There are a lotta Webcomics out there, but there's only so much time in a given day. And during the holiday season, when you sneak off to "check your work email" as an excuse to avoid your mother asking "When you'll find someone nice to settle down with?" ComicsAlliance would like to help you maximize those precious moments of freedom by giving you a list of ten places to visit on your mini-Internet-vacation.

The Best Webcomics of 2009:

1) Hark A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

We've praised Kate Beaton's work before, calling it the Best Webcomic Collection of 2009, and so it's no surprise that she lands the top spot on this list.

For those unfamiliar, "Hark A Vagrant!" is like a better-drawn "XKCD" for history buffs. Sometimes the humor is specifically directed toward Canadian history that I don't understand, but despite my ignorance, I still find those strips amusing. (Wikipedia can help you add another level of humor! Won't you donate today? Why aren't you donating?)

There's a real sense of heart in each of Beaton's works, wether it's mocking the hipsters of yesteryear, explaining the rockstar appeal of Nikola Tesla, proving Pope John Paul keeps it real, or talking to her former-self.

It's #1, so maybe you should just take our word for it? (Yes, yes you should.)

The Meek is great for several reasons. First, it's like a Disney movie in webcomic form, but for adults, which, yes, makes me miss watching "The Lion King." I can't help it, the style is simple, but colored beautifully, and it takes me back to the good ol' days of when animation ruled the silver screen. Second, the story is complex, but easy to follow. The characters are readily identifiable, and each page progresses the story nicely. Third, the quality is such that it could come out twice a month with little anger from the Internet community, yet, it's been updated every week since its beginning on January 1, 2009.

My only complaint is that "The Meek" deserves to be printed and Chapter 1 is currently out-of-stock until after the New Year. Unlike most Webcomics, that can wrap-up in a single page, "The Meek" is telling a story, a story that you want to read all at once, not forever clicking to view on a computer screen.

Now on its eighth year, one would expect "Achewood" to drop in quality. Some readers have been Internet-complaining that the it isn't as funny as it used to be, but I say those people are mostly comprised of adolescent man-boys who miss the semi-regular fart and dick jokes.

It's true that "Achewood" is coming out on a less-than-regular basis these days, but those who have been reading "Achewood" since the beginning know that Chris Onstad has never really set goals for when new strips should be posted, and on the rare occasion that he does, is usually late.

"Achewood" managed to handle the death of Michael Jackson in a way that made readers reflect and laugh at the same time, set up a text-only "Magical Realism" worldset with Kim Kong Il and a cocaine-addicted squirrel, took a horribly realistic look at how depression affects its main characters, and then this weirdly-fantastic thing happened.

2009 was a quality year for Achewood. But to be honest, I'm in the same adolescent boat as the whiners, because I too kinda miss Fuck You Fridays.

Great Guest Strip - Tony Millionaire "The 90 MPH Living Room."

Questionable Content celebrated its 1,500th strip this year, which is no small feature for any comic creator, print or web. The Webcomic is updated on a daily basis, a feat that only Sinfest seems to be able to do with any true quality, and not even close to the detail and character development that "Questionable Content" has to offer.

QC isn't an intellectual comic. It isn't going to set new standards in art or writing, but it comes out every freakin' day with consistent quality. The plot is occasionally repetitive, at its lowest feeling like a cross between "Friends" and "The Big Bang Theory," and the world outside 20-somethings who love sex and computers is basically non-existent. Still, it's a good comic. A good comic that gets more comfortable with its characters and its art, making it somewhat novel in an over-saturated market of mediocrity.

Plus, cops doing drugs, animals cursing, and having fun finding strange dildos!

Dresden Codak is one of the most glorious, intelligent pieces of art happening on the web today. Perhaps second only toBodyworld in 2008. Unfortunately, it knows it, and takes advantage of its readers at times because of its greatness. Either through its highly irregular updates (once a month, if you're lucky), or its inside jokes that only a handful of people can understand, Dresden Codak can be down right daunting and almost off-putting.

I can't fault Aaron Diaz too much, however, because when Dresden Codak hits the mark, it excels in more ways than most Webcomics only dream to, as in the case of Harvey Ismuth's 42 Essential 3rd Act Twists or The Sleepwalkers, which is my favorite Webcomic update of 2009.

With the exception of Questionable Content, Octopus Pie might be the best example of realistic characters that evolve over time. Actually, now that I think about it, Octopus Pie is the best Webcomic with realistic characters that evolve over time. (Sorry QC, but you're at #4, so don't be sad.)

Unfortunately, it's somewhat difficult to just jump into Octopus Pie because of its character development. But, once you do, you'll be rewarded for your time with an ongoing story of a realistic character, Eve, whose anger and sarcasm is near and dear to my black soul.

Even with its high-level of investment, Octopus Pie throws in some one-liners, often about Hanna, Eve's habitually stone roommate, and things like the evil of unicyclists, which I assure you, is not a legitimate form of transportation.

In 2009 Meredith Gran relocated from Brooklyn, where the comic is set, to the comic-epicenter of Portland, OR. I hope this doesn't take away from the authentic portrayal of New York, and knowing her work, I suspect it won't.

Its funny, cute, and often relevant, all with super-expressive character drawn in the simplest of lines. Really, what's not to love?

See? You love it too!

Overcompensating is updated on a regular basis, and is almost always funny. There's that word though, almost, that keeps it at #8. Because too often I find myself disappointed at the time I wasted reading a particular stip.

To further my rage, the layout of site bothers me, deeply. No, I don't know why, but I suspect you'll feel the same way after visiting the page. Design is important in any medium, and if your medium is a website, you should taylor that platform so it is as appealing to the consumer as possible. Thankfully, whenever my blood is angered, I happen on a gem like this my disapproval is instantly quelled.

In the end, Doctor Monkey is enough to wade through the less funny strips in order to find a bit of gold.

Gunshow is, admittedly, not a sure bet. I wish it was, because if it were, it would be much higher on this list. The good parts of Gunshow are like reading your favorite Nickelodeon cartoon with the language of South Park. At times, its irreverent humoris funny on a universal level. Other times is manages to be nerdy even amongst a setting of nerds.

Thankfully, or maybe unfortunately, the strips often conjures up the letter W-T-F. And there are those times when it's just funny enough to make me miss Perry Bible Fellowship.

WARNING: The site is super NSFW. Unless you're cool with your boss knowing you get off on cartoon porn.

Okay, there's not a lot of story here - doin' it with a human, or doin' it with a robot, or fun party with all of the above. But I love it because it's hot and classy and steam-punkish, and created by a woman who understands art and sex. Jess Fink is one of those artists that you're grateful is making anything, so while it's last on this list, it's still very much worth your time. Alone time.

Goldman is the brilliant creator of Shooting War, so anything he does should spark interest. "Yes We Will" the combination of the Internet's most valuable memes - Obama and Singularity. The short strip is funny, topical, and most importantly, hopeful. Yes, I dream of this Webcomic becoming a reality. Until then, I'll settle for health care than doesn't bankrupt me.

Those That Didn't Make The Cut:

1) No, XKCD isn't on this list. It's great, and I dig it, but it hasn't manage to get any better with time. It's not worse either, but I've moved on. I'm not going to create a whole site just to bitch about it like though . . .

2) Wondermark is hilarious at times, much funnier than the similar, and much lazier, Married to the Sea. But both seem, well, not funny too often for either to be included in this list.

3) Finder by Carla Speed McNeil is pretty amazing, but since it's sort of an Image comic I didn't include it. Maybe I should have, but I didn't. It's still worth reading though.

Webcomics are supposedly the savior of sequential art. They allow complete creative control, and the ability to dictate all channels of distribution and profit. If that's true, then we should hold them to a high standard. Each of the comics on this Top 10 List have gotten better with time. Their creators are dedicated to the field. Hell, they basically bank their entire livelihood on them.

They are true artists.

After all the free content they've given us, it might be a nice holiday gesture to support their work monetarily.

Or, just check out the other cool stuff on ComicsAlliance.

Happy 2010!

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