When Right returned in early 2022 after a multi-year hiatus, its triumphant reception proved that indie comics have a large audience of their own. Typically distinguished by being outside of DC and Marvel, indie comics also have their own style, and usually tell a unique type of story not found in the two main publishers.
Whether it is alternative superhero tales like invincible or terrifying horror stories like The Department of Truth, indie comics have something for every type of reader. Though the history of indie comics is packed with classics, users on Reddit took to the site to mention the ones that they think are the best.
Indie comics excel when they combine established tropes together into a brand new mixture of things. User gregnar mentioned one of their favorites when they wrote “coda has a really good story and art is top notch. It’s also only 3 volumes so a good starter”.
Like a mixture of classic fantasy tales like Lord of the Rings and post-apocalyptic stories like Mad Max, coda gave readers a unique look at a fantastical realm. With a near silent protagonist, the reader is given a largely visual story that keeps them engaged with fascinating art and character designs. Though it only lasted for a 12 issue run, Boom! Studios gave fans one of the most unique pieces of fantasy.
The Department Of Truth (2020-Present)
Image quickly positioned itself as the foremost producer of great indie comics, and they continue to produce strong content. User UChoosePoorly_ID_242 mentioned a recent example of their greatness, writing “Department of Truth…like The X-Files but going deeper with demons, the government, metaphors, Etc”.
Considered one of the best Image Comics of 2021, Department of Truth poses an interesting question to its readers–what if all conspiracy theories could be true? With that jumping off point, the stories explore history and the present day through the lens of global conspiracy. With shifting art styles from month to month, the book has a semi-psychedelic feeling that makes the reader feel like they’re being sucked into the nightmarish world of the story.
The medium of comics is usually about escapism, but it has also been used to document some of the worst parts of human history. User omgItsGhostDog brought up their favorite non-fiction comic when they said “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale… It’s about a Jewish American cartoonist documenting his father’s life during WWII”.
Told in a series of black-and-white comic strips mouse casts its characters as mice or cats, and it pulls no punches with its gut-wrenching depiction of history. Never letting up for a second, the bleakness of reality settles in on the reader and it is a truly harrowing experience. in a way, mouse is a beautiful expression of pain, and it shows the real power of the comic as an art form.
I Hate Fairyland (2015-Present)
The art of comics often uses ironic juxtaposition to defy the readers expectations about a story, and the brightest imagery can accompany the darkest tale. User DarthRubiks12 summed up their favorite indie comic when they wrote “I Hate Fairyland is a great dark comedy series”.
Despite its fantastical setting, I Hate Fairyland is a sinisterly comedic tale about a woman who wants nothing more than to escape. Using bright imagery throughout, the book has adult themes that seem hilariously out of place in the story’s magical realm. Also, the fact that the main character is an adult in a child’s body, makes things all the more funny.
The Good Asian (2021-Present)
Unlike a lot of the bigger books from the two main publishers, indie comics can use the medium to tell deeply personal stories. User timesuck897 got specific when talking about a comic, writing “The Good Asian it’s great. It’s pulpy noir comic art in 1936 San Francisco Chinatown. It goes into the history of the Chinese exclusion act”.
Looking like it was ripped straight out of the best noir films, The Good Asian‘s visuals are as striking as its story. With mysteries that will keep the reader enthraled, the comic also tells a story about a conflicted man who is torn between his duty to his country, and his duty to his people. Fiercely original, few comics captured the emotional weight of its character’s plight quite like it.
Sweet Tooth (2009-2021)
Post-apocalyptic stories are common, but occasionally a comic comes along and turns the tired trope on its ear. User idontwantthatpanda proudly exclaimed their favorite comic, simply stating “Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lenore, it’s amazing”.
As far as original indie comics go, Sweet Tooth stands head and shoulders above the rest. With a main character that is a human/deer hybrid, the rest of the post-apocalyptic world follows suit with its own weirdness. At its heart though, the book is about acceptance and humanity’s desire to learn more about the world around them, even if it is dangerous.
Unlike the restrictive boundaries of film and TV, comic books can seemingly take their stories anywhere they want. User _wretchedbanana_ spoke broadly about a certain indie classic when they wrote “My favorite will always be Chew”.
Chew follows an FDA agent who can receive clues about crimes by consuming food, including human flesh, from crime scenes. With its premise in place, the comic series wastes no time in exploiting its setup to the absolute fullest. Agent Chu is a likable protagonist, and his desire to solve crimes is enough for him to overcome his stomach-churning psychic affliction.
Astro City (1995-2000)
Though indie comics are mostly known for great non-superhero graphic novels, occasionally a classic hero tale can get an indie twist. User ChickenInASuit mentioned their favorite superhero indie book, commenting “Astro City…It’s a superhero comic obv, but it’s an Indie one and it’s one of the best superhero comics ever written”.
Told in anthology format, the super-powered denizens of the comic’s title city are the subject of each month’s book. What separates the series from other, more mainstream superhero comics, is that it has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach to superheroes without being a downright parody. It has everything for both indie comic fans, and for readers of more conventional superhero comics.
Superheroes in mainstream comics usually conform to a strict moral code that keeps them on the straight and narrow. User BitterArsenic commended a certain indie book for the opposite reason when writing “invincible…It’s a superhero book but it’s not Marvel or DC. Imagine what would happen if someone as powerful as Superman wasn’t held back by kid friendly writing”.
Essentially a coming of age story with superheroes, invincible follows a young man as he learns the ropes in the shadow of his world famous father. Untethered from strict censorship, the book shows both aspects of the main character’s life, and both sides are equally compelling. Even for more traditional comic fans, invincible features a wide array of awesome powers and great superhero action.
Despite strange premises and wacky characters, indie comics usually feature stories that are universally appealing. User omgItsGhostDog was happy to share a favorite indie comic book when they wrote “Right…A Sci-Fi/Fantasy universe about a family just trying their best (pretty much all I can say about the plot without spoiling anything)”.
Right is an example of what makes indie comics great in the first place. The premise is simple, but the universe that the story takes place in is creative and enthralling. With an epic backdrop of science fiction, the comic really relies on the strength of its characters, and their desire to lead a normal life as a family.
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