Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, the first installment in the Marvel Cinematic universe, the superhero genre entered the mainstream and has become synonymous with the comic book medium. It’s hard not to see why; the big 2 of comic books, both Marvel and DC, continue to dominate the commercial box office as well as branching out into the smaller screen, with Marvel’s own Netflix television series. With the MCU continuing to break cinematic records with their latest installment Thor: Ragnarok, and the DC Extended Universe releasing their latest cinematic effort Justice League, it’s not that much of stretch to determine that superheros and the big 2 of comic books are everywhere at the moment.
Considering the sheer popularity and commercial success of superhero movies, you would be forgiven for thinking that both Marvel and DC and the superhero genre is the best place to start with comic books – but that is not necessarily true (unless you want to read superhero comics then by all means, on you go!). Now, I’ll just reiterate this, I absolutely adore my superheroes, but my heart really lies with a good indie comic, and since starting this website almost a year ago, I have managed to acquire some stellar indie comics that I think deserve some attention.
Here is a small rundown of six indie comics that I have managed to acquire in the past year, mainly from rummaging around at comic con’s or interviews;
1. Boat (Volumes 1-3)
Writer/Creator: David Lumsden
Artist: Mark Weallans, Amir Zand, and Marc Olivent.
Publisher: David Lumsden
Summary: “The water came and the cities fell. They were alone.” – Set in a post flood event Scotland, Boat is a critically acclaimed graphic novel series that details Charlie, and his quest for survival in a world that has become almost completely retaken back by the ocean.
Have you ever been rummaging around in a bookstore, not really knowing what you want, and then one book in particular catches your eye? That’s how it was for me when I stumbled across Boat, at this year’s Granite City Comic Con back in April. Since then, I have been unable to quit telling all my friends and family about this gem of a series, because quite frankly, I think that Boat serves as an outstanding achievement within our local Scottish comic scene.
Written and created by David Lumsden, Boat, was initially conceived as a short film, that was also written and directed by David Lumsden. This is a rare and interesting occurrence within the world of comics, and you can read all about how David managed to do this in our interview here .
When it comes to anything that I read, the main thing that I am looking for is a solid concept that is delivered well and interesting characters, and I really admire when a series can build upon these elements as well. David Lumsden’s Boat series is a master at both of these. Each current volume within the series progressively builds upon the latter – Volume 1 introduces the reader to a grim and bleak world where the main characters Charlie and his father are trying to survive. Volume 2 and 3 introduces new characters and further expands the bleak world that was hinted at within the first volume.
At a glance, the story might seem like it is following a key conventional narrative, but trust me when I tell you that there is a twists and turns throughout the series. Without giving too much away, Volume 1 ended completely differently to how I expected, and Volume 2 ended on such a cliffhanger that I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation for the third volume.
Despite it’s post-apocalyptic setting, bleak tone and muted colour palette, Boat is ultimately a story of humanity. The series itself somehow manages to find the beauty in the world that it has created. Boat, for me, is not just a triumph of storytelling, but also a triumph of indie comic culture. If there is one graphic novel series that I can’t recommend enough, it is this one. Just ask all my family and friends, I am sure by now they have all been forced to sit down and read it!
2. Romantically Apocalyptic – #1
Writer: Vitaly S Alexius
Artist: Vitaly S Alexius
Publisher: Vitaly S Alexius
Summary: Whoops. I dropped the universe. It was an accident, I swear. It’s still good, right? (Does anyone have any duct tape?)– Set in a post-apocalyptic universe, Romantically Apocalyptic is a quirky web comic/graphic novel about a small group of characters, who have survived the nuclear apocalypse.
This was an interesting hidden gem that I found during this year’s MCM in Glasgow back in September, and oh my god, I don’t think I have ever seen a comic that has looked this stunning before! Created by Vitaly S Alexius, the artwork is made up of live actors ( and also dead ones) to create a visually stunning looking future apocalyptic world.
Meet The Captain, also referred to as Zee Captain, the main character of this story who is also completely mentally unhinged – Oh, did I mention that the Captain’s gender is also left completely ambiguous, which makes for an interesting detail for the story. The Captain and their two gas masked companions collectively known as Pilot and Mr Snippy, are the last three remaining humans left on earth. Between the three of them, there is such wicked fun to be found within the pages of this comic.
So far I have only read volume 1 in the series, and I do intend to read more issues once I get my hands on them. Romantically Apocalyptic is a wild stunning ride from start to finish. For real, The Captain and Snippy recreate a scene from Titanic, and there is also a cult of lemonade fanatics. Take from that what you will.
3. Good Cop Bad Cop – Volume 1
Writer: Jim Alexander
Artist: Luke Cooper
Publisher: Planet Jimbot
Summary: Set in the city of Glasgow, Good Cop Bad Cop is a gritty Scottish crime series that offers a modern take on the ‘Mr Jekyll and Hyde’ story. Created by Jim Alexander, the story see’s Detective Inspector Brian Fisher, whose character serves as both ‘good’ cop and ‘bad’ cop as one person.
Back in May this year I had the pleasure of interviewing Scottish comic book creator and writer, Jim Alexander. Jim had been at Asylum for a signing session, and it was here that I obtained a few of his comics, one of them being Good Cop Bad Cop.
Glasgow is a rather special city within Scotland. It has it’s own distinct wit and grittiness that has been the inspiration for many Scottish television shows and films. Well now, the city of Glasgow, is the setting for the gritty crime series Good Cop Bad Cop.
Good Cop Bad Cop is another of those indie comics that managed to deliver on a strong well rounded concept, as well as excellent characterization of the main hero/villain. This is mainly due to Alexander’s wonderful writing and pacing of the story. The very first issue, like most other first issues, set’s the scene, and thus we get to see Fisher and his Jekyll/Hyde personality in action, and future issues begin to flesh out the character.
4. City of Lost Souls – Volume 1: The End is the beginning is the end
Writer: James McCulloch
Artist: Janine Van Moosel
Publisher: Moomac Comics
Summary: Written by horror enthusiast James McCulloch, City of Lost Souls is a dark and twisted Scottish Graphic Novel series. Serial Killer Matt Jordan kills his final victim before killing himself, as he would rather die than face ‘justice’ for the crimes that he has committed. However, death is not the end for Jordan, as he wakes up to his own personal hell completely surrounded by those who he has previously killed.
Brutal. Unflinching. Demented. Yet somehow, wonderful to read. This is what went through my head when I first read the first volume of City of Lost Souls by James McCulloch earlier this year. This is one of those stories that is unflinching and unapologetic in it’s brutality, and from the very first panel you are dragged into the darkness along with the story.
Without giving too much of the plot away, COLS is another interesting twist on the hero and redemption story arc that is all too common within literature. Our leading character, Matt Jordan, is far from a hero, but he is an evil soul who must redeem himself for the sake of himself and his victims.
City of Lost Souls is a horror genre masterpiece. Not only from the phenomenal writing by James McCulloch, but also because of the stunning art work that is provided by Janine Van Moosel. There is a wealth of ideas running within this first issue, and I am interested in getting my hands on more issues in the future. If anyone wants to get started out on horror comics, this is the series that I would direct you to.
5. Twisted Dark – Volume 1
Writer: Neil Gibson
Artists: Atula Siriwardane, Caspar Wijngaard, Heru Prasetyo Djalal, Jan Wijngaard, Ant Mercer, Dan West.
Publisher: T Pub
Summary: Twisted Dark Volume 1 is a best selling 201 page graphic novel that explores the darker side of humanity. Written by Neil Gibson, Twisted Dark is a collection of 11 interconnected short stories that explore the themes of loss, hate, revenge and death.
Do you like horror comics? Do you like stories that are twisted and detail the nightmarish side to humanity. If you answered yes to these questions, then Twisted Dark is a graphic novel that you may want to get your hands on at some point.
What I genuinely enjoyed about Twisted Dark, is that there are no supernatural entities or menaces lurking in the shadows. The monster contained within these pages is human nature itself, and some of the stories prove to be a genuine shock to the system. From suicide to the corruption of power, Gibson’s writing will get under your skin and bury itself there so you’ll be thinking about it for days after you have finished reading.
A major plus point is that there are quite a few more volumes within this series, which I will genuinely need to pick up myself at some point! Interestingly, this volume ends by declaring that there is an interconnection between each story that will become clearer in future volumes.
Writer: Kathryn Briggs
Artist: Kathryn Briggs
Publisher: Ess Publications
Summary: “From story to human being” – Story(cycle) is an exploration of the story itself, reinventing the classic hero story arc that is usually seen throughout the eyes of a masculine hero. This comic reinvents that particular story arc by visioning the story through the eyes of the feminine, making it a journey of self discovery.
Earlier in the year I interviewed American born comic book writer and artist Kathryn Briggs about what inspired her work, and how she wanted to portray the heroic feminine within her ‘Triskellion’ series. As a person, Kathryn is incredibly interesting, and her work highly reflects that.
What makes Story(cycle) even more intriguing is it’s structure and creation, as it doesn’t look like your average comic book. This could be because it started out as an art project before developing into a comic book. Nevertheless, forgoing the classic comic panels and speech bubbles, and instead being replaced by luscious and delicate watercolours, makes this a much more interesting read.
There is so much to admire about Story(cycle). It takes a commonly told story, that being the story of the hero, and tells it through the eyes of the feminine. From Little Red Riding Hood to Venus, Briggs explores the notion of the female hero and her journey.
Out of all the work on this list, Story(cycle) is the one I personally relate to most, and found myself getting truly lost in. As a big fan of Kathryn’s work, all I can tell you, is that you really need to be reading her work. From Story(cycle) to the Lost Childhood, Kathryn Briggs work is not only beautiful to look at, but also incredibly interesting that deserves to be read by everyone. For anyone who loves storytelling, then check out her work, because you will be immersed in some of the most wonderful and fascinating stories within comic books.
Of course there are so much more indie comics than just these six that I have listed, and I am always on the lookout myself for some new indie comics. So if anyone has any recommendations, just let me know if you think there is something that I should check out!