The superhero industry has been in full bloom since the start of Marvel’s cinematic “Phase One” back in 2008. Comic book sales have thus been on a steady incline as more and more people are introduced to this timeless artistic medium. There’s more to comics, however, than just the usual superheroes and supervillains. There’s also an ever-expansive spectrum of creator-owned and independently created stories and characters. I’m talking, of course, about the wildly celebrated world of independent comics.
About.com defines an “Independent Comic” as a comic that:
Is usually creator-owned
Is self-published or published through a small publishing company
Often has a small print run
Perhaps the most notable and recognizable independent comic of all time is The Walking Dead, which has undeniably paved the way for the mass acceptance of other independent titles. The Walking Dead will celebrate its 10th year of publication this October as well as it’s 4th season as a wildly popular TV series. Basically, it’s become a media and financial juggernaut that no one could have anticipated. Eric Stephenson, Publisher of Image Comics, speaks to The Walking Dead‘s role in the ascension of independent comics in a recent interview with MultiversityComics.com:
“You know, I think I’d be pretty disingenuous if I tried to deny the impact The Walking Dead has had on Image over the last few years. Being associated with a successful television show has absolutely been a positive thing for us, and it has helped make the comic book series the perfect gateway to other Image titles. In addition to that, I think the success of both the comic book and the television show pointed a great big neon arrow at creator-owned comics, a gigantic sign that said, ‘IT CAN BE DONE!’ and made writers and artists everywhere a little more aware of what creator-owned comics are capable of.”
The Walking Dead has certainly had an undeniable impact, but if it weren’t for the overall quality and freshness of the titles that are being released then none of this would matter. With new series like East of West, Dream Thief, Jupiter’s Legacy, and The Wake setting the bar, the time of the indie comic has come!
So what is it about these high caliber indie comics that make them so unique? Well for starters, most of these stories and series are passion pieces by the creators themselves. They are creator-owned, and in some cases involve stories that the authors have wanted to tell since before they even had much of a career at all. So many of the writers and illustrators are reflected in these indie comics, and that’s what usually makes them so wonderful and exciting to read. Often, when writing a story about a well-known character within Marvel or DC, there are so many limitations imposed by the publisher to fall in canon with the character’s history, previous stories, and future stories. This usually means that a creative team’s artistic liberties are wildly limited, and the quality of the story can often reflect that.
Indie comics are also open to a wider range of diversity. Stories in independent titles usually stand alone and are not required to fit into any larger universe. The story represents only itself and the creative passion that fueled it. This is a refreshing notion that allows the reader to simply appreciate the overall quality presented from issue to issue.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen many well-established authors from popular Marvel and DC titles make their way back to the world of indie comics. Some of the most notable among these are Matt Fraction (Hawkeye, Satellite Sam), Scott Snyder (Batman, The Wake), Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Fatale), and Jonathan Hickman (Avengers, East of West). Several writers and illustrators have even adopted the “indie” feel on some of their more major publications. Perhaps the most successful and recognizable would be the ongoing Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction and David Aja. Writer Mark Waid has also brought an indie comic feel to his runs on both Daredevil and Indestructible Hulk. All three of these titles have thoroughly demonstrated the allure that this creator-driven style of comic has on readers.
Whether it’s vampires vs. zombies, a master thief, a sleepwalking assassin, or deep sea explorers, there is an indie comic out there with your name on it. In a time where cover prices and ad page counts skyrocket in mainstream comics, take the opportunity to invest in high quality, creator-owned work where you’re likely to find more bang for your buck. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Marvel and DC and will always be a fan of the Avengers and Superman, so nothing against these stories and characters that have stood the test of time. I’m simply suggesting taking advantage of the brave new world of independent comics and exploring the countless options that lay before you. Happy reading!
Most people call me JJ. I’m 23 and currently working as a freelance web-designer as I finish up my schooling. I’m a huge comic book fan and I have an immense appreciation for the medium. I can’t believe that one of my multiple jobs involves reading and writing about comic books. I hope that, not only can my readers learn something from me, but that I can learn something from them as well.