Each year, we are stunned by the remarkable and diverse comics that appear on the Internet, and 2014 has been no exception. From gorgeously illustrated epics to spooky short stories to comics that made us cry, here are the best new webcomics that we read this year.
Top image from Stand Still. Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg.
If you want to check out all of our recent webcomics coverage, you can read it here. And let us know what new comics you've been enjoying in the comments.
Back by KC Green and Anthony Clark: KC Green (Gunshow) and Anthony Clark (Nedroid) team up to bring us one of the funniest apocalyptic comics we've ever seen. In a western-styled land, a mysterious gunslinger is raised from the dead by a coven of witches that she will usher in the end of the world. But when she wanders into a town terrorized by a crew of wicked tax collectors, it becomes clear her journey won't be as straightforward as she planned.
Kingdoms Lost by Boulet: Each year, amidst slice-of-life comics, fan commentary, social commentary, and travelogues, Boulet treats us to a handful of brilliant short webcomic stories. The standout piece in 2014 was "Kingdoms Lost," a story that starts with a (supposedly) evil wizard transporting himself and a fantasy princess to our world, the real world. Her (supposedly) heroic love interest follows her there, but when he can't find a way back home, the princess starts to explore the world around her and really living—perhaps for the first time.
The Hole the Fox Did Make by Emily Carroll: Emily Carroll had a big year. Her book of scary stories, Through the Woods, was published this year, and on top of that, she posted more delightfully creepy comics online. "The Hole the Fox Did Make" is an uneasy ghost story that combines many of the elements Carroll excels at: fairy tale trappings, family secrets, and terrible things lurking in seemingly ordinary places. We also highly recommend "When the Darkness Presses," which uses the familial advertising boxes we see on so many webcomics to clever effect and "All Along the Wall," a terrifying holiday tale.
30 Minutes to Live by Greg Thelen and Various Artists: If you learned that a blast from the sun was hurtling towards Earth, how would you spend the last few minutes of your life? That's the question that Greg Thelen asked and answered in ten stories with the help of a dozen different artists. Among the standouts is "Born on the Last Day on Earth," with Melanie Gillman, whose beautiful comic about religion and personal identity on a Christian girls' hiking trip, As the Crow Flies, was nominated for an Eisner this year.
Harpy Gee by Brianne Drouhard: Last year, we fell in love with Brianne Drouhard's animated take on Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, so it's not surprise that we're head-over-heels for her playful webcomic Harpy Gee. Harpy is an adventurer who decides to spend some time in a small town with her goblin cat, a cheerful witch doctor, an aspiring castle guardsman, and a truly grumpy prince. We already want to see an animated version.
Watching by Winston Rowntree: Winston Rowntree's often verbose Subnormality! often makes us think, but his short story "Watching" actually made us cry. The story is told from the point of view of a time traveler who cannot change the past, only watch events that happened long ago. The traveler ends up watching a young woman who has a terminal illness and struggling to understand the richness of her life and the people around her.
We Go Forward by Shenanigansen: The shortest webcomic on this list also left us with an unexpected lump in our throats. From Shenanigansen's Owl Turd Comix, "We Go Forward," is set in a side-scrolling video game and deals with the protagonist's poignant solution to the problem of not being able to make an in-game jump and not being able to move backwards through the game.
Blindsprings by Kadi Fedoruk: This is a slight cheat since Blindsprings actually launched in October 2013, but the only reason it wasn't included on last year's list of the best new webcomics is that it was too young to fully judge. Now we're ready to say it: Blindsprings is one of the webcomics you absolutely should be reading. This beautifully illustrated story centers on the Princess Tamaura, who has lived in the woods for centuries as part of a pact with her world's powerful spirits. But when a young wizard tries to "rescue" her—against her will—she's thrust into a very different life and takes on a new mission in a world she doesn't understand, but one that's still affected by the class issues of Tamaura's past.
One Way by Christopher Baldwin: After his heartbreaking war story Spacetrawler concluded last year, Christopher Baldwin launched a new space-themed webcomic, One Way. After humanity receives a communication from distant aliens, a space crew is sent to meet the aliens. Everyone on the crew is considered brilliant but expendable, and it doesn't take long for them to start rubbing each other the wrong way. That in itself makes for some great character-driven comedy, but things get really interesting when the crew learns the truth about their mission.
Stand Still. Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg: This is another comic that launched in late 2013, after Sundberg completed her Finnish mythological epic A Redtail's Dream. Stand Still. Stay Silent is set after a pandemic has killed most of Northern Europe's population, leaving most of the survivors living in cities, safe from the Silent World. The comic features a motley crew of adventurers who venture out into the Silent World, which has grown stranger and more monstrous in the wake of the illness. It's not only given us stunning views of a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia; it has also inspired Sundberg to make her lovely language chart.
Demon by Jason Shiga (NSFW): Jason Shiga is known for inventive, meticulously planned out comics like Meanwhile and Bookhunter. Demon takes Shiga's careful comics crafting...and makes it completely disgusting. A series of failed suicide attempts, Shiga's recurring protagonist Jimmy Yee makes a bizarre supernatural discovery. And when he puts that discovery to the test, he finds that there is nothing—seriously nothing—that he isn't willing to do.
(Full disclosure, Shiga and I are friends. You should still read Demon if you have the stomach for it.)