Who do we read? My look into the essentials of comic collection continues this week with my second look at the companies and titles we read. The big guns - Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse are out of the way, so all that remains are the indie publishers. Some are large, many are small, but they all offer a refreshing blend of titles for comic book fans.
It can be scary to try something new out. I personally believe many fans do not go outside of their comic comfort zones often enough to experience the lush variety of titles outside of the big four. We fans can be creatures of habit, and with big events being the crutch that DC and Marvel are seemingly clinging to these days, it can be tough to tear ourselves away from these companies and the familiar titles they espouse. I promise that comics not produced by these four companies do not bite. They may nibble a bit, but if you are like me, you like it a little kinky anyway.
Though I think the lack of trying out books from independent publishers is mostly born out of a “fear of the new”, there are also economic considerations. Typically, indie books are more expensive than the titles from the big companies. Although Marvel and DC have their share of $3.99 and up books, it is more the norm for independent publishers to have the higher price point. This isn’t always true, but it certainly happens more often than not. And with the way the economy is going, it is a tough sale for fans to buy books at a higher price point. These books are also scarce. Of the four major shops in my area, only one consistently carries independently published books. So there may be a lack of exposure to books outside of DC, Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse. Part of this comes from the laziness of these shop owners, but part of it comes from their keen eye for buying trends. Why order something from Fantagraphics if Johnny loves DC books? What’s in it for them?
So, by way of introduction, what follows is a humble and short introduction to six of the other comic book publishers out there. They aren’t the smallest, but they act as a great gateway drug into the world of independent publisher. I only wish I could promise the first hit will be free. Don’t be afraid to read about them or, heaven forbid, actually buy one of their books. If you start to feel light headed, go pick up a copy of Final Crisis and rub it on your chest for two to three minutes and continue. It certainly won’t kill you to try them out, and you may end up actually enjoying something!
Like Dark Horse, this publisher has started to scoop up some interesting licensed properties. Among their pack of licenses they hold, they have Highlander, Red Sonja, Xena, Terminator, Army of Darkness, Battlestar Galactica, and the Lone Ranger. That’s pretty impressive for a company that just started publishing in 2005. Chances are reading through that list, you found one title that interests you. If not, check out some of their original work, chief among those is the wild Garth Ennis superhero spoof The Boys. I also heard that they will be picking up some interesting titles from the 2000 AD brand. This company will probably be doing as well as Image and Dark Horse in the coming years.
The fifth largest publisher of comics in the USA, IDW also has some great licensed properties for fans. Angel, Transformers, CSI, and Star Trek round out just a few of their licensed titles. They have had a ton of miniseries in this licensed realm as well. They also just picked up G.I. Joe. Pretty impressive. They also have a great lineup of original work too. They are probably best known for their 30 Days of Night titles, but Popbot also received some rave reviews.
Publishers of The Comics Journal, Fantagraphics has been plugging along since 1976. They have a ton of killer books; Jimmy Corrigan, Castle Waiting, Schizo, Love & Rockets, Angry Youth Comics, and Eightball. Talk about an impressive horde of award winning titles! They also have a bevy of great graphic novels including King, Ghost World, and Palestine. Not to be outdone, they have some impressive licensed material that they have re-released like Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, and Little Orphan Annie. This publisher just puts out some of the finest “alternative comics” (whatever that means) in the business. Do yourself a favor and check on of their books out. If Noam Chomsky read comics, I am positive he would dig Fantagraphics
Top Shelf Productions
This label is probably known more for their graphic novels than they are for anything they continuously put out. Just looking at their back catalogue makes that obnoxious indie-snob that haunts your LCS grin with envy; From Hell, Lost Girls, Blankets, American Elf, Box Office Poison, Super Spy, Owly, and Korgi! They have a slew of great creators that they have published like Alan Moore, Craig Thompson, James Kolchalka, Christian Slade, and Nicholas Mahler. I mean, holy cow Batman, why aren’t you order some of their stuff yet?
This is another company that focuses on the production of graphic novels and miniseries. Demo and True Story, Swear to God have been the biggest successes for them in the past few years. I haven’t been as pleased with their output as others have been, but many fans really do enjoy their titles. Electric Girl is a fun all-ages read too. Check them out!
Slave Labor Graphics
Yet another publisher probably better known for the graphic novels they have published, SLG was probably one of my first indie loves. They have published some really great titles over the years including Milk & Cheese, Bear, Dork, Dr. Radium, Emo Boy, Lenore, Migraine Boy, Skeleton Key, and The Waiting Place. My first introduction to these guys came through the Evan Dorkin titles they produced, but they have been a treasure trove of entertainment for me, especially during my college years. Migraine Boy is probably my favorite collection thus far from these guys. I can’t recommend this company more highly!
My challenge to each and everyone one of my readers is to take a dip in the independent pool this summer for some much needed comic book refreshment! I challenge each of you to at least try one independent book out from one of the above for every, let’s say five books you buy this summer. So, if you buy four Marvel trades, why not buy a fifth from Fantagraphics? Or if you go to the store and buy some comics, why not pick up an extra indie or two? Like I said earlier, they certainly won’t bite and it will give you good comic book karma. I promise very few of the titles mentioned above deal with marriages being dissolved or anyone being a Skrull.
Next week, I will return with the penultimate edition of my look at the essentials of comic book collecting. I will be taking a look at where we buy comic books. I promise not spend too long with the “adults only” area at the back of the store.