After a landmark year for digital comics in 2012 we crowned Liam Sharp’s Captain Stone is Missing the first ever ‘Pipedream Comics – Digital Comic of the Year‘. But throughout 2013 we have seen digital comics go from strength to strength thanks to the rise of Guided View native on Comixology, the increase in digital first publishers as well as exciting new apps offering even more content across a multitude of platforms.
All of which made choosing our short list for this year’s Digital Comic of the Year quite the challenge. The 10 titles on here represent the absolute best of the best released in 2013. These titles are packed full of exciting and entertaining stories, the most beautiful looking artwork, and a generous dose of innovative thinking. All of which combine to make us love the world of digital comics that little bit more after reading them. So how will our defending champion fare against the likes of Weapon X, the Caped Crusader and an otter with a turtle on his head?! To find out more keep reading, and get involved in the crowning of our new champion via our Facebook page
In the meantime here is our rundown of the 10 best digital comics from 2013 for you to choose from…
Aces Weekly (Aces Weekly)
David Lloyd’s weekly digital art magazine has gone from strength to strength in 2013 featuring contributions from some of the UK comic scenes top names including Henry Flint and Shaky Kane. From the delightfully bizarre First Gentlemen of the Apocalypse by Batton Lash to the steampunk world of Erricus Vane to the weird and wonderful Psycho Gran and the downright sinister Santa Claus vs. Nazis, Aces Weekly is the offspring of classic British weeklies like 2000 AD or the Beano, merged into one anarchic 21st century mash-up and transmitted onto your screen at regular intervals. Each issue is packed full of great comics, that are both quintessentially British but also brilliantly inventive and original. Released in weekly instalments of 7 part arcs via the Aces Weekly website, it is now on its 8th volume and we hope that it continues with it’s fantastic run in 2014.
David Lloyd tells us why he loves digital comics
Batman: Arkham Origins (DC Comics/Madefire)
DC Comics and Madefire‘s huge December announcement barges its way onto the list at the 11th hour! Taking digital comics away from being a simple linear narrative, DC’s new Multiverse title allows the reader to choose the direction the story goes thanks to strategically placed decision points. This gamification of digital comics means a single issue can read out in completely different ways depending on the decisions you make, creating a reading experience that merges comics and video games into a whole new sub-genre. With Madefire‘s motion book technology bringing the story to life on every screen this combination makes Batman: Arkham Origins a truly ground-breaking way of telling stories that will change the way we look at digital comics in 2014!
Captain Stone is Missing (Madefire)
The reigning and defending Digital Comic of the Year – Liam Sharp’s multimedia motion book has continued to break new ground in 2013 and push the boundaries of what makes a digital comic – or rather a motion book. It’s been a marquee year for Madefire this year with new licensed titles from IDW Publishing and Dark Horse rubbing shoulders with Madefire Originals like Mono and Treatment. However it is still Captain Stone which sets the standards which no other Madefire title can quite surpass (even Sharp’s own Sherlock Holmes series with Bill Sienkewicz!). Thanks to its stunning artwork and intricate layouts Captain Stone is the absolute cutting edge of digital comics and the yardstick against which others should be measured against.
Liam Sharp tells us “why I love digital comics” in in his own unique way!
Masks and Mobsters (Monkeybrain Comics)
The stand out title from digital-first publisher Monkeybrain Comics, Masks and Mobsters has continued to excel with its 1930s pulp-infused story of superheroes, mad scientists, femme fatales and tommy gun wielding hoods. Josh Williamson and Mike Henderson have created a supremely exciting take on a well established genre and their mix of one shots instead of a long story arc has kept each issue fresher than the last. The highlight for this year was Masks and Mobsters #9 which saw the whole issue told from one camera angle with a split narrative running across the foreground and background. While titles like Hawkeye and Young Avengers were getting the plaudits for their innovative story telling, Williamson and Henderson were doing it first! And doing it digitally!
Read our exclusive interview with Mike Henderson and Josh Williamson about Masks and Mobsters
Molly Danger (Action Lab Entertainment)
Funded by Kickstarter this debut Guided View title from Action Lab Entertainment and writer/artist Jamal Igle was the first of many indie digital comics that took on the big boys from at their own game thanks to ComiXology Submit. Matching the like of Marvel Infinite and DC2 for quality and innovation Igle’s classic style has echoes of the best of Bryan Hitch with its pace and scale, while his script is packed full of equal parts adventure, humour and more than a little heartbreak as the story of 10 year old Molly who has been fighting crime as a teenager for 10 years manages pull at the heart strings every bit as well as it punches out giant mechs!
Read our exclusive interview with Jamal Igle about Molly Danger here
Moth City (Thrillbent)
Tim Gibson’s Moth City is part of Mark Waid’s Thrillbent stable and it’s story of a Chinese island in the 1930s and the battles between an enraged American governor, a power hungry Chinese General and an infected populous manages to outdo even the great man himself. Mixing political thriller with pulp noir and a generous dose of ghoulish horror, it’s a truly unique book that would deserve to be on this list for that alone. But what makes it really stand out is its mastery of Guided View. Gibson’s use of multi layered panels and sequentially appearing text is second to none and when used in conjunction with his scratchy artwork and darkly twisted stories makes Moth City one of the absolute best digital comics around.
Read our exclusive interview with Tim Gibson discussing Moth City
The Private Eye (Panel Syndicate)
Brian K Vaughan will be topping a lot of other people’s ‘Best of’ lists this year with his genre bending series Saga, but for us his most innovative series is The Private Eye. Released via his own Panel Syndicate site The Private Eye is not only a superbly original read, set in a world where privacy is paramount after the collapse of the Internet has shared everyone’s secrets with the world, but it is the publishing model that really breaks the mould. The Private Eye is a pay-what-you-want series meaning you could pay as much or as little as you want and so it’s worth every penny. With stunning artwork from Daredevil artist Marcos Martin who often gets over shadowed by the more famous writer, this series’ exceptional quality is every bit as down Martin’s amazing visual style as it is BKV’s original words! Forget Saga, this is BKV’s best work!
Read our review of The Private Eye #1 here
Unity 8-Bit Adventure (Valiant Comics)
This year digital comics became more than just a novelty with ongoing series like Batman ’66, Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted and Moth City. However at its best digital comics can still create a one off reader experience that simply cannot be replicated in print. The best example of this was Valiant’s Unity 8-bit Adventure. Taking the characters from their new super team (as seen in their epic crossover series of the same name) Unity 8 bit Adventure saw the team put through their paces in a high tech simulator that is entirely rendered in an 8-bit arcade style. It’s like the X-Men’s Danger Room run through a Super Nintendo and it is written to mirror the kind of classic 8-bit sideways scrolling adventures from those early consoles. Its a one trick joke that might not sustain a whole series but for this one off it is a superb hybrid of digital comic and video game that is unlike anything else out there.
Read our review of Unity 8-Bit Adventure here
War of the Woods (Monster Island Media)
Matthew Petz’s superbly original indie series is like War of the Worlds meets Wind in the Willows and is such an original idea that you cannot believe it hasn’t been done before. An alien invasion told from the point of view of a group of woodland creatures may not sound like a great read but thanks to Petz’s strong grasp of character and his beautifully rendered artwork it perfectly blends kid’s animal stories with Wellsian science fiction and a Tolkien-esque quest. Mixing in North American mythology and an otter with a turtle on its head, this has been one of the true standouts of 2013 for us. Split into 2 seasons, the first was a pretty straight forward page turner but season 2 has embraced Guided View giving the story and even more dynamic edge. An absolutely perfect digital comics experience.
Read our exclusive interview with War of the Woods creator Matthew Petz.
Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted (Marvel Comics)
Marvel’s first ongoing Infinite series went a long way towards proving that Guided View digital comics could be about more than just the novelty factor. Until this point Infnite had been all about added extras as part of a larger series (Avengers vs X-Men) or gimmicky one offs (Guardians of the Galaxy) but that all changed with Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted from writers Jason Aaron and Jason Latour with artist Paco Diaz. Mixing equal parts action and exposition Wolverine:JMW read like a full fledged Marvel comic with all the trademark action and excitement you would expect from a print title alongside the slick transitions and dynamic pages we’ve come to expect from an Infinite comic. Running over the course of 12 issues the team kept up the same level of excitement from start to finish proving once and for all that digital comics are not just gimmicks!
Read our exclusive interview about Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted with Jason Latour here
With so many outstanding digital comics available this year, we couldn’t narrow it down to only 10 and so here are a further list of those who deserve praise and recognition but didn’t quite make the final shortlist.
DC’s first foray into Guided View digital comics saw them take a retro step for this new cutting edge medium with a story told in the style of the 60s TV series with a campy story from Jeff Parker and superb halftone coloured art from Jonathan Case.
Killjoys artist Becky Cloonan writes and draws this delightfully dark and murky sub aquatic ghost story.
Madefire transfer Dark Horse’s iconic paranormal investigator to the motion book platform without losing any of its look and feel!
Gregg Taylor’s pulp inspired adventure serial stands out from the pack thanks to plucky sidekick Kit Squirrell.
Chris Sheridan’s western exploitation adventure is a sinister story of revenge and redemption. If Quentin Tarantino made digital comics, he wished he could make one as good as this!
Kurt Christenson and Reilly Brown’s pioneering superheroes meets the X-games series continues to thrill, if only it was more frequent!
Narr8‘s anthropomorphic prison escape drama expertly blends the world of animation and comics for this superior motion book.
Quinton Miles’ cyberpunk action series goes to prove that indie publishers can do Guided View just as well as the big boys!
James Tynion IV and Jeremy Rock’s political horror story reads like Rosemary’s Baby meets the West Wing and is packed full of thrills and chills.
Australian publisher Gestalt Comics’ sublime black and white one shot about a man and a woman discussing an abandoned suitcase on a station platform – sublime, simple story telling at its best.