I freaking love comics. So many comics. Too many to put in one single list. We all like different things. Some of us like big two comics. Other’s may prefer large publisher creator owned work while other’s dig the small press. I like all of that. I’ll cover my favorites from the different corners of comic book publishing over the month of December.
For this week I’ll be covering Small Press, Underground or Alternative comics that I generally cover in Drawing from Below
So this is a very special distinction and group of comics that I’ve been championing since NBC has started. As Cosmo and I discussed on my previous post “indie” doesn’t really mean anything in terms of quality it’s only a factor of how it operates as a business. What is cool about the smaller publishers is that they can do intersting comics that probably aren’t going to attract a large enough audience to go through the larger indie publishers like your Image or Darkhorse comics. But the thing is that at least 70% of the top creative talent now started out doing these types of comics. Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Lark and David Mack all started at a small publisher named Calliber making crime comics. Jeff Lemire and Rick Rememnder’s first comics were self published. Even all time greats like Grant Morrison and Alan Moore started out in small indie zines that were popular in England in the 1970’s. If you like a superhero comic right now there is a pretty good chance the writer started off doing comics like this. Instead of ranking the books I’m going to highlight some personal favorites. Honorable mention to Private Eye, Theremin, It Will All Hurt, Black Church, Blue is The Warmest Color, Rachel Rising and Black Sheep.
Blobby Boys is a hilarious sort of slice of life story about a bunch of dudes in bands that are all scumbags and douche bags in a local music scene. From their hilarity ensues. There isn’t much story here besides people and blobs being huge fucking dicks to one another with the occasional stabbing. But people being dicks to one another is hillarious when done well and Alex Schubert manages the kind of restraint nessecary for the sort of dry/slapstick humor to work seemlessly. On a macro level this also works as a satire of local music scenes and all that but really douche bags are universal. It’s something we can all laugh at. Unless your a douche bag. You should probably just keep reading comics by these guys. This might offend you.
I gotta admit that I like Monkey Brain a lot more in spirit then actual content. Most of their stuff they started off with didn’t catch me and yes I understand Bandette is Eisner winning and fucking amazing and all that but I’m looking for something higher stakes and High Crimes is that comic. New comers Seebala and Moustafa create an engrossing murder thriller whose scope and intensity is unmatched. The story centers on a down and out ex athlete wasting away in the Himalya’s who crosses the wrong federal agent and is forced outrun them up Mount Everest. Chrisopher Seebala weaves a tight interconnected narrative about shadow agencies and ex pats in the 3rd world while Moustafa creates an excellent visual representation of the destitute man made infrastructure against the overwhelmingly fantastic natural surroundings.
As with all DeForge titles Kid Mafia is not quite what it seems and quietly brilliant. The story works as a mash up between punk rock teen memoir and gangster crime fiction that explores the idea of love, lust and friendship for “young adults” at the tail end of their teens. For DeForge there is never easy anwsers or happy endings. The world feels real as it speaks to an age of confusion for everyone that is about to become an “adult” by technicality without having any idea what that means. Also skateboarders in gang turf wars. DeForge is hitting notes unlike anybody else in comics and Kid Mafia is his most straight forward representation of what makes him a special talent.
Probably one of the three or four best comics of 2013. This was by far the best and most rewarding Superhero comic of the year with just the right mix of old and new. Read more my full review on Battling Boy here
A fantastic psychedelic trip inside a childs imagination. Turns out a young mind is the strongest drug of all. Read my full review here
This is a fantastic set of original graphic novels by Gene Luen Yang about the infamous Boxers Rebellion told from the POV of separate protagonist on both sides of the conflict. The story is an excellent examination of Chinese history and folklore, the effects of imperialism, the challenges of family and the power of spiritualism. Epic in the truest sense of the word.
Out of all the comics listed here this is probably the one I read the most. I actually have a screenshot of one panel saved on my phone. If your a dog lover then you’ll understand after you read the comic. Inman who I discuss here does an amazing job of profiling man’s best friend and all the things that make us love them. Truly enduring and heartfelt like nothing else.
One of the final comics to be published from Picture Box Pompeii is a stunning narrative about a doomed romance in an ancient city facing a natural disaster that nobody was prepared to understand. One part love story, one part historical fiction and one part coming of age story Pompeii is an excellent window inside a personal loss within a large scale tragedy
For all of DeForge’s strong comic book work over the last few years Lose has been his strongest comic to date. This years five is his “crime issue” but really it’s all the things that DeForge does well with it’s examination of our relationships and motivations set in his surreal vision of our world. One of the strongest ongoing comic series on the market. Read more about DeForge here
This stark and violent story of gang violence in Newark, NJ in the 1960’s is as affecting for me today as it was when I first read it this summer. Iron Bound is well written visual narrative on the cyclical nature of violence in American Cities and humanities darkest impulses. Read more about Iron Bound here
This right here is FUCKING COMIC BOOK. Fiffes self published balls to wall superhero saga is an exhibition in all the things that comics do better then anything else. The art is fucking awesome in a Frank Miller/Klaus Johnson in their prime type of way and it works to propel the tight and engrossing narrative of a group of misfit superhumans and their misadventures in a world that is looking to destroy them. This is exactly what I want in superhero comics with a style that creates a refreshingly new and unique take on a well worn genre that still feels completely familiar in the best way possible. And did I mention this is self published? As in he’s written, drawn, colored, printed and distributed twelve issues by himself. Think of all the super hero comics that are being published by large companies that are just decent. Think of the ones that are mediocre. Think of all the ones that are shit. These companies that are backed by large corporations, have loads of money flowing in from TV and Film rights and intellectual property that is popular enough to sell itself but all together they couldn’t do more than a small handful of superhero comics that were as good as this. There are superhero comics and then there is Copra. If you can get your hands on it buy it.