Good place to start for indie comics?
April 3, 2005 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I need a good place to start with independent/underground comics.

Having recently seen Crumb and American Splendor, I am interested in finding out more about the style of comics featured in these movies. Searching the web for "independent comics" or "underground comics" takes me to a lot of manga-style/action-hero/fantasy/sci-fi type comics that I'm not particularly interested in.

Where should I look (other than the local comic book shop -- I'm trying to do this on a budget until i figure out how interested I am) to find more of these comics?
posted by trey to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend ordering the free Fantagraphics catalogue. They have a lot of stuff that might be up your alley, like Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, the Hernandezes etc., and the catalogue has pictures and summaries so you can see what catches your eye. I find them good for finding out about interesting stuff. For a lot of the artists, you'll be able to find cheap individual issues of their stuff as well as larger bound collections.
Good luck!
posted by ITheCosmos at 12:32 PM on April 3, 2005

You could get a copy of McSweeney's No. 13 which is a recent collection of cartoons by Crumb, Clowes and others. Old issues of Raw Comix also have work by various alternative artists. A good internet source of info would be the Comics Journal and their message board. I second the Fantagraphic Books catalog suggestion. Finally, the local comic book shop wouldn't be a bad place to start.
posted by jabo at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2005

I started with Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez in about 1988 and took off from there. I would highly recommend starting there. There are a lot of book-format collections which would probably be available at a regular bookstore if they are enlightened about "graphic novels".
posted by matildaben at 12:50 PM on April 3, 2005

My local library has a large selection of independent graphic novels. If your library doesn't stock graphic novels, see if they participate in the inter-library loan system; you'll have access to a ton of independent comics -- all for free.
posted by rockstar at 1:18 PM on April 3, 2005

You might like some of the comics from Oni Press, they have a free comic section on their site.
posted by gnat at 1:35 PM on April 3, 2005

Maus is very accessible and very powerful. The local library may have a copy available.
posted by stevil at 2:19 PM on April 3, 2005

Best answer: Gosh, do I envy you. Try Lambiek's Comiclopedia; it's a fantastic resource, although spare with sample panels. Check local used book and comic shops if money's a factor. Also, can you provide more information about the kind of art/illustration/stories you like? There's a huge variety of stuff that fits under the category "independent comics," from straight autobiography a la Pekar to brain-stretching experiments like the abstract comics discussed in this thread at the Comics Journal message board. For random recommendations, I've enjoyed James Sturm's recent historical episodes and The Golem's Mighty Swing, Chris Ware's gorgeously sad Acme Novelty Library, Brian Ralph's stunning little woodcut-esque myths, Joe Sacco's amazingly honest and detailed comics journalism [self-link], and Craig Thompson's heart-wrenchingly marvelous "Goodbye, Chunky Rice."

For starters.
posted by mediareport at 2:45 PM on April 3, 2005

If you can get your hands on a copy, check out A History of Underground Comics by Mark James Estren. It's a fantastic overview of The Early Days of Underground Comics and contains examples of all the classics.

For more recent autobiographical-style Independent Comics check out:

Joe Matt
Chester Brown

You can also find a lot of their work in the Drawn & Quarterly Anthologies, where they appear along with plenty of other underground artists from around the world.

Oh, and here's a couple of links to my two favorite comic artists working today: Dan Clowes and Tony Millionaire.

Also, on preview: I second what everyone else has said.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2005

Yeah, Clowes is probably the nearest to the Pekar and Crumb movies you enjoyed; have you seen the movie Ghost World? His Fantagraphics pages have lots of info about his work. And the D&Q artist pages are good places to start for Chester, Seth and Joe.
posted by mediareport at 3:23 PM on April 3, 2005

Jim Woodring (Frank) ((Fantagraphics))

Jhonen Vasquez (Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee, I Feel Sick) ((Slave Labor Graphics))
posted by erebora at 8:02 PM on April 3, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers!
posted by trey at 4:15 AM on April 4, 2005

Peter Bagge and the immortal Hate! (I'm aghast that nobody's mentioned it yet). Now sadly just an annual, that comic was to the 80's what R.Crumb was to the 60's.

I'd second Joe Matt, as well.
posted by jonmc at 6:45 AM on April 4, 2005

Another vote for McSweeney's comics issue. Great issue.
posted by scazza at 7:04 AM on April 4, 2005

Ok. You're probably now wandering through the basic-level comic book hazing, where you make the jump from tights to art.
Here are some more recommendations that you should seek out sooner or later (starting with those that bridge the gap between art and tights):
The Watchmen by Alan Moore
Preacher by Garth Ennis
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Spirit by Will Eisner

Somewhere along the line, you should pick up (or borrow from the library) Scott Adam's Understanding Comics. It's good, and shines a light into a lot of the... um... theory behind comics.

On the artier side, there's always Maus, but the rest of Spiegleman's work is really excellent too.
100 Ghosts by Linda Barry is excellent.
I really enjoy Mobius's work, and recommend especially the story he did for Citröen (though I can't recall the title). He's got the cleanest fucking lines in the business. Manara is fun too, if often a bit softcore porno.
Lemme know if you want more...
posted by klangklangston at 8:13 AM on April 4, 2005

There are a ton of great suggestions for getting a survey of the scene, but they are worth mentioning again:
Free: The Lambiek site, Fantagraphics Catalogue, and your local library (really).
Money: McSweeney's comic issue, Drawn & Quarterly Anthologies, old issues of RAW
Keeping up with the News: The Comics Journal, and Egonlabs.

Many favorites have already been mentioned (Clowes, Ware, Sacco, Seth, Chester Brown, Los Bros Hernandez, etc). Here are some more notables from the "slice-of-life" (with some latitude) indie camp:
David B. - Epileptic (This book is amazing. Get the Pantheon edition -- Fantagraphics's is only part 1).
Jessica Abel - Art Babe
Adrian Tomine - Optic Nerve (I prefer the early ones)
Lynda Barry - any of her Marlys work.
Paul Hornschemeier - Forlorn Funnies, Sequential

A little less with the realism per-se:
Charles Burns - Black Hole
Renee French - Grit Bath

There's plenty more out there...have fun!
posted by safetyfork at 11:06 AM on April 4, 2005

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