonlinecomics2016 achewood Achewood Cartoonist: Chris Onstad

    Sure, Achewood is about a bunch of talking animals, but it really, really isn’t. Mixing hipster patois with depression and absurdity, this comic never fails to be weird enough to make you laugh, even when it’s beyond anyone’s understanding. What’s amazing about Achewood is how often it’s potently understandable, in ways that seem almost conspiratorially on-point. A good way to start your day is asking yourself if you’re going to be a Roast Beef, or a Ray. Are you even going to do a thing? Tini Howard
  • bestonlinecomics2016 agents-of-the-realm Agents of the Realm
    Cartoonist: Mildred Louis

    Picture magical girls a la Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura, but in college and just as begrudging and exhausted as you would expect them to be and you’ve got a solid idea of Agents of the Realm. Mildred Louis has created a wholly believable world and set of characters, united only in their age and involvement in a group supposedly responsible for the safety of the entire multiverse as they know it. The main characters have some of the familiar tropes from classic magical girl stories, but they’re more nuanced than their inspiration; diverse in attitude, appearance, sexuality and origin, the Agents are that perfect mix of supportive and infuriating that young women have down to a science. Louis has created enough of an air of mystery and danger to keep the story moving quickly, and her art is lush and distinctive without slogging down the fast pace. Caitlin Rosberg
  • bestonlinecomics2016 americanelf American Elf
    Cartoonist: James Kochalka

    I don’t actually know James Kochalka or his family (cats included), but he feels like an ancient friend whose gap-toothed smile lies waiting in my closet photo albums. This pseudo-intimacy owes its existence to American Elf, a daily strip Kochalka executed for 12 years, or three presidential terms. The online comic thrived not in the grandiose gestures and life-changing moments, but in the quiet realisms that feel oh-so-human. Kochalka misses his wife’s ass, muses on the bugs swarming a nearby tree and plays the hell out of his Wii. And it’s all profoundly touching on a level two grown men punching each other will never be. Sorry, Richard Linklater: this is as close as art has come to capturing the scope of a human life. While these comics are no longer available for free online, they're more than worth the price in either digital or print form. Sean Edgar
  • bestonlinecomics2016 avasdemon Ava’s Demon
    Cartoonist: Michelle Czajkowski

    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, Ava’s Demon has explored stunning new worlds and introduced several surprising characters. Combining gorgeous panels with an intriguing story, Ava’s Demon will enthrall new and seasoned webcomics fans alike. Frannie Jackson
  • bestonlinecomics2016 awkward-zombie Awkward Zombie
    Cartoonist: Katie Tiedrich

    There’s no shortage of parodic video-game comics on the internet. What separates Awkward Zombie from the rest is that it’s honestly, consistently hilarious. Katie Tiedrich’s weekly webcomic has been going strong for over a decade now, and shows no sign of stopping, mining the inherent niche tropes of video game culture for inspiration and striking gold nearly every single time. Whether it’s the incompatibilities of cross-cultural localization or the remorseless expendability of Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect 2, you can be sure that Katie’s got a comic for the occasion. Toussaint Egan
  • bestonlinecomics2016 barbarous Barbarous
    Writer: Ananth Panagariya
    Artist: Yuko Ota, J.N. Wiedle

    Far from the first time Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya have worked together, Barbarous is the most recent work from years of successful collaborations on projects like Johnny Wander and Lucky Penny, not to mention the pair’s contribution in journal comics. Only about 20 pages deep at this point, Barbarous is also one of the easiest stories to jump on, without a years-long backlog to plow through. This is the story of Percy, a magic wielder who is far less adept and far more cantankerous than the people around her would like her to be. The story also features Cecelia, a character from previous Ota and Panagariya comics, but J.N. Wiedle’s colors are what really makes it stand out from their other projects. Barbarous is on track to be some of the best work they’ve done together, in both visuals and story. Caitlin Rosberg
  • bestonlinecomics2016 battlepug Battlepug
    Cartoonist: Mike Norton

    Mike Norton’s Battlepug concluded in June, with a flurry of drama and bloodshed utterly fitting for a tale that required five years to complete. Compared to previous entries, the comic-per-week epic's final chapter—The Paws Of War—notches up the amount of gratuitous (although always partial) nudity, while its half-serious reverence for action-fantasy conventions remains awesomely intact. Case in point: when the time comes to throw down against the story’s proverbial final boss, with their combined might, our heroes summon a Godzilla-sized suit of puppy armor, Megazord style. Barry Thompson
  • bestonlinecomics2016 bucko Bucko
    Writer: Jeff Parker
    Artist: Erika Moen

    Bucko is sort of a hipster Big Lebowski, a detective story that’s more about the journey than the solution. It's happy to meander, Raymond Chandler-style, picking up interesting characters along the way. Sure, it has cliffhangers, no doubt driven by its webcomic structure, but it’s not a plot-driven enterprise. Rather than be annoyed at the lack of resolution, you’re sad when it draws to a close because it’s been so much fun. Hillary Brown
  • bestonlinecomics2016 creepymargomaloo The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo
    Cartoonist: Drew Weing

    Drew Weing’s The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo may have just had its first compilation published, but the strip itself continues. The narrative follows one Charles Thompson, a soft little fellow who considers himself an investigative journalist, as he dips a toe into the world of Margo Maloo, monster mediator. A great example of the rare all-ages comic, Weing manages to hold the interest of 6-year-olds and 86-year-olds alike, with a clever, robust story that also has a subplot about urban gentrification. Hillary Brown
  • bestonlinecomics2016 friendsnoweh Cyanide and Happiness
    Cartoonists: Rob Denbleyker, Dave McElfatrick, Kris Wilson and Matt Melvin

    Much in the way dirty limericks are all the more repulsive when told by children, Cyanide & Happiness reminds us that winking nihilism and wanton violence resonate with utter jubilance if carried out by stick figures. The venerable absurdist franchise can be decisively hit-or-miss, although that’s par for the course of risk-taking comedy. The Kids in the Hall weren’t funny 100 percent of the time, either. Barry Thompson
  • bestonlinecomics2016 delilah The Delilah Dirk Saga
    Cartoonist: Tony Cliff

    It’s not so much that writer/artist Tony Cliff knows what to say in his enchanting costume Delilah Dirk saga (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 the opening volume, The Turkish Lieutenant, 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? Sean Edgar
  • bestonlinecomics2016 dinosaurcomics Dinosaur Comics
    Cartoonist: Ryan North

    Let me be clear: I love Dinosaur Comics. After a decade and a half, Ryan North’s interpretations of Tyrannosaurus (panels #1 – #6), Dromiceiomimus (panel #3), Utahraptor (panels #4 and #5) and God (off panel) conjure all manner of hilarity and subversively clever insight. The idiosyncratic cast chats, provokes and ruminates in ways that only pixelated dinosaur illustrations can. This is a comic that reimagined Shakespearean dialogue for the Facebook generation and posited Batman riding a laser-shooting Pterodactyl. If form is function, than North has nearly perfected his one-man art. Sean Edgar
  • bestonlinecomics2016 dumbing-of-age Dumbing of Age
    Cartoonist: David Willis

    David Willis has been making comics with the same core cast of characters longer than a lot of other creators have been making comics at all. Between Roomies!, It’s Walky!, Joyce & Walky!, Shortpacked! and Dumbing of Age, he’s been publishing comics with the same faces for nearly 20 years. The last six years of Dumbing of Age have covered the first couple weeks of freshman year for a group of students at Indiana University, and from anyone else that would feel like an interminable slog. But Willis exercises a sharp, wry sense of humor and an eye for making time-sensitive topics more evergreen. He’s tackled sexual assault, PTSD (and why a 18- year-old girl would want to become a superhero), addiction, bullying, racism, homo- and transphobia, suicidality and more, but all with an air of kindness for a group of young people who, at the end of the day, all really need hugs. Weirdo college students should read it to feel less alone; adults well past college should read it to remember that nostalgia is a hell of a drug. Everyone should read it to get a reminder of why we should all treat each other with more kindness. Caitlin Rosberg
  • bestonlinecomics2016 eatmorebikes Eat More Bikes
    Cartoonist: Nathan Bulmer

    Nathan Bulmer updates his crude, hilarious Tumblr multiple times a week, which is hard to believe considering the quality of his strip. Four panels laid out in a square allow for consistent pacing, and he loves to switch things up in the final reveal, often upending expectations. There’s nothing particularly intellectual going on here, but Bulmer covers an impressive variety of topics, and the humor is appreciably dirty and silly in equal parts. Hillary Brown
  • bestonlinecomics2016 eths-skin Eth’s Skin
    Cartoonist: Sfé R. Monster

    Webcomics working with decades of canon often start behind a curve with new readers, having to provide both new plot and enough backstory to make sense of the present timeline simultaneously. Eth’s Skin is a perfect example of walking that fine line between the familiar and the new: the story is set in what looks like the Pacific Northwest, populated by people and creatures that have just enough popular mythology to be recognizable, but not so much that they’re tired tropes. Main character Eth has inadvertently gotten a selkie’s pelt (the skin of a mythological Irish seal/human), and the story has picked up steam as Eth, Rel the selkie and friend Töby start an adventure to make things right. The epic backdrop of water, fog and pines is the perfect complement to the rustic characters, and Monster’s art has only grown stronger as they continue the comic. Caitlin Rosberg
  • bestonlinecomics2016 hark Hark! A Vagrant
    Cartoonist:Kate Beaton

    Part history lesson, part whimsy, all hilarity, Kate Beaton’s webcomic Hark! A Vagrant has resulted in the Canadian cartoonist receiving regular publishing work with Scholastic and Drawn & Quarterly, so her website is far from the only place to see her material. But for those of us who have been fans since the beginning, Beaton’s recognition feels so well-deserved. Her work is scribbly, slapdash in the brilliant way that looks simple, but is also highly stylized. Beaton’s love for history and literature comes through in the way she not only tells the stories that sound interesting to modern audiences, but the ones that become even better with a bit of modern, funny flair. Tini Howard
  • bestonlinecomics2016 allhurt2final It Will All Hurt
    Cartoonist: Farel Dalrymple

    Be warned: It Will All Hurt isn’t comedic like many of the other webcomics on this list. With haunting illustrations and a bleak storyline, Dalrymple’s foray into a post-apocalyptic world may even make you cringe. But therein lies its beauty. Instead of seeking to entertain you outright, It Will All Hurt forces you to sift through the grit for answers. Making sense of the narrative is your responsibility, and the kernels you’ll glean through your efforts are worth it. Frannie Jackson
  • bestonlinecomics2016 failingsky Failing Sky Cartoonist: Dax Tran-Caffee

    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
  • bestonlinecomics2016 girlgenius Girl Genius
    Writers: Kaja Foglio, Phil Foglio
    Artists: Phil Foglio, Cheyenne Wright

    One of the longest-running comics on this list, Girl Genius is a treasure of lavish art and pulpy twists. Like a cross-breed between Ralph Bakshi’s animated features and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials novels, Girl Genius features an intoxicating “Gaslamp Fantasy” universe where science and whimsy coexist in all of the best ways. After a decade and a half, Agatha Heterodyne remains one of the most relatable heroines in any medium, flexing smarts and sass without the use of lingerie. Sean Edgar
  • bestonlinecomics2016 gronk2final Gronk
    Cartoonist: Katie Cook

    Gronk’s first arc begins with the adorable, titular character being thrown out of monster-dom for his inability to scare. He promptly enters the real world and stumbles upon musician Dale. The two connect and, along with Dale’s other assortment of eccentric pets, find themselves getting into all manner of hijinks. Just as with her work as a writer on the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series, creator Katie Cook expertly mixes heartfelt storytelling with clever, laugh-out-loud comedy. Often, the strips read like a long-form version of a beloved animated film in the vein of Lilo and Stitch, My Neighbor Totoro or How to Train Your Dragon. One thing’s for sure, if this webcomic doesn’t manage to lift your spirits, check your pulse because there’s probably a black hole where your heart should be. Mark Rozeman
  • bestonlinecomics2016 a-lesson-is-learned A Lesson Is Learned but the Damage Is Irreversible
    Writer: Dale Beran
    Artist: David Hellman

    A Lesson Is Learned but the Damage Is Irreversible is a triumph of postmodern comic humor, combining elements of autobiography, science-fiction, surreal fantasy and jokes nested in one another like a Matryoshka doll of meta. Originally put on hiatus in 2006 to return nearly six years later, what started as a casual side-project has morphed itself into a launchpad for both of the authors’ respective careers. David Hellman has since gone on to work as the lead concept artist for Jonathan Blow’s 2009 smash-hit videogame, Braid, and the co-author of the graphic novel Second Quest with Tevis Thompson, while Dale Beran continues to to work as an accomplished writer on several ongoing comics. A Lesson is Learned is a charming and bizarre as its title, a self-described exploration of the limits of pessimism and fatal consequence in a universe that would be difficult to imagine on the printed page. Toussaint Egan
  • bestonlinecomics2016 lesstjamal The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal
    Cartoonist: E.K. Weaver

    Nominated for an Eisner and the winner of a Harvey, you don’t need me to tell you that The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal is one of the best comics, web or otherwise, of the past several years. It’s the composite greatest parts of so many stories: epic road trips, unlikely strangers getting to know one another and friends becoming lovers. There are no superpowers or robots; it’s just a slice of Amal’s life, unfolding, uncurling and entangling with TJ’s. (NSFW) Tini Howard
  • bestonlinecomics2016 ms-paint-adventures MS Paint Adventures
    Cartoonist: Andrew Hussie

    Reading any of Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures is like clicking through a random page on TV Tropes. You came out of curiosity, clicked through a couple pages and then the next thing you know, your afternoon is shot and you’re fifty pages deep in a multi-branching web of genre minutiae and pop culture profundity. Whether you choose to start with Jailbreak, Bard Quest, Problem Sleuth or the project’s most well-known offshoot, Homestuck, Hussie’s densely hyperlinked love-letter to choose-your-own-adventure books and classic video games is sure to grab ahold of your attention for hours on end. Toussaint Egan
  • bestonlinecomics2016 nimona2ready Nimona
    Cartoonist: Noelle Stevenson

    Noelle Stevenson’s narrative webcomic examines morally complex questions that have to do, more than anything, with the rules of war. Okay, so there are also jokes about being able to turn into a shark and about a supervillain ordering pizza to keep his teenage sidekick happy. It’s an awesome combination. The plot is tight, the art is a joy to look at and the comments underneath the comic by its crew of fans are almost as much fun as the story itself. Spider-Man might have coined the cliche about great power and great responsibility, but Nimona pulls that phrase apart to look at it seriously. Hillary Brown
  • bestonlinecomics2016 oatmeal The Oatmeal
    Cartoonist: Matthew Inman

    In 2014, Paste described Matthew Inman as the only individual to become a web tycoon “without inspiring anyone to wish they could punch him in the face.” But we were in error. Nobody attains Inman’s level of influence without leaving a ne’er-do-well or two broken in their wake. But that, in of itself, does not warrant a face punching. Rather, merely on the strength of his ability to draw an infant child vomiting and defecating simultaneously, The Oatmeal creator deserves every penny of merchandising royalties coming his way. Potty jokes, pets and topical humor are Inman’s bread and butter, but every now and again—see “It’s Going To Be Okay”—The Oatmeal breaches the threshold between sharable content and art. Barry Thompson
  • bestonlinecomics2016 octopuspie Octopus Pie
    Cartoonist: Meredith Gran

    Octopus Pie gives young women something we don’t have enough of—the same kind of dirtbag, insecure protagonists that young men get to enjoy. Eve Ning’s crappy grocery store job, cocky ex-boyfriend and stoner roommate are all-too-relatable slices of her life. Beer brewing, bike shopping and other hip backgrounds offer a stage for fun drama where Eve’s friends set off against one another. But don’t let the "hip"-ness turn you off—Eve is genuine cool no matter the millennial context. Tini Howard
  • bestonlinecomics2016 oglaf Oglaf
    Cartoonist: Bodil Bodilson

    If only all porn was as funny as Oglaf, the comic that made you laugh until you cried, leading you to desperately show your friends the sex-positive series that had dicks in the first ten examples. And that’s okay! Oglaf cleverly skewers modern sexuality, medieval ridiculousness and plenty of horny knights and maidens in its quest to…well…while Oglaf might have recurring jokes, it doesn’t really have a story. And you weren’t reading porny comics for the story anyway, were you? (NSFW, obviously.) Tini Howard
  • bestonlinecomics2016 ohumanstar O Human Star
    Cartoonist: Blue Delliquanti

    At its best, science fiction explores the meaning of humanity, family and sense of self—O Human Star does all of this without even breaking a sweat. Al, who all but created modern cybernetics, wakes up in a mechanical body and reunites with his partner, only to learn not only was he dead, but his partner had his consciousness cloned and inserted into another body. The twist? This other body is a teenage girl. Protagonists Al, Sulla and Brendan are nuanced and human, and cartoonist Blue Delliquanti exercises a talent for mixing heartbreak, comedy and catharsis. Her incredible skill with expressions and body language always lie at the fore, since O Human Star is monochrome—the characters reach their hooks deep into readers quickly. It’s emotional and sweet, with enough adventure and science thrown in to engage. Caitlin Rosberg
  • bestonlinecomics2016 onion The Onion Editorial Cartoon
    Cartoonist: Ward Sutton

    Under the nom de guerre “Kelly,” Ward Sutton has told essentially the same joke once a week for almost a decade. He poses as a nationalistic “family values”-oriented cartoonist, and presents a hot button issue through a barely exaggerated version of that lens. A recent panel frets about burqas replacing swimsuits in the Miss America pageant. Another supposes Hillary Clinton’s menstrual cycle could spark nuclear armageddon. In an earlier panel, a dirty hippie eats a wrap while insulting traditional sandwiches and burning an American flag.

    Predictable? Sure. But so are bonafide American institutions like Garfield, Peanuts and even Dilbert before Scott Adams got all icky. As print newspapers continue their slide into the inevitable abyss of history, our country needs individuals like Sutton to boldly carry on their tradition of uproarious repetition. Barry Thompson
  • bestonlinecomics2016 perry-bible-fellowship Perry Bible Fellowship
    Cartoonist: Nicholas Gurewitch

    If you’re looking for surrealist humor as pitch black as the bowels of the Marianas Trench, accept no substitute for the Perry Bible Fellowship. Don’t be deceived by the saccharine title and the cutesy art style; Nicholas Gurewitch’s comics are stylistically diverse and conceptually sophisticated pieces that run the gamut from absurdist gags to visual exercises in bald-faced nihilism. What you can’t deny is that they’re wickedly hilarious and always subvert expectations in a way that only the best short-form comics are capable. Toussaint Egan
  • bestonlinecomics2016 sarahseed Sarah and the Seed
    Cartoonist: 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 and 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. Sean Edgar
  • bestonlinecomics2016 saturday-morning-breakfast-cereal Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    Cartoonist: Zach Weinersmith

    Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal combines the acerbic wit of a literature major with the philosophical profundity of a theoretical physics class. So it should come as no surprise that the strip’s author, Zach Weinersmith, has studied and earned degrees for both. Oftentimes composed of nothing more than one panel and a subheading, Weinersmith’s comics are master courses in comedic simplicity, drawing inspiration from the most esoteric and confounding rituals of academia to tongue-in-cheek takes on beloved pop culture characters. It’s like if David X. Cohen decided to write a webcomic instead of spearheading one of the greatest animated comedy series of all time. Toussaint Egan
  • bestonlinecomics2016 shortpacked2ready Shortpacked!
    Cartoonist: David Willis

    Shortpacked! began in 2005 as a web series ripped from the life of its esteemed author, David Willis. Set in a toy store (and based on Willis’ own experience working retail at Toys “R” Us), Shortpacked! expertly captures the voice and experiences of a certain breed of 21st-century, pop-culture nerd. It’s the kind of comic where characters regularly reference the likes of Transformers, Batman and Spider-Man and blurt out statements like “life would be so much simpler if folks stopped existing forever once they disappear from my peripherals, like in videogames.” What’s more, while the series initially existed as a means of telling stand-alone gags, it evolved over the years to include long-running arcs and more developed characters. After a while, you may find yourself caring for the toyshop employees the way you do for the characters on your favorite TV show. Yep, it’s just that good. Mark Rozeman
  • bestonlinecomics2016 sinfest SinFest
    Cartoonist: Tatsuya Ishida

    The fastest way for a webcomic to fail is inconsistent posting, a couple pages going up every once in a while while rapidly losing readers. Though Sinfest has wandered away from its original premise a bit, Tatsuya Ishida’s real legacy should be the rigorous adherence to his schedule. Originally a four-panel comedy strip with a dark, biting sense of humor aimed at pop culture, Sinfest has recently become a more specific and pointed criticism of the most toxic parts of American exceptionalism. In the 16-plus years since Ishida started posting, his characters have grown and stretched, and not without struggle or repercussion. It’s comforting to see someone recognize the hard work that comes along with disillusionment, and a pleasure to see how his art style has grown along with the subject matter. The massive full-color Sunday posts are often stand-alone pages with emotional heft; his sharp use of The Matrix as a visual metaphor for the ways in which people are blinded has proven particularly poignant during this current presidential election cycle. Caitlin Rosberg
  • bestonlinecomics2016 threewordphrase Three World Phrase
    Cartoonist: Ryan Pequin

    Ryan Pequin's wang-filled, offbeat Three Word Phrase doesn't update too often these days since Pequin landed a job doing story boards for Regular Show, but the infrequent new strips and healthy backlog of humor amply demonstrate why J. G. Quintel snatched him up. Pequin's clean lines and noodly figures will be right at home for (18+) fans of Cartoon Network's recent breakthrough offerings, with one-off and recurring topics ranging from bird presidents to interstellar docking (the schlong kind) to...well, actually, there are a lot of goofy dick jokes. Juvenile, clever, quick and just existentially bleak enough for dong enthusiasts everywhere. Steve Foxe
  • bestonlinecomics2016 whenthedarkness When the Darkness Presses
    Cartoonist: Emily Carroll

    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
  • bestonlinecomics2016 wondermark Wondermark
    Cartoonist: David Malki

    When matching historical images with modern humor stops being funny, I’ll stop loving it. It’s rarely done so well as in David Malki’s Wondermark. The cartoonist creates the comics from his own collection of 18th- and 19th-century books and magazines, but the jokes are purely from his own mind. Like Oglaf and Hark! A Vagrant, Wondermark is based more on joke than narrative, but it does make one thing clear—humans have always been pretty ridiculous, even if the words by our heads are changed. Tini Howard
  • bestonlinecomics2016 wormworld The Wormworld Saga
    Cartoonist: Daniel Lieske

    The Wormworld Saga is inarguably one of the most beautifully rendered, ambitious and captivating graphic novels produced for the web. When junior-high schooler Jonas is stranded on the other side of a magic portal housed in a painting in his grandparent’s attic, he embarks on a journey to uncover his hidden potential and deliver the world from the clutches of Unurtha, the malefic god of Fire. Inspired by the likes of ‘80s cinematic adventure such as Indiana Jones, The Dark Crystal, Legend and The Goonies, former concept artist-turned-cartoonist Daniel Lieske’s fantasy epic is a story of courage, discovery, high adventure and the trials of growing up. Come for the story, stay for the jaw-dropping artwork. Toussaint Egan
  • bestonlinecomics2016 xkcd xkcd
    Cartoonist: 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 that will actually make you laugh. Conclusion: more NASA scientists should quit their jobs and make comics. Sean Edgar
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