Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Usually when I talk about indy comics I mean something, that is not Marvel or DC. But there is a lot of gradations in the independent comic world. And though I love the likes of Dark Horse, Image, IDW, 2000 AD and Oni. today I want to specifically talk about some of the smaller presses and their titles. Recently I went to Wizard World Portland and spoke with some awesome folks who literally pour their sweat, blood and tears into their creations.
If you can going to the con is the best way to get your truly indy fix. Not only can you get your titles signed, as well as some other cool swag, you can talk to some true comic-philes about their passions. We all love our favorite comic book store, but to me the difference from getting issues at a con and a store is like the difference of going to Trader Joes and a farmer’s market. It’s not just a purchase it is an experience.
I want to spotlight some of them. Before I do though let’s address some reason why people might not want to get into the indy comic scene.
What if I really like it but they don’t make enough money to keep the series going? We have all been excited about something that we loved and it got ended when it was still good. I call this the Firefly Effect. Sure it sucked when Mal, Jayne, River and the others got axed by Fox before their time. But would you have been happier if you had never seen the show? It’s better to get an issue or two of a good comic then not know about it.
Indy comics are too expensive. Yes there can be something said about volume sales driving down prices, but let’s face it comics (and books in general) have a huge mark up. The indy folks usually are just living with a lower margin. I usually pay $3.00 to $5.00 for an indy issue and anywhere between $5.00 to $20.00 for a graphic novel. If something is outside your budget don’t buy it. If I get that we all have finite money and time, but in most cases I get more value per dollar with the smaller names.
I have hard enough time finding people to talk about Morning Glories and The Rat Queens with, who am I going to enjoy obscure indy titles with? No one else has your favorite indy title in their comic-box? Share yours, talk it up. Be the cool dude who introduced their friends the awesome titles before anyone else has heard of them.
Indy comics are all black and white, I want color. It may have been true at one timethat most indy titles where B&W but Photo Shop has changed that. Sure some titles are monochromatic, but that doesn’t make them bad. Color film existed when The Maltese Falcon or Psycho were made. But the black and white film gives them a personality all their won. Noir and nostalgia tales are enhanced by the lack of color.
Indy comics are derivative and just keep telling the same story. What are you talking about look at the list below, we got animal superheroes, slasher stories, cos play stories, steam punk, zombies, satire, post-apocalyptic war stories, and noir detective tales. There is something for everyone. If anything I think indy comics have more selection than the mainstays.
If they were any good they would work for a bigger company. That is ridiculous. Comics is a hard business to break into. There is a lot of talent out there that hasn’t been discovered.
Comic cons come around once or twice a year. I don’t get that many chances to purchase Indy comics. The internet makes the worlds a much smaller place. On the bottom of this post I will include some cool links to some indy publishers.
Note on prices. The prices that I quote here are what I paid, I may have gotten a deal, so I do not make any guarantees that you would pay the same price for the items.
Johnny Scotch Comics: Johnny Scotch is an imprint made specifically for the Johnny Scotch title, at this time there is one comic and one posted short story, and a collection of jazz vignettes, in the line. A noir tale about a hard drinking, jazz loving PI, a Peter Gunn for the twenty-first century, set in Bridge City a Portland expy. When I asked its creator John Dover, if it had a contemporary setting he replied. “Jonny Scotch (the comic) is set in the present but Johnny Scotch (the character) is very much a man of another time.”
Johnny Scotch Issue #1: Lila: The first story in the JS world is predominately a single scene that takes place in a bar, Johnny is drinking his trademark expensive scotch, mourning the loss of a friend. When he is approached by feme fatale Lila. When her boyfriend and his pals show up, all hell breaks loose. The core of this B&W comic is a thirteen page bar fight. That is not a bad thing, the fight is well done. Issue #1 is meant to be an introduction to the character and his world, so I hope to see the actual story published soon.
Bad Kids Press: Bad Kids Go to hell, is a small press comic book success story. It started out as a four issue series by Antarctic Press (which is an indy comic, but still is far from selling comics out of the trunk of your car.) The series hit the epitome of small comic success in its own B movie, with a cult following. The title and its sequel is now published by Bad Kids Press. It is basically The Breakfast Club if said, 80’s icon was a slasher movie. The movie is currently available on Hulu. Creator Barry “Bazz” Wernick, guaranteed me “They are all people you want to see die.” He and some of the cutest both babes travel the comi-con circuit showing the movie and selling signed copies of the two books. The original runs up to $40.00, but this is basically what the market will bear.
Bad Kids Go 2 Hell: The sequel also has a movie coming out (titled Bad Kids of Crestview Academy), it takes place four years after the original blood bath in Crestview Prep School. Wernick assured me that you didn’t have to read the original to get the sequel. He is right I hadn’t seen the movie yet, but had no problem following the along with the flash back scenes about the original title. Though it follows the original story in many ways it is not just the same old thing. In fact I am very good at guessing the endings of stories and the twists in the tale completely caught me off guard. The graphic novel usually runs $20.00, but I got it for only $10.00, because at the booth’s spinning wheel promotion.
Space Goats Productions: My sister proudly wore the SPG pin I gave her to the Northwest Dairy Goat Association confrere. Talking to the founder, he explained that Space Goat was almost named Rocket Llama. I told him that since I live on a goat farm next to a Llama farm I am the only person who is qualified to tell him that he made the right decision. Though there is a lack of stories of goats in their titles. So I am willing to offer to them a remedy of that. If Space Goat Production needs a story about an actual goat have their people contact my people.
Space Goat Presents: This hard back compilation, has $19.95, printed on the cover but I got it for $5.00. Even if it sucked, I figured for that amount it was worth it to have something that says Space goat and a Cossack fighting a werewolf on the cover to set on my desk. Completions are always a mix bag, but this one paid off. I liked Door Knockers, about a Special Forces team that fights the supernatural. Secret Family is the story of a single mother and ex-super hero trying to raise her children as they begin to manifest super powers. The capstone is The Big Game Hunters a steam punk story about a group of adventures that hunt mythical beasts to extension. The book also included Mr. First, Over My Dead Body and the prose story Letters from the Belly Button of the World.
Mix Tape. This B&W Nostalgia tale starts off when someone finds an old mix tape they had back in the 90’s. This is a love story to Generation-X, its music and growing up. There are at least three issues in this arc. The first issue is mainly set during a party where Terry a teenager must choose between his dream girl and a girl that might just be perfect for him. In other hands the story might become cliched, but Brad Abraham breathes life into the story that keeps it from seeming like those who came before. I paid $4.00 for my copy.
We Punch Dragons LLC: Let me just say this I LOVE THE FOLKS AT WE PUNCH DRAGONS! As Wizard World began to die down I was looking for something for my niece and nephew. I was drawn to WPD’s booth because of their title. They were liquidating their 11×14 prints for $2.00 apiece. My niece loves dragons so I asked if they had something with a dragon on it. They had their logo picture I was going to pick up when they mentioned that they had transformers prints. If there is anything my niece loves more than dragons it is transformers. So I changed my mind to get my nephew a male transformer and my niece a female one, and they threw in the dragon print for free. For myself I got a Harley Quinn-esce print that startled the line between artful and sexy. I had planned on keeping the dragon one for me, but my niece liked it so much and asked so nicely that it now is on her wall.
Bare Arms When I was getting the prints, they invited me to check out their comics. I was told that Bare Arms was a post-apocalyptic saga of survival. I bought it without opening it up. They asked if I wanted to look at the art first and I explained that they had me at ‘post-apocalyptic saga of survival.’ After all I had seen plenty examples of their art work. In the prints in their booth.I knew it was good.
Bare Arms tells the story of two woman in post-apocalyptic Arizona named Stoya and Chancer. They are searching for Stoya’s brother who disappeared in a fire fight and may be held by slavers. These are the type of women we at DCotU love, the bad girl heroines, you know the type, questionable tactics, and lose morals, but who are better humans than those they go up against. I have been told by the WPD crew that they have a full story arc in mind, and can’t wait to see the rest. For $3.00 it had the best bang for the buck ratio of anything I had purchased at Wizard World.
Committed Comics: CC’s motto is comics for fans by fans, and if you talk to them you know how deeply they love the medium. Last year at Rose City Comicon, I spoke with a young lady in a red sweater and skirt and a white wig, I would later learn goes by the cosplay name Miss Miniver. When she went over the line, it could have been a hard sell but instead asked me questions about what I like. It seemed like her mission was to match me up with the perfect title. After a while she suggested Jackrabbit, promising me that it had a twist at the end.
Jackrabbit: This is a loving parody of comics and comic book tropes. It hits all the big ones, over exaggerated breasts, villain organizations, superhero academies, incompetent minions, to name just a few. As promised it did have a twist that I didn’t see coming. But the twist is kind of dark. I was hoping that there would be a continuation to that would lighten the tone a bit. But since I have heard the author is now out of the comic-biz that unfortunately is very unlikely.
Java 1-3: This is the only title I had heard of before talking to the people at Committed. I’ve heard it described as the three-way love child of tank Girl, Laura Croft and Deadpool. The reason I am writing about a title I haven’t read is because, I really wanted to say, the three-way love child of tank Girl, Laura Croft and Deadpool. At $8.50 for a three set this is the next Commitment title I plan on picking up.
Miss Miniver: This is Miss M’s comic about her cosplay persona. I can only guess that she took her name form the 1942 academy award winning movie Mrs. Minver about an English house wife during World War II. The comic is in pre-order and is expecting to go out in July. There were two Comicon specials, one for $11.00 and one for $20.00. I took the deluxe which included several signed prints and other swag. The title by itself can pre-ordered for $4.50. I think that a cosplayer as a character is a great idea, besides Miss Miniver has such a passion for comics how can it be anything but awesome.
Action Labs: This is the biggest of the publishers I am discussing today. They are big enough to be able to participate in National Free Comic Book Day. That is where I heard about them first, when they gave away a special issue of Zombie Tramp. Though they have titles including some kid friendly one, Action Labs: Danger Zone is their adult imprint.
Hero Cats Issue of Stellar City #3: There was no way my niece was going to let me get out of Comicon without getting one of the Hero Cats’ comics. I was going to get her issue #0, but the writer suggested that we get the one that she liked the cover the most, because they are all self-contained stories. I like it, but my niece and nephew really loved the story. It is nice to have something that I can share with my niece and nephew. It was $5.00 but if you wanted a book with the custom cover with a drawing of your cat it is $30.00.
Zombie Tramp Volume 3: By the time I got to my local store last free comic book day, all the free Zombie tramps had sold out, but I was curious about this title. Janey Belle was once a high priced call girl who was turned into a zombie. With a magic book she can keep her intelligence, use magic to look normal or possess others bodies when hers is destroyed. Each graphic novel is four episodes of the ongoing series. 1 is her original story, 2 is a flashback origins series. 3 is the begging of the new arc, co-writer Jason Martin explained to me that it is not a ret-con but a continuation of the story. In volume, Janey decides to check out Las Vegas only to find Sin City has its own zombie king. Each volume is $15.00.
Vampblade; Special Issue: Vampblade is an homage to Witchblade and Bloodrayne and takes place in the same universe as Zombie Tramp. A young comic book store employee takes up what she thinks are props based on the Iron Age comic Vamp Blade she is turned into the vampire warrior woman, complete with the blood thirst. This was a free extra when I bought a Zombie Tramp title and had a bonus Zombie Tramp story.
NIght of the 80’s Undead: This is an interesting premise, sometimes during the 1980’s the Soviet Union creates a bio weapon that turns people into Zombies. They then spike cocaine with the toxin, turn 80’s celebrities in to the undead. I mean you can’t wrong with an M-60 toting heroine with a Frankie Goes to Hollywood Tee-shirt. But the best parts besides watching ‘A’ list actors from thirty years ago turned into zombies then dispatched, is the 80’s music list made for different pages of the story. That and the coloring, the book is done in pre-Spawn #1, four colors, but in a deep contrasting hues that didn’t exist, back in the 80’s. I got the book for $10.00.
So there you go a list of truly indy comics, hopefully you find something you like. If you have a favorite let me know.
Space Goat Productions
We punch Dragons LLC.
Miss Miniver’s Facebook page
Hero Cats of Stellar City.
Zombie Tramp Face Book page