You guys thought I would never get around to this, didn’t you? While things have gotten in way of this article’s completion, mainly my bad time management skills, I’ve finally completed this article; a list of some of my favorite independent comics, to make up for the horrid episode of the ScratchCast that was released on the 10th. That said, when was the last article on this site actually posted? Back in October? Jeez, that’s a long time. All the more reason for this thing to exist. Anyway, I’ll be staying away from making a formal “Top 5” list, the reason being that I find it impossible to compare comics of different genres in such a way. Crap introduction done, actual article begin.
I Kill Giants (published by Image Comics)
“I find giants. I hunt giants. I kill giants. So forgive me if “motivating” a room full of losers with no self-esteem out of their hard earned money doesn’t hold much interest.”
These are the first four sentences we see come out of protagonist Barbara Thorson’s mouth, and the very same words that get her sent to the Principal’s office. Not that she cares; she’s become well acquainted with the man in the past several weeks. In what was proclaimed the Best Indy Book of 2008 by IGN, writer Joe Kelly (Deadpool, Action Comics, Ben 10, Ultimate Spider-Man) spins a wonderful tale about a 5th grader who finds herself dealing with monsters both real and imagined while trying to come to terms with the very real issues surrounding her home life. And it’s a tale that is aided marvelously by the grayscale artwork of one J.M. Ken Niimura, whose work I’m eager to see more of in the future. It’s saying something when you can create a character like Barbara, make her a schizophrenic asshole who constantly disrespects authority to the point of backhanding a guidance counselor….and still have her be a great and lovable character that we care about, long before we figure out why she’s acting like this. But Kelly did it perfectly, turning the girl with rabbit-ears into one of my favorite fictional characters. IKG is a comic that is hard to recommend without really spoiling it, but I feel confident enough to say that you’ll enjoy every last bit of Barbara’s adventure, hammers and all.
Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer (published by SLG Publishing)
“Ah, yes, my little surprise. I am a real boy. And you are my prey.”
Basic premise: Titular wooden puppet kicks copious amounts of vampire ass in an unofficial graphic followup to the original Carlo Collodi-penned tale. If that doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what will. It’s a living puppet going up against an organization of vampires in an attempt to avenge the memory of his father; what’s not to like? Dustin Higgins writes a wickedly funny-yet-somber story that’s brought to life with the black-and-white stylings of Van Jensen. Named as one 2010’s Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens by YALSA, I found myself completely hooked on the sweet action scenes and the playful banter between characters. So much so, that I became absolutely eager to read the second installment…which I already have. Now I’m sitting here waiting for the print release of the third and final installment, which is coming this summer. Because, let’s be honest: everything is better with vampire hunting. In fact, stop reading this article for a moment and pick up a copy at your local library or something. You’ll never see these characters the same way again; especially the Blue Fairy.
“You’ll never become a finely tuned killing machine if you don’t put your heart into it. Asshole!”
Moving away from protagonists who kill monsters, let’s talk about a protagonist who pretty much is a monster. Tank Girl is, quite frankly, an insane gun-toting, tank-riding bitch who roams a Mad Max-esque Australian outback with her subservient kangaroo boyfriend. In one issue, she may stage an operation to steal all the good beer in the country. In another, she could be making countless 80s references…oh wait, that’s in every issue. The writer/artist team of Alan Martin and (usually) Jamie Hewlett string together pop culture references, obscenity, gratuitous fourth-wall breaking, and just plain overall insanity to create clever laughs. At the very least, you’ll find yourself smirking from the madcap absurdity while reading each issue. It’s the sort of twisted, violent, and arguably sexy comic that most teenage boys would be completely enraptured with. And all the “British-style” humour aside, I’m shocked that the comics aren’t as well-known in the States as they should be…however, Tank Girl does stand as the only indie comic I’ve read in public, other than Scott Pilgrim, to be automatically recognized by someone. And that’s just bloody awesome. (P.S.: I hear that the Rachel Talalay-directed Tank Girl film is bloody awful…)
“A star had been eclipsed, leaving my past in darkness, lost somewhere within the shadows. And nobody can live without a past.”
I reviewed this title back in the summer of 2010, but since we’re making up for bad content with this article…yeah, let me try recommending this thing again. Juan Díaz Canales (story) and Juanjo Guarnido (art) paint a picture of 1950s America, but instead of using plain-old human beings, they choose to have their characters be anthropomorphic animals. This naturally leads to some humourous things, such as bar fights with rhinos. But it also means that topics, such as race relations, become a bit more interesting, now that several species of beasts are thrown into the mix. Rather than going black-and-white like most crime stories in the vein of noir, the artwork is done with muted watercolours; something that definitely adds to the “fun” combination of gritty drama and dark humour that Canales and Guarnido have created. Blacksad does the “hard-boiled detective” thing really well, and it will probably remain as one of my favorite — if not absolute favorite — crime comics until the day I die. Yeah, the wait between each new issue can be a bit irritating, but they’re always worth it.