When Saga returning in early 2022 after a years-long hiatus, its triumphant reception proved that indie comics have a large following. Typically distinguished by their affiliation with DC and Marvel, indie comics also have their own style and usually tell a unique type of story not found with the two major publishers.
Whether it’s alternative superhero tales like Invincible or terrifying horror stories like The Department of Truth, indie comics have something for every type of reader. Although the history of indie comics is full of classics, Reddit users have taken to the site to mention which ones they think are the best.
Indie comics excel when they combine established tropes into a whole new mix of things. User gregnar mentioned one of their favorites when they wrote “Coda has a very good story and the art is top notch. It’s also only 3 volumes, so a good start.”
Like a mix of classic fantasy tales like the Lord of the Rings and post-apocalyptic stories like madmax, Coda gave readers a unique look at a fantasy realm. With a nearly silent protagonist, the reader receives a largely visual story that keeps them engaged with compelling art and character designs. Although it only lasted 12 issues, Boom! The studios have given fans one of the most unique fantasy pieces.
The Department of Truth (2020–present)
Image has quickly positioned itself as the premier producer of major indie comics and continues to produce solid content. User UChooseBad_ID_242 mentioned a recent example of their greatness, writing “Department of Truth…to like X files but going deeper with demons, 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 this starting point, the stories explore history and the present through the lens of global conspiracy. With changing art styles from month to month, the book has a semi-psychedelic feel that makes the reader feel like they’ve been sucked into the story’s nightmarish world.
The medium of comics is usually about escapism, but it’s also been used to document some of the worst parts of human history. User omgItsGhostDog referred to their favorite non-fiction comic when they said “Maus: A survivor’s story… It’s about a Jewish-American cartoonist documenting his father’s life during World War II.”
Told in a series of black and white comics Maus casts its characters as mice or cats, and it pulls no punches with its harrowing portrayal of history. Never stopping for a second, the gloom of reality creeps in on the reader and it’s a truly harrowing experience. In a sense, Maus is a beautiful expression of pain and shows the true power of comics as an art form.
I Hate Fairyland (2015–present)
Comic book art often uses tongue-in-cheek juxtaposition to challenge readers’ expectations of a story, and the brightest imagery can accompany the darkest tale. User DarkRubiks12 summed up their favorite indie comic by writing “I hate fairyland is a great black comedy series”.
Despite its fantastic setting, I hate fairyland is an eerily comic 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 fun.
The Good Asian (2021–present)
Unlike many larger books from the two major 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 is tall. It’s pulpy noir comics in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1936. It goes down in history with the Chinese Exclusion Act.”
Looks like it was ripped from the best film noir, The good asianThe visuals of are as arresting as its story. With mysteries that will keep the reader enthralled, the comic also tells the story of a man in conflict torn between his duty to his country and his duty to his people. Fiercely original, few comics have captured the emotional weight of his character’s predicament like him.
Sweet Tooth (2009-2021)
Post-apocalyptic stories are common, but sometimes a comic comes along and flips the tired trope on its ear. User i don’t want a panda proudly exclaimed their favorite comic, simply stating “Greedy by Jeff Lenore, it’s amazing.”
As for the original indie comics, Greedy stands head and shoulders above the rest. With a main character who 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 know more about the world around it, even if it’s dangerous.
Unlike the restrictive boundaries of film and television, comics can seemingly take their stories anywhere they want. User _miserable banana_ spoke extensively about a certain indie classic when they wrote “My favorite will always be Chew”.
Chew follows an FDA agent who may receive clues to crimes by consuming food, including human flesh, at crime scenes. With its premise in place, the comic book series wastes no time in making the most of its setup. Agent Chu is a likeable protagonist, and his desire to solve crimes is enough to overcome his stomach-churning psychic affliction.
Astro City (1995-2000)
Although indie comics are primarily known for their great non-superhero graphic novels, a classic hero tale can sometimes take an indie twist. User ChickenInCostume mentioned their favorite superhero indie book, commenting “astro city…It’s a superhero comic obviously, but it’s an independent comic and it’s one of the best superhero comics ever written.”
Told in anthology form, the super-powered inhabitants of the comic book’s title town are the subject of each month’s book. What separates the series from other more traditional superhero comics is that it has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach to superheroes without being a true parody. It has everything for fans of indie comics and for readers of more conventional superhero comics.
Mainstream comic book superheroes generally abide by a strict moral code that keeps them on the straight and narrow. User Bitter Arsenic praised a certain independent 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. Free from strict censorship, the book shows both sides of the main character’s life, and both sides are equally compelling. Even for more traditional comic book fans, Invincible features a wide range of awesome powers and great superhero action.
Despite bizarre premise and goofy characters, indie comics generally feature universally appealing stories. User omgItsGhostDog were happy to share a favorite indie comic when they wrote “Saga… A Sci-Fi/Fantasy universe about a family doing their best (pretty much all I can say about the plot without spoiling anything)”.
Saga is an example of what makes indie comics great in the first place. The premise is simple, but the universe in which the story takes place is creative and exciting. With a sci-fi epic as a backdrop, the comic really relies on the strength of its characters, and their desire to lead a normal family life.
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