Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Panel Patter's Favorite Webcomics of 2012

It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2012.  I know most of these use "Best of" in their terminology, and I even did in 2011, but I just hate the use of the word "best."  It implies you have reviewed all of the candidates.  This year, I am going back to favorites.

First up is a new category for me, webcomics.  It is kinda-sorta replacing the Manga category.  (I read exactly 1 2012 manga this year.)  Slowly but surely, I'm reading more webcomics and have a series of creator projects that I follow on a regular basis.  Thanks to Comics Rocket, this is even easier than it used to be, with their reader formatted exactly to reading long-form webcomics or those not easily contained in a traditional RSS.

Before we go on, a brief word about webcomics.  For some reason, despite the high quality of webcomics, the number of high profile creators working on webcomics, the fact that webcomic creators are treated like royalty at the cons I've gone to, and that webomics have an audience that is wider than most print comics, I feel like they do not get the recognition they deserve in the larger comics press.  Sure they are included in comic awards, but it's like an addendum not an equal.  I want to work to change that in 2013, but I don't know how--yet.

That's for another day.  On with the list!

Let me preface this list by saying, there are thousands of webcomics out there and I read only a fraction of them.    My selections here are based on what *I* have encountered and read over 2012.  I would also like to point out that webcomics could do themselves a huge favor in terms of being blogged about by having better static images ready to be used for, oh, things like this.

Without further ado, here we go:

10:  My Cardboard Life
This has been a favorite of mine for quite awhile, and if anything, Phillipa Rice has gotten even better at her craft, moving from the joking themes that dominated the early strips and into longer storylines, such as St. Colin and the Dragon.  This strip is really unlike any of the others that I read on a regular basis.

9:  Nedroid Picture Diary
Anthony Clark has a demented mind--it's the only explanation for the ways in which his character act.  Doing everything from being general dicks to each other to extended parodies of familiar stories (always with some twist that's bound to crack me up).  This is another webcomic that's stood the test of time for me.

8:  Non-Adventures of Wonderella
This is a great webcomic that stars a Wonder Woman-like character who is about as unlikable as, well, most of the DC incarnations of Wonder Woman.  She's a horrible person with powers and uses them to live a hedonistic lifestyle, mocking everything and anything, usually topical.  Her villains are inept and she usually saves the day mostly just to make life easier for her.  The results are wicked fun and best of all, generally finished within one installment so you can read as you like.

7: Hobotopia
Hobo lolcats who are self-aware of their relationship within the page make this one of my favorites to read every week.  A cigar-chomping old Tom schemes while a younger partner puns in new and innovative ways in mostly self-contained work with occasional themes.  Part of the fun is waiting for the strips where the cats stretch the barriers of their surroundings.  It's a very modern comic starring characters you might have found in a 1930s newspaper.

6:  Ghost Engine
This is a series that years ago would have tried to be a creator-owned paper comic and might not have found a large enough audience.  Now it's a webcomic and doesn't have to worry about order minimums.  Ghost Engine pairs two characters who hate each other by virtue of having incredibly smart ghosts living inside their minds, the result of a demonic scheme gone wrong.  With a steampunk flair, incredibly detailed illustrations, and strong dialogue, this one was a great find in 2012.

5:  Diesel Sweeties
I think this might be the longest-running webcomic on my list this year, and I hesitated to include it because it's pretty well known (as are my top two, for that matter), but damn it, it's my favorites list and I always look forward to the Generation X mockery in 8-bit style strip that I get with every comic.  For those unfamiliar, this is the story of some young adults with issues, killer cats, two robots with very different feelings on humanity, and quite a bit of sexual innuendo that is probably illegal several states.  (That's okay, I'm pretty sure Stevens is Canadian.)  There's a lot of clever wordplay, which as you may have noticed is a theme among my favorites.

4:  Oyster War
This one has a topic that's local for me, as Baltimore was very much as the center of the fight over oysters in the bays adjoining the Atlantic Ocean (we even have a remnant of one of the ships at Baltimore's Museum of Industry).  Ben Towle is taking this one slow and steady, but his style fits a historical fiction comic perfectly and he's definitely researched enough to make it credible.  Great stuff.

3:  Gobukan 
J. Bone's webcomic featuring a robot that fights quirky things, so there's an echo of Atomic Robo in the basic concept but Bone's illustrations and the villains he "fights" (such as a helpful set of aliens who make trouble or a comic book guy piloting a giant robot) are more on the silly side for this all-ages work that's absolutely gorgeous in its linework.

2:  Wondermark
Who would have thought the characters from old-school Wendy's tables would be so interesting in a comic? David Malki! takes old clip-art characters, adjusts them as needed, and puts them in thoroughly modern situations, leading to juxtapositions that create the humor of the strip.  Over time, things have gotten more complex visually, and there's a semi-rotating cast right now as the strip continues to mature.  Wondermark is actually one of the few webcomics that I actually collect in book form.

1:  Dinosaur Comics
T-Rex's conversations pretty much mirror the thing s my wife (and sometimes Panel Patter-er) Erica says on a semi-regular basis and the reactions of his friends are pretty much how I respond to her, about the only difference between our life and T-Rex's life is he has national health care.  Seriously, Ryan North's ideas are batshit insane and watching T-Rex try to make them form some kind of logic as it builds from panel to panel is amazing.  This is my favorite because strip in and strip out, I can count on it always being entertaining.  That's what a #1 favorite should do.

Honorable Mentions:  Bad Machinery (great when it's on, but inconsistent), Candorville (good in a Doonesbury sort of way), Delilah Dirk (excellent but ended for now), Monster Isle (retired this year), and Sparkshooter (story still building).

Join me tomorrow when I share my favorite 2012 Indie Comics!

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