We begin our rundown of the best 50 indie and small press comics of the year with packed small press anthologies, Shakespearean classics, supernatural cowboys and otherworld adventures!
#50 ComicScene Annual 2021
If you were to bring together a bunch of our favourite small press creators from the UK convention scene and get them to put together an anthology then you basically get this! Having changed tack on releasing a monthly magazine, the ComicScene team have put together this awesome collection featuring exclusive new stories from comics like Fraser Campbell’s Alex Automatic, Andy Clift’s Captain Cosmic, Sam London and Dan Butchers Project Hoax, Sarah Milman’s NPC Tea, Dave Braughton’s Shaman Kane and many more – including quite a few with entries on this very list. There’s even an exclusive Quarantine Comix strip from Rachael Smith on the back! At a time when we haven’t been able to get out see these fine folks at convention, this is the next best alternative!
#49 Findlay Macbeth
If you were put off ‘The Scottish Play’ by bad English lessons at school then Kev F Sutherland’s re-imagining of Macbeth as a Scottish factory manager in the 1970s is a real eye opener. Packed full of kipper ties, fondue and Ford Cortinas – as well as murder and mysticism – Kev’s unique take on the Shakespeare classic is close enough to the original to appease the die hards, but outrageous enough that you are drawn into it’s gloriously retro world. Mixing original dialogue with contemporary slang it’s a really easy read, and spotting the way he has updated the characters is part of the charm (the 3 witches are receptionists for example). A really smart and genuinely enjoyable adaptation!
#48 Westernoir Volume 1
We’re often a bit wary when a small press creator says they going to retroactively colour their comics – especially when it comes from a genre with a history of black and white books. However in the case of Dave West’s Westernoir this new volume took what was already a really great comic and made it something really special indeed! The adventures of supernatural cowboy investigator Josiah Black who hunts down monsters in the wild west has never looked so good and this new collected edition fleshes out this wonderful character with extra stories to make an essential opening chapter to one of our favourite small press character’s story.
#47 Defend Milford Green
Sam London’s tale of aliens vs. Victorians has grown and evolved since it’s uncertain beginning and become a really fun all ages read. Alfie and his fiancee have gone from defending the small town of Milford Green from alien invasion, to helping crown a new ruler of the galaxy and now they must return home to help stop a global invasion. With a bit of help from Queen Victoria. It’s really fun concept, and Sam is clearly revelling in every part of the story. As he gets more confident with his story telling it is matched with the supreme artwork from Mikael Hankonen, whose work in the space scenes is literally out of this world and helps to elevate a really good small press book into something really unique and high quality!
#46 Hopper Detective of the Strange
We were really sad to hear of the end of Fairspark Book in 2020, but at least they have left behind a legacy of some fantastic titles – and Hopper is one of their best! From Gallant and Amos creator Rob Barnes, this is your classic anthropomorphic detective tale as Hopper looks into various mysteries in a museum. It’s delightfully silly and has that charming mix of mystery and merriment that classic Scooby Doo manages to maintain. A fantastic all ages comic, that along with anthology the Spark and so many more will leave the perfect legacy for the wonderful Fairspark.
#45 Vanguard Volume 3
Dan Butcher’s superhero webcomic continues to go from strength to strength, and this is even more apparent when you read these collected volumes. What started out as a fairly straight forward Excalibur-wannabe, Brit superhero book has evolved into a savage satire of the genre and pop culture in general. This new volume leaps forward after the violent events of Book 2 to find our heroes living in the woods plagued by wealthy aristocrats. Butcher’s eye for sharp dialogue and an over the top premise makes this into a gloriously entertaining read and is consistently one of the most entertaining and surprising indie superhero series around – which is no mean feat seeing as this is an incredibly tough sub genre to get right. However Vanguard manages to have something new and fresh to say in this well established genre, and that’s why it is at the top dog of indie superhero line up!
#44 Milky #3-4
These adventures of a milkman saving the world from alien invasion was one of our favourite discoveries in 2019 and so we were delighted to see it conclude this year. And these final two issues definitely deliver a superb ending to this brilliantly over the top adventure. As Milky and his band of misfits take it to the alien horde, the ideas and concepts get increasingly outlandish, but somehow never go completely into parody. This is one of those series which will definitely benefit from a collected edition (coming in 2021!) as reading it all the way through is such a gloriously enjoyable experience. This is a superb calling card for Josh Saxon’s work and we hope is just the start of many more awesome books from him in the future!
#43 Canopus (Scout Comics)
Canopus’ tale about a woman trapped on a barren planet with no memories of the mission she is there for was an incredibly harrowing, haunting and addictive read. Dave Chisholm brought so many chills to this story both through the art and as the history of this tale unfolded that you ended up hooked from start to finish. However, rather than traditional scares, Canopus had a very cerebral vibe to it throughout as Chisholm offered up a lot of emotion from and between its characters while balancing that with the nightmarish sci-fi creatures. Canopus was such a heartfelt tale that had it not been given its sci-fi element it sure wouldn’t have lost its punch in another setting.
#42 Frank at Home on the Farm
When Frank returns home from World War 1 to his family farm, he is confronted with an empty house. But what starts as a simple missing person mystery soon evolves into a dark and sinister horror story. With shades of classic British folk horror like the Wicker Man, dark comedy like the League of Gentleman and even a hint of Animal Farm, it becomes something genuinely twisted and unsettling. Writer Jordan Thomas and artist Clark Bint have crafted a really creepy but very cleverly constructed read with Frank At Home On The Farm, building it around a story that peels back the mysteries of this relatively simple scenario to reveal something rather dark and unpleasant beneath it! Which is backed up with some truly harrowing art. Compelling if unnerving stuff!
#41 Pop Kill #3-4
Industry heavyweights Jimmy Palmiotti (Harley Quinn) and Dave Johnson (100 Bullets) bring us the final chapters to this tale of corporate espionage and violent sabotage in the world of fizzy drinks! Despite its premise sounding quite sweet, this is an all action thriller that pulls no punches in the violence stakes, but is made all the more palatable by some sparkling and fizzing dialogue. The tale of hitman/gentleman spy Jon Pyle and his battles with a pair of competing billionaires brothers who are each trying to get a recipe for everlasting fizz is fantastically fun and so gloriously over the top that it manages to never go flat!