Welcome to Comicon.com’s Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of the strange year that was 2020. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Comic Series, Best Single Comic Issues, Best Writers, Best Artists, Best Cover Artists, Best Colorists, Best Letterers, Best Digital/Webcomics, and Most Progressive Comics.
Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards this year include: James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Cesareo Garasa, Rachel Bellwoar, Scott Redmond, Tito James, Gary Catig, Tony Thornley, Richard Bruton, and Erik Amaya.
The following are Comicon’s 7 Best Digital/Webcomics of 2020.
6. Sleepless by Jules Scheele
A collection of Scheele’s diary comics, Sleepless is the absolutely perfect look at the artist getting inside their own head and putting it on the comic page; open and honest as possible. It’s a brave portrayal of a person and, thanks to Scheele’s artwork, it’s a thing that powers off the comic page. They don’t hold back here at all, discussing their PTSD, their non-binary nature, their transmasculinity, and doing everything so many of us should do but can’t: addressing themselves with honesty. They do it all so well, with art that screams with power and beauty in their line.
It’s not a story, though, more a collection of thoughts as Scheele plays with the medium to deliver their message; a series of images, a series of thoughts and ideas thrown onto the page, and imagery coalescing into shape. Doing it this way means we get the sense of being invited into Scheele’s journey through their life and we should be so damn grateful we have artists of this power amongst us.
— Richard Bruton
5. Dumbing of Age by David M. Willis
For the second year in a row, Willis has earned a place in the best digital/webcomics category not just for his tireless diligence — his buffer of daily strips is always three-to-four months ahead of the most recently published work — but for the craft he puts into the story. This past year saw the tale of newly minted college students turn from funny and charming to suspenseful and harrowing. The characters faced internal demons and a real physical threat. Someone didn’t make it out alive and the others were forever changed by the incident. Then, in a completely stunning move, Willis skipped from October of the characters’ first term in college to the beginning of their first winter term. Considering it took him ten years to chronicle their first three months in college, a gap like this is huge. Nevertheless, his incredible character work, knack for a punchline, and ability to mix tension with humor makes Dumbing of Age one of the best webcomics out there.
— Erik Amaya
4. Tales from the Pandemic, written by Mario Candelaria, illustrated by Andy Michael, J. Paul Schiek, Randy Haldeman, Joe Hunter, Dan Buksa, Saci Ediriweera, and Adam Ferris, lettered by Scott Ewen
When quarantine hit and we were all stuck in side, Candelaria got to making comics. One of the results was Tales from the Pandemic, a 29-page anthology looking at life during this global event. Each of the seven stories flows like a Twilight Zone episode, picking out aspects of quarantine life — like binge-watching Netflix, wearing masks, and vaccines — and putting a unique and often supernatural spin on them. The variety of art styles, presented in black-and-white, add to the intriguing nature of the premise and amplify each story.
— James Ferguson
3. Fight Szine by Phillip Sevy
What does one big fight scene look like when stretched out over the course of an entire issue? That’s the basic idea for Sevy’s Fight Szine as two combatants go at it page after page in a silent comic. You don’t know why they’re fighting or anything about their background, yet you’re able to glean so much about their personalities by how they attack each other and how they look. Although we’re dealing with a non-stop battle, there’s a story told through each punch and kick thrown.
— James Ferguson
2. Bad Karma, published by Panel Syndicate, words and letters by Alex de Campi, art by Ryan Howe, colors by Dee Cunniffe
Bad Karma is a series about two veterans who try to clear a person’s name after he was convicted for a murder they committed. It was an assignment — they were told to kill the man as part of their jobs — but now there’s an innocent person on death row and Sully and Ethan are the only people who can save him.
De Campi is a master at human interaction. Anyone can invoke the terrible mother-in-law trope, but not everyone can nail the recurring slights and underlying tension of a family dinner. Cheryl, Ethan’s ex-wife, is a force of nature in sweatpants. Howe gives her an amazing moment of triumph in issue #3. She’s Ethan and Sully’s biggest champion, yet she’s also the person who has to clean up their messes. Add in Christmastime and this series is a perfect storm, while Cunniffe’s colors allow De Campi to tell the story out of chronological order.
— Rachel Bellwoar
1. Quarantine Comix by Rachael Smith
What started off as a slice-of-life/Covid-19 lockdown diary to cope with the highs and lows — a lot of lows — by Rachael Smith soon became a tonic for others feeling low during this strange year. Each warm-humoured and relatable strip lets the reader into a very personal year-in-the-life of one young artist and her daily struggles to get through each day. While many laid out claims at the start of all this that they would learn a new language or play the guitar, Smith’s daily strips also painted the cold reality for so many of us; one that was far more depressing at times.
— Olly MacNamee
In a terrible, terrible year, Rachael Smith‘s Quarantine Comix were probably the only good thing about the pandemic. Like all of her works, these comics are funny, inventive and absolutely fearless. A follow-on of sorts to her incredibly powerful autobiography books, Stand in Your Power and Wired Up Wrong, she produced magnificent things all year; unfailingly open, unflinchingly honest, and always, always done with such brilliance, often making us all smile through the tears. They’re going to be released as a book in 2021, but it’s something that really belongs in the very best of 2020.
— Richard Bruton
*Note: A previous version of this list featured the work of a man accused of abusive and predatory behavior. Once we were made aware of the allegations against him, he and his work was immediately removed. We deeply regret any hurt caused by offering him recognition.*