While the most titanic publishing companies in comics, Marvel and DC, continue to be the driving force behind comic book production and sales, they don't represent the entirety of what the world of comics has to offer. Their storytelling mechanics and means of narrative structure are but two options in a sprawling wealth of choices, where the independent comic often offers a curious departure from their rigid parameters.
The beauty of indie comics lies in the fact that they often disembark from preconceived notions of how comic books should be. They deviate from the norms of what a hero should be, who a villain should be, and how they should be contrasted. It's in the world of indie comics that you'll find stories that are too extreme for the palate of casual comic book readers, or even just too eccentric in their themes. Here are the 10 best indie comics you should be reading if you haven't started them already.
10 UMBRELLA ACADEMY
While it can’t exactly be called an “indie” comic anymore due to its massive success as a Netflix Original Series, Umbrella Academy by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way was a sleeper hit in the comics community and remained a cult classic until its recent first season premier on the streaming service.
The series focuses on the seven adoptees of billionaire Sir Reginald Hardgreeves who, like the 43 other infants inexplicably born in 1989, have superhuman abilities that make them perfect for the superhero team their father wishes to construct. Unfortunately, he mysteriously passes before it takes off, forcing them to look past their personal differences to be the force for good he always wanted them to be.
9 PAPER GIRLS
From the gifted mind of Brian K. Vaughan who’s responsible for several other amazing indie titles comes Paper Girls, the story of four preteen newspaper delivery girls who uncover one of the greatest stories of all time on Halloween night in 1988. With all the nostalgia and quirkiness of the ‘80s combined with compelling YA drama that doesn’t insult your intelligence, it’s no wonder this beautiful series was named one of the best of the year by The Chicago Tribune.
If you like the ironic uniqueness of suburban drama, sampled with extraterrestrial mystery and the somber magic of the last days of childhood, this escapade is for you. With Stranger Things finishing next year, you’ll want to get ready for the Paper Girls series currently being developed by Amazon!
For fans of the truly fantastical, look no further than Ether from the mind of Matt Kindt, specializing in the sort of inter-dimensional sci-fi that you’ll either love or hate for its weirdness. Follow the adventuring duo of Boone and Glum as they navigate the Ether’s magical landscape, endeavoring to solve mysteries for its mystical residents.
Where Boone is a science-minded brainiac, Glum is the blustering brawn, but both complement each other as they try to differentiate what’s real and what’s not as they solve the murder of the Ether’s guardian. Taxis are giant puffing squid and bullets are tiny babies. Need we say more?
7 DEATH BE DAMNED
For fans of supernatural horror and fantasy, grab a copy of Death be Damned and follow the vengeance fueled journey of Miranda Coler, the young woman whose family was brutally murdered by outlaws. The only catch is Miranda’s dead too, and can’t rest in peace until she gets her revenge.
It’s refreshing to see the “lone gunslinger” trope turned on its head, making the protagonist a young woman who recently lost her husband and child on the frontier. There aren’t nearly enough stories like that, nor are they set in the Wild West. A little bit of Spawn and Jane Got A Gun, this is one wild ride by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker you won’t want to end until the final pages beautifully illustrated by Hannah Christenson.
6 THEY'RE NOT LIKE US
For those that appreciate their mutant stories edgier, without some of the polish found in say, the X-Men franchise, they’ll enjoy They’re Not Like Us, the Eisner-nominated story about those in the world that are born with certain abilities but aren’t necessarily compelled to take up a cape and cowl to protect it.
This series deals with individuals born with mutant abilities but struggle with the same trials and tribulations as normal humans; loss, betrayal, suicide, death, and infidelity. For anyone that has ever felt on the “other side” of society, made to feel rejected by its norms, this series may be for you.
If you’re a fan of space and time anomalies and action-adventure, Ei8ht will hit your sweet spot. It follows Joshua, a chrononaut (think time-traveling astronaut) who’s been trapped in the Meld, a dimension full of danger at every turn. Unable to contact the team of scientists that got him there, and with no memory of his arrival, Joshua must rely on his wits and a strange voice in his head.
Full of unsettling characters and inhospitable environments, the dazzling artwork by Rafael Albuurue will transport you fully into the pages of Ei8ht and not let you tear your eyes away. Explore the realm beyond the time stream, and see what else “washes up” with Joshua, including creatures from all time periods on Earth.
4 GENERATION GONE
Movies like The New Mutants have purported to examine what happens when young mutants that never asked to be born with certain abilities are kept at secret facilities and forced to confront their nature. But what happens when they’re not taken in, whether in a malevolent way such as that or in a more altruistic way like at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in X-Men?
Generation Gone explores what occurs when young, angry, and impoverished adults with superhuman abilities get abandoned. They struggle just as much as anyone with the normal trials of adolescence, combined with the ability to destroy planets and unleash toxic venom on the world. It’s a fantastic look at the struggle and burden of superhero survival.
3 PUNK MAMBO
A fresh take on the Constantine model of supernatural sleuth and exorcist, Punk Mambo follows the adventures of the titular character, a hard-living voodoo priestess from London. Rocking a serious pink mohawk and now living in the Bayou of Louisiana, she’s a mercenary of the mystical persuasion, using all the spells in her spellbook to rid the area of things that go bump in the night.
In her first solo series, Punk Mambo goes after whoever (or whatever) is abducting people in the local punk scene. But the kidnapping doesn’t stop there, and it may lead the voodoo priestess all the way to Haiti to solve the mystery. Part Constantine, part Tank Girl, all attitude!
Sometimes being a great detective means having an excellent sense of observation combined with a keen sense of deductive reasoning. Sometimes it means being cibopathic, and gaining psychic impressions from the things that you consume. This is the unique ability of Tony Chu, hero of the Special Crimes Division of the FDA.
Tony only gets the most bizarre cases, aided by his bizarre talent. How does he go about solving the mysteries of the most powerful law agency on the planet? By gnawing on a few corpses, that’s how! Full of shocking imagery and some terrific gasto-humor, this comic is as side-splitting as it is bone-tickling.
While this series can hardly be considered an “indie” comic anymore, until it gets its own series on a popular streaming service, we will continue to sing its praises! Saga follows baby Hazel and his fugitive family born on opposite sides of a galactic war. His mother and father do all that they must to ensure a peaceful future for their child, but they must make their way through a harsh universe that doesn’t share their values.
A heady mixture of science fiction and fantasy, with adult themes that never take away from its imaginative premise, it is a gripping epic in the vein of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and we predict it’s only a matter of time before it gets a film adaptation.
We hope you like the items we recommend! Comic Book Resources has affiliate partnerships, so we receive a share of the revenue from your purchase. This won’t affect the price you pay and helps us offer the best product recommendations.