Anyone who reads comics or has tried to get into comics knows about the Big Two: DC and Marvel. They are the titans of the comic world and have provided us with generations of stories and characters. But as the industry has developed, especially in America, new, smaller independent publishers have come on to the scene and brought with them new flavors of our beloved medium. Some of them have grown out of DC and Marvel, and others have developed completely independently, but each of them has something great to offer. There are a bunch of indie publishers, but here are five that I’ve found produce some of my favorite comics.
Boom! Studios is an independent publisher who is probably best known for their Adventure Time and Lumberjanes titles. I found Boom! after having been recommended Lumberjanes for years, and have since fallen in love with several of their other titles. Many of their comics share a similar artistic style, but they have a number of unique and talented artists, as well as an excellent variety of important stories that are told through their pages. If you’re a fan of Lumberjanes I highly recommend checking out Giant Days. Destroyer and Irredeemable are both far darker, but amazing stories that I will happily lend out of my library any day of the week. Titles such as Lumberjanes and Giant Days are squarely in the “safe for work” category and would provide an excellent introduction to someone looking for relationship and friend focused stories.
IDW has one of the greatest range of styles that I’ve seen from independent publishers, with their titles ranging from My Little Pony and Sonic The Hedgehog to Samurai Jack to Locke and Key, Orphan Black, The X-Files and Asassinistas. Locke and Key is Lovecraftian, and dark, while My Little Pony is a literal explosion of rainbows. IDW expanded to include books and video games, as well as other forms of entertainment, all of which I highly recommend as well. Their book Zombies Vs. Robots : This Means War is an excellent collection of short stories about various potential endings of the world. Everything that I have read from them has been well crafted and high-caliber.
Image Comics is obviously a big name, but I do include them in the list of independent comic publishers because of some key tenants in their creation, and the fact that they are not actually a part of The Big Two (Marvel and DC). In their original charter, they included the idea that creators owned their work, not the publishing company. Their best-known titles include The Wicked and the Divine, The Walking Dead and Saga. I highly recommend checking out their other titles such as Lazarus, East of West and Morning Glories. Their work tends to fall on the darker end of the spectrum, but the stories told are well worth the read. Saga still holds a special place in my heart for one of the most realistic moments of a new mother that I have ever seen. I am someone who will stop reading a comic if I’m not in to the art, but I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by the storytelling that I’ve found in Image’s pages, so much so that I have come back to comics I previously had put down and was compelled to keep reading.
Vertigo is another big name on the comics scene. While it is an imprint of DC, and I’m not the biggest DC fan, I have been consistently impressed with Vertigo’s publications. Working independent from DC, they have published titles such as Y: the Last Man, Fables, Preacher, Transmetropolitan and Sandman. Y: The Last Man is and will always be on my list of comics to introduce people to, if for no other reason that I love explaining that it examines what happens if everything with a Y chromosome died suddenly, overnight, except for one man and his monkey. Fables served as the basis for the Telltale Games produced video game The Wolf Among Us, and focuses on the lives of fairy tale characters living in New York. Alternate realities and twists on our own are common fare in the pages of Vertigo’s publications and I highly recommend checking them out for some excellent world bending.
The majority of Zenescope’s titles hold a solid place in the “adult horror fairy tale retelling” category. They also have titles such as Red Agent and Escape from Monster Island that are not fairy tale related, but some of their most prevalent titles include Robyn Hood, Wonderland, and Oz. I very squarely put Zenescope’s work in the “adult” category, and would not recommend their publications to younger audiences. That said, I love their work. Re-imagining fairy tales and older stories is something that I have always loved, and seeing a new interpretation of an established story is always exciting to me. As an independent comic publisher they have chosen a niche and stuck with it, a choice that I think works very much in their favor. If I’m looking for sexy, horror-infused, fairy tales, I know exactly where to go.