You want to know what’s really subjective? Top ten lists. No two people will ever agree on what the best ten of anything is as long as people have the ability to think for themselves. Isn’t merely the act of putting together such a list an example of arrogance? Probably.
Still, we love lists like the one I’m compiling below for one big reason: its fun to argue why something made the list, and why things were left off.
So, as we head into the Holiday Season and close out the aughts, here’s my list of what I think are the Ten Best Webcomics of the Decade (2000-2009): The Second Decade of Webcomics.
These aren’t the most influential — otherwise Penny Arcade would be a shoe-in. And since we’re talking about The Decade, longetivity counts — so, sorry Gastrophobia. This is a list of webcomics I enjoyed because they told great stories, opened readers to different sorts of humor, and basically stuck with me for some reason or other.
Each of these are a great credit to the new genre/medium known as “webcomics” and show that, in some cases, the outlaw world of webcomics can produce comics that are heads and shoulders superior to their boring, predictable print counterparts.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of this webcomic. Gunnerkrigg Court‘s artwork is beautiful and unique. Tom Siddell tells a mysterious story set in a sprawling Gormenghast-style city that mashes up fantasy with science fiction. While this is the sort of place where fairies and robots coexist, Gunnerkrigg Court feels natural and not at all contrived. The highly likable cast includes Antimony, a wide-eyed girl with destiny written all over her, and Reynardine, a stuffed animal who is more than meets the eye. I loved this comic so much, I reviewed it twice. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: if there is only one webcomic you will read in your entire life, read Gunnerkrigg Court.
Kate Beaton’s comic has achieved the impossible: she’s managed to make Canadian history interesting. Man, I doubt Canadians even find Canadian history interesting. She pokes fun at other events in history as well by showing us that, really, were those bygone figures really different from us? Is it so implausible that the Bronte sisters would be dishing on distasteful men or that, as above, suffragettes would spend just as much time hitting on the dudes as they would protesting? Hark! A Vagrant makes jokes based on a weird, universal truth: human nature is pretty much the same, no matter what era.
Can old school cartooning can be adapted to and be made new for audiences online? Now, Gunshow and its predecessor, Horribleville aren’t for everyone. They’re vulgar and crass; the fart jokes of webcomics. Still, anyone can make a poop joke. What make’s KC Green’s webcomics so special is his unique brand of rubbery and hyperkinetic artwork. KC’s drawings — in some ways reminiscent of Looney Tunes and Spumco — is goddamned hilarious. It’s great to know that in a webcomic world where everything seems to rely on sterile Flash drawings, there’s someone out there who can make you laugh the old-fashioned way: by drawing someone with a smile that’s goofy as hell.
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The folks at the Comic Dish podcast were kind enough to invite me in for an interview yesterday. However, for whatever reason, two of the normally three man crew didn’t show up, and the whole episode ended up being just Shayne and myself. Which was still pretty cool. We ended up reviewing The Warehouse manga, chatting a bit about the origins of the Webcomic Overlook, my experiences with doing a comic in college, the Nazis, and my total and utter ignorance of the Penny Arcade Expo.
I understand this might be the first time a lot of you have ever heard my voice, so just to head off some disappointment ahead of time: I don’t have a British accent, and I don’t sound like a girl. I think.
Some things just hit the mark so perfectly the first time that anything done afterward, while decent, will look like an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the earlier magic.
I’m sure you all have your examples. Me, I’m going to wax eloquently on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. That first season (as defined by DVD volumes) was a perfect storm of absurdity, comedy, quotable dialogue, and shock value. Frylock, Meatwad, Master Shake, and Carl would encounter something ridiculous like a trio of leprechauns stealing shoes. Everyone got stuck with dialogue that was borderline rational and nonsensical, including — and especially — the alien Mooninites (“We are the Mooninites and our culture is advanced beyond all that you can possibly comprehend with one hundred percent of your brain”) and a pair of Plutonians (“When he gets here we melt him… and laugh… on into the night.”). And everything would culminate to a nutty non-conclusion, probably involving something nasty happening to Carl.
ATHF was all the more effective because of its shock value. And it was not the moral content, necessarily, but because the animation was so awful. Remember, the show was the successor the critically popular Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and, unlike today, Adult Swim fans were not initially warm to something that looked like it was put together by six-year-olds.
Still, after a season or two of ATHF, the eventually shock value wore off. Quality seemed to suffer a little bit. The later episodes were still funny, and I’m a fan of the Billy Witch Doctor and Boost Mobile episodes as much as anyone. However, it seemed like Aqua Teen was trying too hard to capture the unique flash of the original episodes. Gags got more and more gruesome, as if to say, “Look at me! We’re still wacky and crazy and about to shock your pants off!”
I had similar thoughts when reading KC’s Green’s webcomic about himself and the writing process, the gleefully profane Horribleville. The comic, by the way, is summed up excellently on the site’s current subtitle: “TV is My Worst Enemy.”