Incredible Indie Comics to Read Right Now
6 creator owned comics you can support today!
If you've read or listened to my work before you'll likely know that I'm a big fan of comic books. And I feel lucky everyday that my career predominantly revolves around them, from talking about the movies and TV shows they inspire on X-Ray Vision to writing my own comics all the way through the many, many theories and explainers I write to hopefully make the stories and creators who make them more accessible to readers everywhere. While demand often means that I mostly write about comics from the bigger publishers — though I always do my best to highlight all kinds of books in my work — the joy of this newsletter is that I am my own editor! So this time I'm recommending some of my favorite indie, self-published, and small press comics that will hopefully introduce you to some new creators and publishers doing amazing work!
Olivia Stephens is the kind of cartoonist whose work I'll pick up without even knowing what it is. Her gorgeous graphic novel Artie and the Moon Wolf made my Best Comics of 2021 at Nerdist, and now Stephens is dipping back into the werewolf genre with a mature readers masterpiece. A haunting western comic centering on the titular Darlin', this stunning story will grip you immediately, pulling you into the nighttime world of a werewolf on the run. Stephens showcases her talent for immersive worldbuilding and intensive character work that will immediately make you care about the two characters at the center of the first chapter. Brought to life in stark and striking muted tones, this is a must read Western horror that'll instantly hook you.
One of my favorite cartoonists working today is Micheal Sweater. His irreverent, funny, and deeply relatable work rules the internet but this collaborative kids graphic novel with another brilliant artist, Josue Cruz, might be my fave outing from him yet. Published by radical small press comics crew Silver Sprocket, this adventure follows two sweet adventurers, Sparky and Pugsly. as they head off to find treasure in a mysterious gold-filled cathedral. Whether you've got a kid who loves comics or just love the art of cartooning, this is a must read as the vibrant art jumps off the page and will make you feel like you're wrapped in a warm, beautifully illustrated blanket.
I will never shut up about the fantastic work being done at Black Josei Press. Publisher Jamila Rowser is not only a brilliant writer in her own right, but she's now running one of the most exciting publishers in comics too. Gordita: Built Like This is a fantastic example of just what makes Black Josei Press so glorious. Daisy Ruiz brings readers a gorgeously drawn nostalgia-fest that'll send you right back to the highs and lows of high school. As the title hints, Built Like This is centered on Ruiz's struggle to accept her body as a young Latine woman and the way that female friendship helped her find that self love she was lacking. Not only is the comic a startlingly good piece of work, but the print edition is a magazine-sized masterpiece. No one else is putting out comics that read or look like this so get your copy right now!
In this exceptionally powerful zine, Johnny Parker II and Felipe Horas present a knife-sharp satire on the grim realities of police violence in the US. Facing the racist and often fatal actions of the police head on, this zine works as both a record and a handbook on how to survive as well as a statement on the work we all need to do to end systematic racism. Parker is a regular face in the LA comics scene and this book showcases just one side of his talents as a writer. Horas' art brings to life the message and meaning of the book in an accessible and interesting way that brings Parker's words to life perfectly. This is the sort of comic that reminds you of the radical roots of zines and mini-comics, and might even inspire you to make one of your own!
If you haven't delved into the wonderful world of Webtoons yet, you're in for a treat. The premium destination for vertical scroll comics has literally thousands of incredible stories you can read for free right now. One of my favorites — and I am absolutely biased — is KUTE Crew. This dynamic and delightful adventure comic takes the classic GI Joe style team story and translates it into a talking animal yarn about cute koalas who live under the ocean. Norlin's art is vibrant and full of life and Marino brings a joy and humor that makes this a wildly fun read. Follow the Koala Underwater Tactical Elite as they solve a strange underwater mystery and take readers on an unforgettable journey. Then find a bunch of other favorite Webtoons to enjoy.
It's hard to put into words just how much I adore the work of Benji Nate. She's one of the most talented, funny, and horrifying cartoonists working today, and her online comic Girl Juice has been collected by Drawn & Quarterly in a super cool printing. Girl Juice invites readers into the home of Bunny, Nana, Tula, and Sadie as they traverse living, loving, and laughing in uniquely gross and hilarious fashion. Nate has an eye for the surreal and strange, which she mixes wonderfully here with her trademark cute AF artwork. This is a total riot and will be horribly relatable and cringe-inducing to many millennials, but in the best way of course.
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