Some time ago I was asked what I thought was the best written web-comic. Was it Sluggy Freelance, was it PvP, was it Schlock Mercenary, It's Walky, College Roomies from Hell, Clan of the Cats, Wandering Ones, RPG World, or the like? I surprised the person asking the question by naming a sprite comic as the best written web comic running.
Generally, I hate sprite comics. Free hosting sites like Keenspace were flooded with people putting various sprite rips of Mario, Sonic, and Mega-man together. Some of the sprite comics did rub off on me, such as Bob and George and Alan Solivan's Author Space.
Bob and George was largely a pioneer in the sprite-comic world, and if you can think of a cliche that's used in sprite comics, Bob and George probably did it first. Author Space was largely a spin-off of Alan's The Rogue's Gallery comic, one I enjoyed not only for Alan's great artwork, but also because it was genuinely well written.
As time went on, Bob and George became not just a home page for the webcomic featuring Bob and George, but also a portal to some of the better sprite comics. Sure, a lot of the comics posted through Bob and George were junk, but some gems did shine through.
There was Universal Voyage which was excellent, until I think NW got clonked on the head by Reichsman or something. Oddball Fancomics was worth a read. Evil Inc., which is not related to the spin-off from Greystone Inn was one of the better comics. Taco: the Comic started off slow, but trust me, get to the world ending flood of Taco's, and you'll be glad you did so.
The best comic by far though, and I mean, it really was the best comic, was Ramnesis's Jailhouse Blues. The jokes were original, the plot-line was ludicrous, and the sense of meta-humor through the whole comic just worked. I'd be hard-pressed to name any other web-comic that I looked forward to updating as much as I did Jailhouse Blues.
Then Ramnesis just... disappeared. Nobody on the Bob and George forums knew what happened to him, or if they did, they weren't saying. What was worse for readers like me is that Ramnesis was in the middle of a story-arc that had just exited an extensive psychotic dream scenario and had gotten back to the main story arc against a... well... transforming, regenerating reploid that has gone maverick. Players of any Megaman X game are probably blinking and praying they didn't read that right.
Does Jailhouse Blues stack up as one of the best written webcomics now?
Oh no. Howard Taylor's Schlock Mercenary has come a long way in it's story quality since the days when Jailhouse Blues was updating. There's also comics like Girl Genius and Erfworld being updated these days, and they set a pretty high bar for writing quality.
That being said, the lack of an ending for Jailhouse Blues has always bugged me. I keep wondering what happened to Ramnesis anyways? When other webcomics have ended, many without really resolving plotlines, I basically haven't cared. I doubt there's any that I'd be searching for 3 or 4 years later wondering if the author ever got around to writing a proper ending.
Jailhouse Blues? Well, it was good enough back then to keep me hoping that somewhere Ramnesis will pop back-up and at least finish the story.