Webcomics make the AV Clubs Best Comics of the Decade List
AV Club has been doing Best of the Decade lists all month, many of which have been excellent and surprising. Recently, they released their Best Comics of the Decade. Two webcomics made the cut, and they’re accompanied by interesting observations about the medium:
Achewood, Chris Onstad (achewood.com, 2001-present)
This was the decade when webcomics tried to step up and prove they deserve a place alongside the great newspaper strips of the past, but Chris Onstad’s Achewood is one of the few that’s proven worthy of the challenge. Hiding some powerfully good storytelling behind simple art, Achewood quickly evolved from a reliably funny gag strip to a still funny but surprisingly deep character-driven comedy that’s stayed sharp no matter what bizarre direction it’s veered in. Ray and Roast Beef, the central funny-animal protagonists—human-like in their bad behavior, if nothing else—form the strip’s spine, and Onstad has found humor and meaning in their enjoyably quirky argot and exploration of the meaning of adult friendships. When he wants to go for more broad or surreal humor, he’s been able to draw on a bench of supporting characters as deep as any great sitcom’s.
American Elf, James Kochalka (americanelf.com/Top Shelf, 1998-present)
Billed as “James Kochalka’s Collected Sketchbook Diaries,” the three volumes (and counting) of American Elf offer far more than the solipsistic scribbling of yet another autobiographical cartoonist. Limiting himself to a maximum of four panels per day of his life, Kochalka distills oceans of poignancy into tidy, even Zen-like teacups. Kochalka’s strips, as always, possess a deceptively innocuous virtuosity, and his prosaic yet dreamlike anecdotes about daily life, fatherhood, and videogames controlled by erect penises deserve multiple readings—not to mention recognition for making a seamless crossover between webcomic and graphic novel. Above all, though, American Elf is drop-dead funny, and Kochalka’s organic, semisweet humor skims self-deprecation without plunging into self-loathing.