It’s been another bumper year for exciting and innovative digital comics in 2016. From boundary pushing webcomics to crowd-funded sensations to cutting edge apps, we have picked out 10 of the best for you to vote on and declare the best Digital Comic Of The Year 2016. So get involved and make sure your favourite joins the likes of Madefire’s Captain Stone and Mono:Pacific, David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly and last year’s champion Adventures in Pulp, as winner of our prestigious prize.
Below is our rundown of the contenders for this year’s prize, and you can cast your vote here. (Polls close at midnight on December 23rd!)
Aces Weekly (Aces Weekly)
David Lloyd’s digital art comic has gone from strength to strength in 2016 as it approaches the milestone of volume 25 and celebrates 4 years producing some of the most interesting and exciting digital comics around. This year’s highlight has been the exceptional Codename D from Dylan Teague, which featured in volume 23, and has become the benchmark by which we will judge all future volumes. With its mix of stunning sleak space ships, high tech space soldiers, and Kirby-esque super villains every panel was a true work of art and we are starting the campaign now for Dylan to expand this initial run into a fully fledged series in 2017! Volume 23 was rounded out by the gritty crime drama Sicarios, sarcastic autio biographical comic Why Don’t You Love Me?, regulars Dungeons and Burglars and Flight, and Marc Jackson’s silly space strip Goons of the Galaxy, making this volume alone worth of inclusion on this list!
Deer Editor (RYAN K Lindsay)
Ryan K Lindsay’s tale of an investgative journalist looking into the the sleazy goings-on of a local mayor is a perfect slice of classic crime noir. So much so that you completely ignore the fact that our hero is an anthroporphised deer! What started out as an excuse for a great pun title has evolved into Ryan’s signature series as he manages to take the absurd concept and craft a story that is utterly plausible – at times ignoring the fact Buck is a deer, but at times also making the most of his heroes attributes, especially those pointy antlers! Ably assisted by artist Sami Kivella, whose rendering of Buck balances expressive character with stunningly reallistic features. Deer Editor is delightfully daft but compulsory reading with a real edge. Released exclusively via Kickstarter in digital form (hence being eligible for our list!), Deer Editor is unlike anyother crime noir book you will read this year and is the best comic about a part-man part-deer investigative journalist that you will ever read!
Find out more about Ryan’s work at www.ryanklindsay.com
Dark Pulsar (Expanded Comics)
We’ve seen some impressive uses of animation and motion effects in comics over the years from the likes of Madefire and Narr8, but Expanded Comics’ new series Dark Pulsar is without a doubt the most sophisticated. Blending cutting edge motion graphics into traditional comics panels, it creates explosive results that almost leap out of the screen at you – especially in a scene towards the end involving a giant robot sertnry. The story focuses around heroic sentry Pulsar who is sent on a shadowy mission into the mysterious 12 sided pyramid Morgot which holds all the secrets of the universe that have hitherto been hidden from the world. Although the story is fairly straight forward infiltration tale, by using short animated clips rather than transitions it blurs the lines between comics and animations to create a superb hypbrid and some truly cinematic moments, including a pan and scan up a skyscraper. It’s story focuses on action instead of of exposition (although there is still plenty of that on show) and thanks to exceptional production values courtesy of director Diego Escalada’s Studio, Dark Pulsar sets a new standard for motion comics on the iPad.
Download Dark Pulsar for iPad from the iTunes Store
On A Sunbeam (Tillie Walden)
For her follow up to the critically acclaimed I Love This Part and The City Inside, indie wunderkind Tillie Walden has taken to the web and blasted off into space to create one of the most unique sci-fi webcomics we have ever read. Instead of following the tried and tested tropes of the sci-fi genre though, she has completely disregarded them and created a world of giant space fish ships and intergalactic cathedrals. The story which sees a mysterious young girl sent off to spend time on a spaceship which goes around the universe cleaning up old wrecks, manages to take the traditional fish out of water in a new crew premise and layers on Tillie’s own unique world view and ability to tell unconventional yet heart breakingly real character pieces. With stunning artwork and an emotionally complex story On A Sunbeam comes close to eclispsing her masterful work on I Love This Part to create a series that it completely original, but also quitentessentially Tillie.
Read On A Sunbeam at www.onasunbeam.com
Although we’ve seen sideways scrolling comics before, none have quite the epic scope of Phallaina. Boasting 1600 screens and a 90 minute read time, its the epic tale of a young girl suffering from hallucinations who undergoes experimental treatment that may or may not have connections to a mythic group of whale people. Artist Marietta Ren seamlessly blends the story in a long flowing narrative that uses slick devices like smoke and waves or fishes to allow the story to move along seamlessly. She also includes several dream like sequences that use paralaxing events coming into and out of frame to create a truly dizzying effect – which perfectly compliments the story. Although quite a labour intensive reading experience it manages to balance innovation with great art and a poignant story to expert effect.
Download Phallaina for iPad from the iTunes Store
Scurry (Mac Smith)
Mac Smith’s Kickstarter sensation sees a group of mice fighting for survival in a post event world and debating whether to uproot their society as they wait for the humans to return or if they should run the risk of staying and continuing to battle their fearsome feline foes. But unlike fantastical series like Mouse Guard or Mice Templar it’s refreshingly grounded. And definitely not cute or twee. But what makes Scurry so worthy of being on this list is the jaw dropping painted artwork. His rendering of the animals is exquisite, but also terrifying – in particular cat villain Titan. Like a post modern Watership Down meets The Walking Dead, Scurry is an incredibly accomplished piece of work that richly deserved its phenomenal success of Kickstarter.
Produced by Firefly stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion, Specturm is a comic that exists within their web series Con Men, which sees Fillion and Tudyk play a couple of dudes whoe believer they are comic characters within a sci-fi adventure series. And this is that comic. This could lead to a turgid piece of self awareness, but instead Spectrum is an all action thrill ride which spans the galaxy and features some of the most impressive motion transitions we have seen in years – especially one scene involving a car being lasered in half which literally leaps out of the screen. There’s also some stunning magical effects which really bring the panels to life.
The Walking Dead: The Alien (Panel Syndicate)
In exchange for image publishing a hardcover of Eisner award winning digital series the Private Eye, Bryan K Vaughan and his longtime collaborator Marcos Martin were allowed to release a digital exclusive The Walking Dead series via their pay-what-you-like platform Panel Syndicate. The result is The Walking Dead: The Alien a story set during the zombie outbreak but based in Barcelona (and featuring a travelling relative of a major TWD character!) Vaughan and Martin take a quintessentially American series and give it a very euro-tinged twist. Vaughan’s script is simple and effective (delivering a trademark BKV ending) while Martin’s sublime artwork works as well in monochrome as it does in the technicolor world of The Private Eye.
Purchase Walking Dead: The Alien from www.panelsyndicate.com
These Memories Won’t Last (SUTUEATSFLIES)
Stu Campbells incredibly personal tale of his grandfather’s dementia is a radical departure from his quirky brand of sci-fi in Nawlz and Modern Polaxis, but it retains the same degree of cutting edge story-telling. Told via a paralaxing web viewer, elements appear in and out of screen while a red rope is used as the thread throughout the story. Animated elements pop in and out of the scenes to make moments more poignant and more exciting while the text appears in disorientating places to replicate Stu’s grandfather’s failing health. What could’ve been a mawkish or sentimental story is incredibly poignant and while the digital events could be distracting or gimmicky in fact add to the story to make the whole thing into an equally heart breaking and sophisticated reading experience.
Read These Memories Won’t Last at sutueatsflies.com
It’s been a bumper year for UK publisher TPub, producing hit after hit. The year began with the outstanding Turncoat from Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus, which we assumed would be a shoe-in for this list thanks to it’s post-modern take on a superhero assassion. But that’s becase we didn’t know Theatrics was lurking behind the curtains, waiting to take it’s bow. The story of a matinee idol in the 1930s who is beaten to a pulp in an alleyway and undergoes a life altering transformation, is truly staggering. TPub’s supremo Neil Gibson balances crime noir and dark horror to perfect effect. While artist Leonardo Gonzalez has a Greg Capullo-esque style and a stunning eye for design that makes the whole collection truly exceptional. With the first arc now collected into a print edition, you can read the first chapter online for free via TPub and get a sense of why this trip to the theatre is well wirth the ticket price.
Read the first chapter for free at tpub.co.uk
Barrier/Universe – It’s been a relatively quiet year from Vaughan and Martin’s Panel Syndicate, howver what they have produced has been as stunning as ever. Barrier has been a brilliant mix of illegal alien thriller and actual alien sci-fi and will deserve much more love once the series has more than 2 issues under it’s belt. While Albery Montey’s Euro-tinged scifi series Universe continues to be a completely unique take on the genre that is both hilarious and unsettling in equal measures.
Vanguard – Dan Butcher’s post-event superhero webcomic continues to build on it’s complete about-turn plot. After the cataclysmic events of volume 10 Butcher has turned Vanguard from a fairly standard post-modern superhero story into a superb mix of dystopian sci-fi, gritty action adventure and mixed up heroes. Thanks to it’s UK setting, Butcher’s dark take on the genre is like reading Excalibur rewritten by The Boys’ team of Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson and makes for a full tilt punch to the face of a read!
The Kill Screen – The winner of last year’s ‘Best of ComiXology Submit’ list, Mike Garley, Joshua Sherwell and Mike Stock’s dystopian sci-fi tale has now become a Patreon exclusive with new pages being published online first before being collected into print editions at a later date. All of which means we can get more exciting adventures of Nine Lives the cat for as little as $1 a month!
Widdershins – Kate Ashwin’s Widdershins is one of the most charming and endearing series on the web. A perfect mix of quirky Bristish humour and fantastical magical adventures. With the events of the Barber family beginning to build to an epic crescendo, Widdershins conintues to be one of the true gems of small press scene.
Turncoat – For the first half of the year we thought Ryan O Sullivan’s hapless superhero hitman was going to be a shoe-in for the main list, and if it wasn’t for the knockout punch of Theatrics it would have been. Sullivan’s razor sharp script and perfect characterisations are backed up by superb artwork from Plaid Klaus, to create that rare thing – a post-modern superhero series that actually feels fresh and new – not to mention being laugh out loud hilarious!