Our rundown of the 50 best indie comics of 2016 is closing in on the top 10, which means we’re getting close to declaring our first ever Indie Comic of the Year 2016! Our latest collection group feature anthropomorphic mice, nameless travelling apes and killer samurais, as well as new books from some of the very best indie publishers on the market!
#20 MULP: Sceptre of the Sun (Improper Books)
Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton’s anthropomorphic mouse pulp adventure MULP continues to charm and enthrall. The adventures of two young mice archaeologists who set out on a mission to discover the secrets of an ancient stone tablet while being pursued by some nefarious villains may sound like a plot taken straight from an episode of Young Indiana Jones, but it is the world which Gibbs and Dunkerton have built which is the true star. The mice are rendered in exquisite detail by Sara and are packed full of personality and emotion (as revealed by the sumptuous sketches revealed in the back of the book) while the world they inhabit mixes real world period vehicles with stunning landscapes to create a wonderful adventurous of a read!
#19 Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure (Avery Hill Publishing)
Trying to encapsulate Steven Tillotson’s Untitled Ape’s Epic Adventure into a handy summary is no easy task. After all its surreal and quirky, but also beautiful, dark, poetic, frightening, sinister, scary, heart-warming, magical and most important of all, really rather funny. All of which makes for a compelling and absorbing read and helps overcome the fact that it is also, really quite bonkers in a lot of places! The story sees our titular ape, who is a kind of purple gorilla like creature with a skull-like face, head off on a journey to find his family in the jungle. Along the way he encounters a sarcastic cat (also with no name) who becomes his travelling partner, as well as a lonely dog, a narwhal, a mammoth, a yeti and a villainous bird in a pork pie hat who is following our ape and knows a little bit too much about his past. You see, it turns out that the ape has just been returned to earth from hell, and they now want him to return. Although you could be forgiven for thinking this would mean the book would end up being some kind of gothic tale of hell and damnation, it’s a mere distraction for what is a sublimely original piece of story-telling that is beautifully realised on every page.
#18 Theatrics (TPub)
It’s been a bumper year for UK publisher TPub, producing hit after hit. Theatrics has already made it on to our digital comic of the year list, but the story of a matinee idol in the 1930s who is beaten to a pulp in an alleyway and undergoes a life altering transformation, is truly staggering and thoroughly deserving of inclusion on this list as well! TPub’s supremo Neil Gibson balances crime noir and dark horror to perfect effect. While artist Leonardo Gonzalez has a Greg Capullo-esque style and a stunning eye for design that makes the whole collection truly exceptional. With the first arc now collected into a print edition, you can read the first chapter online for free via TPub and get a sense of why this trip to the theatre is well worth the ticket price.
Read the first chapter for free at tpub.co.uk
#17 Reads (Avery Hill Publishing)
It’s been an incredible year for Avery Hill in 2016 (with one or two more entries still to go on this list!) but perhaps the most under-rated has been their anthology collection Reads. Mixing intelligent and articulate story-telling with foul-mouthed Victorians and surreal hand-drawn adventures Reads has a unique mix of stories that feels very different to the average indie anthology. There’s The Bullpen about a struggling artist and writer at the beginning of the silver age of comics (which feels very familiar to a certain prolific pair of creators from 1960s New York), while Hitchcock and Film tells the story of the early life of The Master Of Suspense, but also the early days of cinema. Edie OP’s surreal tales bring an anarchic charm that juxtaposes brilliantly with the more serious offerings, but for us, the true highlight of the series are the foul-mouthed antics of Owen D. Pommery’s Victorian archaeologists The Megatherium Club. Like something from a Victorian penny dreadful, but with language that could come from Viz, as they look to upstage the famous archaeologist Charles Marsh in an increasingly bizarre and juvenile series of escapades – invariably fuelled by gin!
#16 Widdershins: Find The Lady (Kate Ashwin Comics)
Kate Ashwin’s Widdershins is one of the most charming and endearing series on the web. A perfect mix of quirky Bristish humour and fantastical magical adventures. In this year’s offering, Find The Lady, we get all the members of the Barber family in once place for the first time, and and what better opportunity to have a flashback episode and tell the story of how Grandma and Grandpa Barber got together to start this whole glorious family. In the previous volumes, we have been seeing various manifestations of the seven deadly sins (envy, gluttony etc) torment the world of wizards, but this time it’s the turn of Lust, who happens to be the big boss of them all. And he is no stranger to Harry and Izzy Barber who had encountered him at the time when they first met, when he appeared in the form of Luxuria, a sinister immortal who was trying to take over control of the Widdershins anchor. With the events of the Barber family beginning to build to an epic crescendo, Widdershins continues to be one of the true gems of indie publishing and although we love how Ashwin’s story is beginning to come together we are also sad that it means that it may end one day!
Purchase Widdershins from Kate’s Etsy Store
#15 Samurai Slasher Volume 2 (Mike Garley Comics)
Like all good horror movie villains Mike Garley’s head-chopping anti-hero returns even more bloody and violent than before. After being vanquished in volume 1 the samurai’s spirit returns via a series of murderous episodes set in a roller disco, rock concert, pagan cult and military base. Garley has created a superb collection of outlandish adventures for his villain to return via – our favourite being Samurai Slasher vs. Sole Survivors in which a group of killer surviviors fail to keep their suppprt group anonymous and end up another bunch victims! Garley is assisted by a whos-who of indie artists including Matt Rooke, Andy Clift and Chris Imber who all bring their A game. (Especially Clift whose work is also viewable in eye-popping 3D!) With Samurai Slasher volume 2 Garley achieves the impossible task of slasher follow ups and manages to makes a sequel that is actually better than the original!
Purchase Samurai Slasher volume 2 from Mike Garley’s Store
#14 Treves: A Restless Night (Merrick)
This prequel/spin off to Tom Ward and Luke Parker’s Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman explores an incident in India that sees Merrick’s pal turn to the supernatural after a particurlaly nasty night with an old Doctorly pal. Featuring murderous local stonemasons and tentacley Lovecraftian nightmare beasts, its a tour de force from Parker and Ward full of mid-bending artwork and dark and sinister situations. It’s also a timely reminder of what a great world they are building for Merrick and Treves that should hopefully see new issues coming our way in 2017!
Purchase Treves from ComiXology
#13 Artifical Flowers (Avery Hill Publishing)
Siobhan is a struggling artist, living in London, but when her pyromaniac brother comes to stay he inadvertantly helps her to live out her dreams of becoming a celebrated artist and scenester! For Artifical Flowers, Rachael Smith has united two characters from her previous books (Siobhan from House Party and Chris from I Am Fire) and turned them into a brother and sister pairing. A sublime tale, packed full of genuine pathos and warm humour, that is the perfect introduction to Smith’s work. (And If you like this then you should also have a look at her collection of auto-biographical comics Wired Up Wrong, which was also released this year).
Purchase Artifical Flowers from Avery Hill Publishing
#12 Scurry (Mac Smith)
Mac Smith’s Kickstarter sensation sees a group of mice fighting for survival in a post event world and debating whether to uproot their society as they wait for the humans to return or if they should run the risk of staying and continuing to battle their fearsome feline foes. But unlike fantastical series like Mouse Guard or Mice Templar it’s refreshingly grounded. And definitely not cute or twee. But what makes Scurry so worthy of being on this list is the jaw dropping painted artwork. His rendering of the animals is exquisite, but also terrifying – in particular cat villain Titan. Like a post modern Watership Down meets The Walking Dead, Scurry is an incredibly accomplished piece of work that richly deserved its phenomenal success of Kickstarter.
Read the first chapter of Scurry online here
#11 Hilda and the Bird Parade / Hilda and the Stone Forest (Flying Eye Books)
This year we’ve been treated to not one, but two offerings from Luke Pearson’s Scandi scamp Hilda. The star of the wonderful Nobrow Press/Flying Eye Books line up, Hilda has the charm and timelessness of the Mooomins and Tintin but with the contemporary styling and quirky edge of a book like Lumberjanes. We’ve included both on the list here as we truly couldn’t pick which was our favourite. Hilda and The Bird Parade sees Hilda taken on a journey by an avian pal and get caught up in the visually spectacular bird parade, while Hilda and the Stone Forest sees Hilda and her mother magically transported into the heart of the troll kingdom in the heart of a mountain – and ends with a series changing cliffhanger! With every page packed full of incredible detail and beautifully rendered scenes, Hilda is an utter delight from page to page and a truly magical read for comic fans of all ages. (And if you love Nobrow’s sublime high quality books then be sure to also take a look at their other wonderful books like Audubon, Sparks or Geis)