What: The 12-hour, 24-part animated epic Broken Saints, released on the internet from 2001 to 2003:

The entirety of Broken Saints can be seen at brokensaints.com.

Why: Macromedia’s Flash program democratized animation. Prior to the advent of Flash, major animated series were the exclusive province of the Disney-and-FOX set. Broken Saints took advantage of the accessible technology, bringing rich comic-book storytelling into the moving pictures age. Over a three-year run, director Brooke Burgess spun an intertwining serial featuring four unwilling heroes: Raimi, a disaffected Canadian hacker; Kamimura, an elderly Japanese monk; Shandala, a possibly psychic Fijian girl; and Oran, a stunningly sympathetic Iraqi terrorist. (Remember, this is 2001.) The quartet is drawn toward a Sauronesque eye, and may or may not save the world. With its deep messages about religion and technology, Broken Saints is slow, confusing, and ultimately revelatory. It’s the animated equivalent of an Aronofsky film or a Radiohead album. Check your ADD at the door, parcel it out slowly, and prepare to be blown away.

Impact: As the series unfolded, it caused a legion of tech-savvy readers to stop dead when a new chapter was released. Originally released with no voiceovers (my preferred version), Broken Saints was so successful that the animators redrew the entire first half for the DVD release. There is talk of a video game and possibly a TV miniseries. And it inspired a wave of Flash graphic novels such as City of Thamesis. Broken Saints made the internet cool.

Personal Connection: Broken Saints came out at a time when I had soured on comic books. I was just exiting my Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game phase, during which I had developed the opinion that the comic book storytelling style was dying. Broken Saints inspired me to believe that the style, with an appropriately worthwhile message, was still salvageable. I still don’t read comics much, but now I think it’s possible that I might in the future.

Other Contenders: Tokyoplastic’s Drum Machine, if you’re into adorable little geishas banging their heads into things; Roman Dirge’s not-safe-for-hamsters chronicles of Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl; much of Homestar Runner, but especially the really quite unique Ballad of the Sneak; Hallmark’s addictive advertising team of Hoops & Yoyo.