The Best Webcomics to Follow in 2014 (Part One)

With the 100 Best Graphic Novel list getting ever closer to the finish I have to find other ways to occupy my time. My job involves three hours of travelling a day, and let me tell you that’s a hell of a lot of time to try and fill! Luckily there are awesome writers and artists out there who spend their time creating comics and then put them on the internet absolutely free! I’m talking about webcomics, of course.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, a webcomic is a digitally hosted comic that usually runs as a series and is typically updated once or twice a week/fortnight/month. It’s the closest thing we have in the digital age of an old fashioned serial, and it’s great to follow along as a webcomic author tells his or her story. Many of them end up being printed as well, something that has increased since the appearance of Kickstarter on the scene.

If you want to start following some webcomics yourself or if you are just looking for something new to read, here’s a selection of some of the best ones out there. This will be split into two parts so that I can recommend as many comics as possible for you guys. I also was lucky enough to get some questions answered by the authors of the comics to give you a bit of an idea what the creator of each series is like, which graphic novels they love and why they decided to start their comic.

Before I move on to the comics themselves, I want to say a big thank you to all the writers and artists featured here for answering my questions, and an even bigger thanks for taking to time to make your comics.

Monster’s Garden by Ash G
Set in a futuristic world where men, aliens and robots try to co-exist, Monster’s Garden is the touching sci-fi story of Kilomonster, a heavyweight champion who loves his garden, and Nika, an Arcane Technology Life form Automated System with vocal communication capability (she’s a talking robot). This is a tale of a bond between two very different creatures, and it is a webcomic I would recommend to anyone.

What’s your favourite webcomic (other than your own!)?
Ash: Lackadaisy by Tracy J. Butler probably comes closest to an all-time favourite webcomic, having been a reader since it first started. I adore how animated and expressive the characters are, which really makes hard to not love the characters. I also appreciate the dedication to research and detail that goes into the setting. Though the update schedule slows the pace of the stories, the updates are always well worth the wait.

Some of my current favourite webcomics are Drunkards of the Cosmos, Poppy O'Possum, Cucumber Quest, Beyond the Western Deep, The Muse Mentor, Bad Reputation, A Ghost Story and pretty much everything listed on the Monster's Garden links page.

What inspired you to create Monster's Garden?
Ash: Movies have probably inspired the comic the more than other comics, actually. The creation of the Kilo Monster was inspired by my adoration of creatures like Godzilla and the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, in addition to characters like the Beast of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Despite being a personal favourite of mine, Kilo spent a lot of time as a secondary character in early drafts. Though he ended up being one of the most developed compared to the protagonists I was putting him next to.

Seeing the movie Wreck-It Ralph in 2012 actually gave the kick I needed to convince myself that focusing on the story of Kilo Monster was the most worthwhile comic adventure for me. I wanted to see more stories out there about misunderstood gentle giants finding their place in the world, so Monster's Garden became my answer to that. It helped to really have a lot of passion for the character, because after 13 years of waffling around, everything seemed to fall into place more easily after that decision. And I couldn't be happier with it.

Among the Chosen by Dan Hinder
Among the Chosen first took shape in 2003 and has been on the internet all this time and now, ten years later, it is stronger than ever. A comic described by its author Dan Hinder as David Cronenberg’s No Country for Old Robotech, the premise of the story is certainly original. I’m guessing you might find such a combination difficult to imagine, but I will never let it be said that Dan doesn’t understand perfectly what an elevator pitch is meant to do, because if that sentence doesn’t make you want to read the webcomic I don’t know what will.

What is/are your favourite graphic novel(s)?
Dan: Appleseed and Battle Angel Alita are old favourites. After I started working on ATC I found or was recommended Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles and Cerebus - along with a lot of other good comics, though those are the titles that stuck and fit the question. Like music, it's hard to pick a favourite!

What inspired you to create Among the Chosen?
Dan: ATC grew out of a sort of compost heap of creativity. All of my favourite things in my teens - Robocop, the original Battlestar Galactica, Battle Angel Alita, Final Fantasy 6, Mortal Kombat, Star Wars, Star Trek, A. Bertram Chandler, Robert Heinlein, The Prisoner - got kinda mulched together and compressed, and the core of Among the Chosen is what eventually came out - first as high school doodles, then as art school homework, and eventually as comics. ATC is as much a reaction to and attempt to address things I found lacking or unsatisfying in media I enjoy as it is me making a comic because I like comics... and as I'm sure many other artists and writers could tell you, thinking "I can do better!" very quickly turned into "wow, this is HARD."

The intention is to create a Big Damn Epic with a cast that has relatable motivations - "I'm getting paid" or "I've got a bullet in my head and really need a doctor" or "this planet has a much better music scene than that one," as opposed to more abstract or less tangible concepts like "duty" and "honor." Starting with a handful of simple selfish or expedient decisions that benefit a small number of characters and seeing how those decisions impact the lives of people they've never met years later while avoiding motivational and expositional shortcuts like the "D word" ("destiny") is one of the big things that keeps ATC going!

Blitz Phoenix by Emily Brackhan
When Amanda Breyken knocks on the door of her family’s home after being away for a while, she doesn’t get the welcome she expects. In fact, her husband David hates her and her son Terry doesn’t want anything to do with her. This is actually an understandable reaction though, because scientist Amanda has been gone for seventeen years. This is a superhero-ish comic with mature themes, such as murder and kidnapping, and an amazing premise that will make you want to keep reading.

What’s your favourite webcomic (other than your own!)?
Emily: Sorry, I have to pick two: it's a tie between Sam & Fuzzy and Gunnerkrigg Court. Sam & Fuzzy is consistently funny and fresh while keeping up its story, which is hard to find in webcomics that have been around for as long as it has. There is a lot that can be said about Gunnerkrigg Court, but I'll just say that it's very charming and has lovely artwork.

What inspired you to create Blitz Phoenix?
Emily: I've always been a big daydreamer; if it made sense to call that a hobby, I would. I've come up with a lot of story premises and this is the one I really latched onto and refined.

Growing up, I've always been into the type of anime shows aimed at kids; the big ones for me were Dragon Ball Z, the first Yu-Gi-Oh series, and Digimon. So my art style and some themes are a bit in that vein, but I also like to think that my story's a bit more mature than that. Music has been a big influence on the direction of the story (Disturbed and similar bands helped me carve a lot of the plot out, but I've been influenced by a wide range of genres as well).

I also have a passion for telling stories. So whether or not this whole thing ends good, bad, or ugly, this is a project I'm excited about and need to get out for myself.

Legostar Galactica by D.M. Jeftinija
Now it’s time for something completely different. So far we’ve seen comics with great artwork, but this one has a style completely different from the rest. The hobby project of a Post-doc studying neuroscience, Legostar Galactica is a sci-fi fan’s dream; a comic series made out of a clever use of Lego bricks and Photoshop, and crammed full of sci-fi in-jokes and references. If you check this series out and you like it then you’re in luck – you already have eleven years worth of updates waiting for your reading pleasure!

What’s your favourite webcomic (other than your own!)?
D.M.: I'd have to say my favourite webcomic is either Gunnerkrigg Court or Battlepug.

What is/are your favourite graphic novel(s)?
D.M.: My favourite graphic novel(s) are the Bone series by Jeff Smith and Hellboy.

What inspired you to create Legostar Galactica?
D.M.: I had a number of inspirations for Legostar Galactica, including a LEGO week Sluggy Freelance did and comics like 8bit theatre that didn't rely on the ability to drawn with pen and paper, but mostly it came from an intense desire to create a webcomic of my own and the lack of time to work on my drawing skills, also my already then massive LEGO collection.

Shattered With Curve of Horn by Max Miller Dowdle
Fresh from a successful Kickstarter campaign that will see the webcomic published as a 160 page graphic novel in spring 2014, things have never looked better for Shattered with Curve of Horn. The story and its creator fully deserve their success too; with top-class art work and a character driven, slightly sci-fi story, SWCOH is one of the best webcomics I have ever read.

What is/are your favourite graphic novel(s)?
Max: Whoa, how long can I make this list? Ha-ha. Briefly, Black Hole; Y the Last Man; Preacher; and most recently Lucifer.

What’s the inspiration behind Shattered with Curve of Horn?
Max: The original inspiration for Shattered with Curve of Horn came from wanting to explore what role dreams play as a seed for creativity. I've always been very in touch with my own dreams and used them as fodder for paintings. It seemed only natural to thread a story out this idea. From the beginning I knew I wanted a limited palette of characters and locations and so I remembered an old Linklater film I'd seen called "Tape" which takes place in a hotel room with only three characters. This seemed like an interesting format to use and the story that I ended up writing grew organically from there.

Trekker by Ron Randall
Beginning life as a printed graphic novel under the Dark Horse insignia, Trekker is the story of bounty hunter Mercy St. Clair and her adventures in the world of New Gelaph and beyond. Randall has had a successful career in the comic book world and his professional experience shines through in the artwork and writing of Trekker. Many webcomics can have a bit of a lack of a professional 'sheen' but are pulled through by their characters, great plots and passion of their authors. Trekker has all of the aforementioned, and it looks absolutely fantastic to boot.

What’s your favourite webcomic (other than your own!)?
Ron: I have to pick one that, while totally different from Trekker, both in format and subject, delivers the goods every time: Benjamin Dewey's brilliant "Tragedy Series". Completely unique and delightful, brilliant in design and execution.

What is/are your favourite graphic novel(s)? 
Ron: I don't think you can beat Moore and Gibbons on "Watchmen". Also Moore and David Lloyd's "V For Vendetta". Two works of great imagination and humanity. And from current comics "Saga" by Vaughan and Staples is just exhilarating.

What inspired Trekker?
Ron: My chief inspirations were a lot of classic sci-fi stories-- from Flash Gordon to Star Wars and Blade Runner. A well-told sci-fi tale that has heart and brains always excites the little kid in me. So I wanted to tap into that.

I love sci-fi that works on both the "epic" and "personal" scales. So I wanted to create a series with a character that is believable and complicated, one that grows and changes over time, as we all do. And at the same time I want to tell a series of fun action adventures that in the end add up to a long life story that impacts the wide world that the character operates in.

Zap! by Pascalle Lepas and Chris Layfield
You’ve got to admire anyone who can keep a series running for a decade. From its July 13th 2003 beginnings, Zap has outlasted long running series like HBO TV shows The Wire, The Sopranos, as well as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. There’s something about commitment and determination that I really respect, so for that reason I think you need to give Zap a try. On top of that, what really stands out for me in Zap! is the art work and in particular the evolution of it. Take a look at the first few panels drawn by Pascalle here, and then take a look at some of her latest stuff. What a progression. This is why I love following a long-term web series; you get to see artists go from good to great.

What’s your favourite webcomic?
Pascalle: Favourite webcomics lately, Broodhollow and TJ and Amal. Both great and very different stories.

What is/are your favourite graphic novel(s)? 
Pascalle: Right now I can't get enough SAGA, but classic ELFQUEST was a huge inspiration to me as a kid and I still pour over SKYDOLL at least once a week.

What inspired you to make Zap!?
Pascalle: Back in 2003 my friend Chris Layfield asked me if I had any interest starting a sci fi comic with him and I was like "Sure." It seemed like the thing to do at the time!

Blue Milk Special by Rod and Leanne Hannah

The Star Wars films are ripe for a spoof, and there are quite a few webcomic creators out there already dedicating their time to this. Blue Milk Special is one of the best. It is written by Star Wars fans with an extraordinary eye for detail (the name itself comes from a scene in A New Hope where Aunt Beru is ever-so-briefly seen with a cup of blue milk. Something I have never paid attention to despite watching the film plenty of times), and is full of spot-on jokes that most Star Wars fans will love. The comedy aspect of the comic hits the ground running within the very first panel with the quote: “Waiving his upfront fee, the great god Lucas shapes the universe and gives it life. But tread lightly, faithful reader, for a god can also destroy that which he begets”.

What’s your favourite webcomic?
Leanne: I love Mike Norton's Battle Pug. The art is gorgeous, the story is entertaining and has really fun characters... and who wouldn't want to ride around on a big pug! I also like Shortpacked! which is hilarious and brings back memories from my days working in a comic / toy shop.

Rod: It's so hard to pick a favourite when there are so many great webcomics out there. However, Order of the Stick was highly inspirational for me and Living Room Wars is deeply nostalgic and fun! I like the spirit that both of these webcomics embody in that you don't have to be a traditional artist to tell a great story.

What inspired Blue Milk Special?
Inspiration for Blue Milk Special? Our mutual love of Star Wars and our burning desire to make a comic together as a team. Seeing what other webcomic creators were able to do and knowing we could give it a good shot. Believing that we could handle it as a hobby / side project in the middle of having day jobs and social commitments. We've both always wanted to tell stories and been finding ways to do so, either to make a living, or as a hobby for as long as we can both remember. Webcomics provide a great do-it-yourself way to reach people that might like your stories. We've made so many new friends in the process, it’s been one of the greatest decisions we've ever made!

Brave New World by Henning Brazer

“This is highly unusual sir. The first time ever actually. We have a 100% population potential…for hyper evolution”. So goes the quote early on in Brave New World that lets you know the space travelling aliens headed for earth don’t have benign intentions, and may just be out to cause us a heck of a lot of trouble. With highly colourful panels and an imaginative vision of the future, Brave New World is a sci-fi tale that will have you clicking the ‘next panel’ button until your finger starts to cramp.

What is/are your favourite graphic novel(s)?
Henning: Without a doubt the first volume of Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire's Justice League from the 80's. Supplementary answer is that 'yes' - Ted Kord Blue Beetle is my favourite superhero ever, and 'no' - I can't believe those bastards killed him.

How did Brave New World Begin?
Henning: BNW primarily came about as I had millions of ideas for superhero characters and stories (my true love), but hated Origin stories (my pet peeve). So I thought I would create one Origin story for all my characters at once to make life easier - Brave New World is the result of that. Every project I create forms part of this universe. It also helped me to be disciplined (as much as possible) with a regular update schedule.

Cosmic Dash by David A. Davis
Cosmic Dash is a sci-fi soap-opera about hero Dash Kameku and his crew aboard the Lucky Strike as they find themselves running into all sorts of space-related hijinks and troubles. This premise sounds very Firefly, but the execution is wildly different. The tone of it is a mix of action, sci-fi and comedy, and the artwork of the characters can only be described as extremely cute. My favourite is Guugel. This is a work of great imagination and anyone who likes the fantastic should give Cosmic Dash a try.

What are your favourite webcomics?
David: My favourite webcomics would be: Culture Shock, Return to Sender, Outsider, and Monster Soup.

What are your favourite graphic novels?
David: The collected volumes of Fables, my Hellboy collection, Bone, Box Office Poison (my current favourite ongoing comic title is the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Oh, let me add something to my graphic novels answer: Usagi Yojimbo! Can't believe I forgot that!

What inspired Cosmic Dash?
David: Cosmic Dash was inspired by a love of Star Wars, space operas in general, and a lack of comics online that zeroed in on my interest areas. I became interested in webcomics as a platform after I read Return to Sender way back in high school, and I had tried a few different ideas before adapting an old character of mine into a space opera setting.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Now I suggest you find a webcomic you like and start reading! Coming up in the new year will be part 2, as well as the rest of our 100 best graphic novels list.