Yesterday, the nominations for the Eisner Awards, often considered the Oscars of Comics, came out, honoring five comics in the digital comics category. But there are dozens of amazing webcoimcs out there that the Eisners have completely ignored.
The category for Best Digital Comic launched in 2005 and it's always been perplexing for avid followers of webcomics. We've hoped that the category would be an opportunity to highlight independent comics by lesser known creators and in some years, it has done an excellent job of doing just that. However, the nominees tend to include creators who have strong ties to the world of print comics, and sometimes digital offerings by big-name creators edge out people who have been working in webcomics for years. (Case in point, Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon took home the 2008 Eisner for Best Digital Comic for the Dark Horse digital release of Sugarshock!) Gary Tyrrell at Fleen and El Santo at The Webcomics Overlook share their thoughts on this year's list. I particularly agree with Tyrrell that Dean Trippe's Something Terrible deserved a nomination for Best Short Story, although this was a particularly great year for short digital stories.
With that in mind, we've collected 51 webcomics that have never been nominated for an Eisner Award but fully deserve to be. These are comics that are currently running, though some are on hiatus (if you'd like, you can also check out our lists of great completed webcomics to binge-read), and, because the Eisners' focus this year is on longform digital comics rather than gag strips, you won't see some standbys like xkcd, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Dinosaur Comics, Nedroid, and the like. Those could probably populate another 51-comic list. And, to be honest, while the Eisner committee can't realistically nominate all 51 webcomics, there are far more than 51 potentially Eisner-worthy webcomics on the Internet. Nominate your favorites in the comments.
I'd also like to point folks toward one of this year's nominees that is especially worthy: As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman.
1. Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell: Every year, Siddell's story about students at a technologically advanced school that stands outside a mystical forest gets richer and richer. Antimony Carver and her best friend Kat must navigate not just their classes, but also robots, gods, ghosts, and the mysterious pasts of their teachers and parents.
2. Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz: Diaz has long been spinning large and small stories centered on Kim Ross, a socially awkward cyborg who has a complicated relationship with her late, world-famous inventor father. "Dark Science" is Diaz's best story yet, sending Kim to the art deco city of Nephilopolis, where bureaucracy rules more than science.
3. Broodhollow by Kris Straub: Straub achieves a delicate balancing act between sweetness and horror in the story of Wadsworth Zane, an obsessively superstitious encyclopedia salesman who arrives in Broodhollow to settle the estate of a distant relative. But the seemingly idyllic town harbors dark secrets, which may be connected to its almost daily holidays.
4. Oglaf by Trudy Cooper (NSFW): I don't know if the Eisner committee considers comics featuring explicit depictions of sex, but if they would be remiss not to consider Oglaf. This sexy romp through a high fantasy world alternates between gags and hilarious longform misadventures, poking fun at various genre tropes with breasts and penises.
5. Achewood by Chris Onstad: Achewood recently returned to the Internet, giving us a fresh round of Onstad's well developed characters and wild humor. And he has made his hefty archives available in digital, pay-if-you-like-it format.
6. Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto: For ten years, Corsetto has been inviting readers into the lives of her ever-expanding cast of characters, characters that readers deeply connect with. The love lives of her characters are wonderful and complex, but their career and personal pursuits get equal footing.
7. Bad Machinery by John Allison: A successor to Bobbins and Scary Go Round, Bad Machinery follows two groups of school-age detectives as they solve supernatural mysteries. Sometimes they are dealing with portals through time and cryptozoological beings; other times, the focus is more on personal relationships. No matter what, the characters are full and the dialogue delightful.
8. Dicebox by Jenn Manley Lee: In a spacefaring future, two migrant workers travel from job to job, encountering a panoply of fascinating characters, lush landscapes—and trouble. Plus, we slowly uncover the mysterious past of our two protagonists.
9. The Intrepid Girlbot by Diana Nock: Nock is an incredibly talented cartoonist, one who manages to tell heartfelt and funny stories using no dialogue. Girlbot is on an eternal quest to be a good girl and for friendship, but she's never quite sure how to go about it. She has managed to get a clan of raccoons caught up in her hijinks, one of whom she gifted with cybernetic enhancements. They didn't exactly help that raccoon fit in.
10. Dumbing of Age by David Willis: Willis takes his usual cast of characters and sends them back to college, where they must learn who they are and what they want in the face of new experiences. The standout character is Joyce, a formerly homeschooled Christian girl who is trying her hardest to view the wider world with open eyes and an open heart. If it's not too much of a gag comic, I'd also recommend Willis' Shortpacked!, which provides incredibly insightful commentary on popular media and fandom.
11. Family Man by Dylan Meconis: There is a reason that Meconis' historical comic was on our list webcomics that will make you smarter. It's a richly detailed trip to 18th-century Germany, where theological scholar Luther Levy has taken a lecturing position, but doesn't realize the strange backstory of his new employer and the brilliant and beautiful school librarian.
12. Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran: A coming-of-age comedy for people in their 20s and 30s, Octopus Pie follows Eve Ning, a Brooklyn-dwelling underachiever whose life becomes much more interesting when stoner entrepreneur Hanna becomes her roommate. It captures the joys and uncertainties of being unsettled in your life in a city filled with strange and lovely people and experiences.
13. The Fox Sister by Christina Strain and Jayd Aït-Kaci: The Fox Sister is a nearly completed comic set in 1960s Japan, about a young woman whose entire family was killed by a fox demon who now wears her dead sister's body. Cho Yun-Hee becomes a Mu priestess in an effort to kill the demon, and finds an unexpected ally in Alex, an American Christian missionary.
14. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson: Lord Ballister Blackheart disgraced former knight in quasi-medieval world has fallen into a comfortable routine as a supervillain, at least until a shapeshifting sidekick elbows her way into his world. She encourages him to come up with better and better plots, he works to expose the nefarious workings of the so-called good guys. But Ballister has no idea who he has invited into his life.
15. My Cardboard Life by Philippa Rice: My Cardboard Life may have started out as a gag comic that relied heavily on puns—both verbal and visual—associated with the comic's mixed media. Increasingly, though, Rice has turned to telling longer stories that play even more with dimension and the wide variety of materials she uses to make her comics.
16. Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter: After being doused with a strange chemical, a group of children find that various parts of their body—the heart for one, the stomach for another, an eye, all of one girl's hair—are transformed into sentient monsters. The kids now have to contend with the organization responsible as well as learn how to deal with their new differences.
17. Just Another Sheep by Mat Heagerty and JD Faith: In an alternate version of 1960s America, Banning is deal with a strange power: he can inflict anything he has felt upon another human being. He finds himself in Washington, DC, amidst a Vietnam War protest, but the event ends in a major catastrophe, one that will change American history forever.
18. Ménage à 3 by Gisèle Lagacé and David Lumsdon (NSFW): In this delightful sex comedy, virginal Gary finds himself suddenly in need of roommates and ends up with the statuesque DiDi and the ominsexual Zii. What begins as a Montreal-based take on a harem comic turns into something much richer as Gary becomes just one link in the comic's numerous sexual hijinks.
19. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh: Brosh's sporadically updated comic is heavy on the text and tends to be episodic, but it's also intensely autobiographical, a series of essays that range from maniacally silly stories from her childhood to frank descriptions of her experience with depression.
20. Vattu by Evan Dahm: With each new comic, Dahm's world of Overside becomes larger and more intriguing. Vattu focuses on a clash of otherworldly cultures, seen in the take of a girl taken from a nomadic tribe by an imperial force and sent to live in one of the empire's cities as a slave.
21. Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag: A smartly written and emotional exploration of the morality of superheroes, SFP follows Alison, a superstrong former costumed hero is trying to figure out how to be a genuinely good person after realizing that the world is much more complicated than rosters of superheroes and supervillains would suggest.
22. Skin Horse by Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey C. Wells: What if there was a shadowy government agency devoted to the welfare of monsters? Skin Horse delves into the ludicrous world of zombie plants, transgenic rights groups, and mad scientists who prefer their monsters cute and fluffy, and always satisfies.
23. Templar, Arizona by Spike Trotman: Although Templar, Arizona, has taken a backseat to Spike's publishing projects (including Poorcraft, Smut Peddler, and Sleep of Reason), it is still a fun trip every time it updates. In an alternate world filled with strange subcultures and an Egyptian Empire that never fell, writer Ben runs away from home and settles in the vibrant city of Templar, populated by dangerous cultists, obsessive truth-tellers, engineers forcibly reclaiming buildings, and more unusual characters.
24. The Adventures of Dr. McNinja by Christopher Hastings: A comic about a ninja who also happens to be a medical doctor is bound to be a bit wacky, and Hastings has elevated wackiness to an art form, telling wild stories about undead Benjamin Frankin, a tennis match that will decide the fate of the world, and space dinosaurs, just to name a few.
25. The Bouletcorp by Boulet: Boulet's comics don't form a longform graphic novel, but they are remarkable. Largely, The Bouletcorp functions as the artist's diary comic, but often he uses it to post individual works of fiction, each one a gem. Go to the site and keep hitting the "Random" button. You won't be sorry.
26. The Secret Knots by Juan Santapau: The Secret Knots is a series of short stories, most of them haunting magical realist thought experiments. He tells the story of a video game expert who serves as a human walkthrough, a superhero who is gradually fading from everyone's memory, a musical album composed of people instead of songs, and ghosts who are something other than the spirits of the dead. Sometimes he turns to larger stories, including a Lovecraftian tale with an ending both happy and chilling and a surreal supernatural detective agency.
27. O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti: Roboticist Alastair Sterling wakes up 16 years after his death in a robot copy of his old body and finds that the robot revolution he had always hoped for has come. Humans and robots happily coexist. But he's most surprised by the teenaged gynoid living with his old partner Brendan, a robot girl who looks quite a bit like Al. It raises a host of questions about identity and relationships both parental and romantic.
28. Quantum Vibe by Scott Bieser: In a future when humanity has colonized the solar system, Nicole Oresme takes a job with Seamus O'Murchadha, one of the system's foremost scientists. Together they travel from space station to planet to moon, working on O'Murchadha's latest project and getting caught up in the politics of the various factions.
29. Guilded Age by T Campbell, Phil Kahn, John Waltrip, and Jason Waltrip: We're suckers for fantasy stories that are both goofy and thoughtful, and Guilded Age has that in spades. It really pokes and prods at its party of unlikely adventurers and sets them to tasks that can be both ridiculous and politically murky.
30. Unsounded by Ashley Cope: When a hermetic zombie scholar is sent on an errand with an ill-tempered, lion-tailed princess of thieves, only good things can happen, right? Cope has created a world that feels instantly real with her own touches on the high fantasy genre and characters who are deeply flawed and yet delightful.
31. JL8 by Yale Stewart: This might be an odd entry for the Eisner committee because it's an unauthorized fan comic, but JL8 is a stunningly successful and affectionate take on DC comic characters. It imagines the members of the Justice League as costumed kids, learning all the lessons that will eventually make them heroes.
32. Namesake by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon: Namesake proposes that the characters from classic works of fiction are imagined and reimagined because they feature different protagonists who all share the same first name. Dozens of Dorothys have visited Oz; Alice after Alice has headed to Wonderland; and more than one Wendy has tended to the Lost Boys. But the world is in for a new twist when a woman named Emma seems to have the power to visit multiple fictional worlds.
33. Lovecraft is Missing by Larry Latham: Win Battler is a writer of weird fiction who has become pen pals with his idol, author HP Lovecraft. But when he travels to Providence to meet Lovecraft, he finds his friend has suddenly gone missing and strange things are afoot in the city. He teams up with a Brown University librarian and a Catholic priest to uncover the horrific truths behind Lovecraft's fiction.
34. Something Positive by RK Milholland: Milholland has been sharing the journey of his cast of oddball characters since 2001, and it has been a rewarding ride. Both cynical and strangely uplifting, Something Positive is mostly about the family we make for ourselves, but it also involves darker storylines, like the current arc about a formerly haughty beauty who is now eking out a hard existence as a fugitive from the law.
35. Derelict by Ben Fleuter: A beautiful comic set in a post-apocalyptic future, Derelict follows a salvager as she travels through a world plagued by miasma and strange creatures who are often at odds with the remains of humanity. It highlights the loneliness and danger of the quiet world.
36. The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by EK Weaver: On a road trip from Berkeley to Providence, Amal finds himself unexpectedly saddled with a traveling companion, the cocky TJ. However, as their trip goes on, their relationship becomes more intimate than Amal expected.
37. Thunderpaw by Jen Lee: Lee uses flash animation and the infinite canvas to add a sense of emotion and pacing to her comic about two dogs surviving the apocalypse. It's also charming because as anthropomorphized as her protagonists are, they still feel very much like dogs.
38. Spindrift by Elsa Kroese and Charlotte E. English: Morwenna is a half-blooded Alar living in a city where full-blooded Alar fly about on divinely gifted wings. She's content to work as an apprentice to her blacksmith uncle, but when someone discovers to truth about her parentage, she is sent to break a deep taboo, radically altering her life and the cultures of both her parents.
39. Penultimate Quest by Lars Brown: You know how your RPG characters are eternally sentenced to delve dungeons and go on endless quests. What if your characters were unwittingly trapped in a sort of purgatory? In Brown's comic, which has two books under its belt and will be concluded in a third, a handful of characters start to question their endless lives of fighting through a dungeon, dying horribly, and then respawning again.
40. Paranatural by Zack Morrison: The raucously funny Paranatural stars Max, who starts out at a new school in a new town that happens to be haunted by ghosts and various supernatural creatures. He ends up joining the school's Activity Club, which secretly works to keep the local supernatural activity under control.
41. Blindsprings by Kadi Fedoruk: Blindsprings is a fairly new comic, but its story and artwork are already magical. A cursed fairytale princess is "rescued" by a young mage against her will and finds herself rejoining the world after hundreds of years. Now she must fulfill a new task given to her by her former jailers in a city that blends industry and magic.
42. Chester 5000 XYV by Jess Fink (NSFW): An erotic comic with a heart, Chester 5000 XYV follows an inventor who creates a sexy robot for his libidinous wife. Things get complicated, however, when woman and robot fall in love.
43. Gaia by Oliver Knörzer: Magic school is all well and good, but what happens after the students graduate and have to enter a world filled with political tensions and the scars of war? Gaia follows a group of former schoolmates whose life after graduation is far more complicated than school ever was.
44. Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques: Jacques' scifi-tinged soap opera about a lovesick guy, his emotionally troubled roommate, and his foul-minded robot has grown up with a larger and charming cast of characters. It has even occasionally broken out of its Northampton setting, in one case sending some of its stars to visit a space station.
45. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks (NSFW): There are touches of autobiography in Horrocks' fantastical tale of a cartoonist who has lost his passion. But as Sam Zabel finds himself conversing with other creators and comic book characters, he also asks profound questions about the morality of sexual fantasies and whether we are responsible for the things we enjoy imagining.
46. Shi Long Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk by Ben Costa: Pang is on a break between volumes, but if you haven't read Costa's historical fantasy about a Shaolin monk in late 17th-century China, now is a good time to get caught up. It combines history with martial arts action and a truly lovable main character.
47. Cucumber Quest by Gigi DG: This all-ages comic both celebrates and pokes fun at the tropes of fantasy adventures. Aspiring wizard Cucumber was all set to go to magic school until he and his swordswoman sister Almond were sent on a quest by their father instead. They meet a colorful cast of characters and monsters, many of whom aren't particularly well suited to adventure.
48. Lucky Penny by Ananth Panagariya and Yuko Ota: The Johnny Wander team gives us a longform comic story about a perpetually unlucky lady who is trying to get her life together. That involves moving into a storage locker, bullying her way into a job at a laundromat, and dating a guy who doesn't seem to mind her untethered lifestyle.
49. Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg: Sundberg's followup to A Redtail's Dream is a post-apocalyptic story set in Northern Europe. After a plague wipes out most of Europe, Iceland rebuilds as a largely isolated nation. Now a team of explorers is venturing out into the Silent World to learn more about how their fellow humans have faired.
50. MS Paint Adventures by Andrew Hussie: If you have set foot in a comic book convention in the last few years, chances are you have seen the black shirt wearing, face painted, multicolored horned fans of Hussie's MS Paint Adventures comic Homestuck, which tells its complex story in the form of classic text adventure video game. Hussie's use of single panel pages and animation have influenced other worthy webcomics, such as Michelle Czajkowski's Ava's Demon.
51. Trekker by Ron Randall: Trekker started life as a Dark Horse print comic (and Dark Horse will be releasing the Trekker Omnibus), but Randall has taken his futuristic story about bounty hunter Mercy St. Clair online. It's part adventure story, part character study, and always exciting.
Update: So this wasn't actually intended to be a comprehensive list, and I honestly stopped listing webcomics after a while because the list was getting out of hand. But because several people have said they're bookmarking this for future reference, here are a few comics I feel particularly awful about leaving off the list:
52. Power Nap by Maritza Campos and Bachan: In the future, most people take a drug that obviates the need for sleep, but Drew is tragically allergic. His already miserable life gets even weirder when he's signed up for a bizarre sleep study.
53. Sam and Fuzzy by Sam Logan: Added by popular demand, the long-running epic adventures of a young man and his bear-like roommate.
54. GastroPhobia by David McGuire: Set in a loony version of ancient Greece, GastroPhobia follows an exiled Amazon warrior and her sweet, not very warrior-like son. Expect lots of puns.
55. Ava's Demon by Michelle Czajkowski: In a space-faring world, Ava has spent her entire life haunted by a powerful and cruel being. When she is fatally injured, however, she gets a second chance at life—if she's willing to make a pact with her tormenter. A lovely comic that makes excellent use of single panels to achieve pacing and motion and includes short animations at the end of each chapter.
56. Judecca by Jonathan Meecham and Noora Heikkilä: Set in a river to the afterlife, Judecca centers on a few souls who are just trying to get by. But as a man and a woman make an emotional connection, their island's powerful forces sense that something is amiss in their world.