And so here it is! We finally reveal the 10 best indie and small press comics of 2017 and they really are an incredibly diverse and exciting bunch! Please notr these are listed in alphabetical order, and it is now up to the reader’s of the site to vote on which comic they think is the best. And that comic will be declared Pipedream Comics’ Indie & Small Press Comic of the Year 2017. You can have your say here! Voting ends midnight Wednesday 12th December.
#10 Transience: An Unforgettable Anthology
There are plenty of ‘post-event’ books out there, and so standing out from the crowd is not easy. However this collection of inter-connecting short stories manages to do just that. Set in a world where a terrorist incident causes everyone to no longer create new memories, editors Leo Johnson, Ricardo Mo and his team collect together 7 stories from around this amnesiac world and tell the story of how different people from all over the globe are affected. Stories range in tone from personal accounts of family life to more action packed pieces and it is this mix of genres and locations which makes it so fresh. It takes the idea of a global catastrophe into bold new directions and makes it feel much more real than if it had been played out in one place. It also allows an amazing roster of creators to play in this brilliantly conceived world and develop and expand it without treading on each others toes. Instead their collaborative effort allows the world to be expanded and developed in a way that a single writer and story could never achieve. A truly unforgettable read.
#9 The Ether (Lab Rat Comics)
It’s been an exceptional year for writer Matt Garvey with the likes of Chunks, White Noir and Cordelia Swift showcasing his range and variation as a writer. However it has been his vigilante thriller The Ether which truly stood out from the crowd. Firstly, for it’s jaw dropping final twist – what starts off as a fairly trad vigilante thriller about an anti-hero with a Rorschach style mask, has a final act which completely changes your opinion of what you have just read. It flips your assumptions on their head and transforms the book into a much more interesting premise than you first thought, which you feel the need to instantly re-read, and desperately want to be able to get your hands on the next issue to see what happens! And secondly, it signals the first collaboration between Garvey and the incredible artist that is Dizevez. Her painted artwork brings the pages of The Ether to life, making the map like mask of the hero look as if they are moving, but also giving the street level action a grim and dirty edge. It makes this small press book feel really big time, and with this pairing continuing to work together on the excellent White Noir (which appeared earlier in our list) it looks set to be a combination that could produce some really exciting and innovative comics together in the future!
#8 Steve Jackson’s The Trolltooth Wars (The Trolltooth Wars)
One of the most eagerly awaited small press book of recent years – PJ Montgomery and Gavin Mitchell’s adaptation of Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy novel was more than two years in the making and when it finally arrived was totally worth the wait! Montgomery faithfully adapts the tale of two warring wizards and the human adventurer who attempts to stop them by seeking help from the enigmatic warlock of Firetop Mountain and turns it into a compelling page turner. All the classic scenes that you want are there, from the opening caravan attack to the first appearance of the warlock himself – which is a real goose bump inducing moment for long time fans. But if you’re not a hardcore FF fan, but just like a bit of swords and sorcery, there is everything you could ask for in here, from epic battles to goofy sidekicks and more. It is Mitchell’s artwork which is the true star of the book though. His rendering of these epic moments, fantastical characters and diabolical villains are second to none. And they are all rendered with stunning colours and incredible lettering which merge seamlessly to make it into an exceptional product. The Trolltooth Wars is a truly epic fantasy tale in every respect!
#7 Porcelain: The Ivory Tower (IMproper Books)
The previous Porcelain volumes, A Gothic Fairytale and Bone China, have set the high watermark for indie comics in the UK. An adult fairytale with an emotionally complex and engaging story, with some of the most intricate and beautiful art going. So this third (and possibly final) volume came with a hell of a lot of expectation to live up to – and it more than lives up to it! Benjamin Read’s story has become more mature and sophisticated as Lady becomes Mother and her relationships with her family and her creations (the automaton Porcelain of the title) begin to become more strained. Isolated inside the titular tower, she must manage the conflict from within while the people outside attempt to break in. It’s a story packed with emotional complexity and sophistication, with Read writing Mother as a flawed and damaged individual struggling to keep control of her world. She is a completely believable character and not just a 1-dimensional heroine, which makes the highs and lows of this volume even more real. The story is brought to life by Chris Wildgoose who brings his A game to every page. Having also been working on DC’s Batgirl, his work as a new sophistication and polish to it, which makes Porcelain: Ivory Tower a fitting next chapter to this utterly wonderful series.
#6 Midnight Man: Gunspace (Bad Mother Publisher)
From the minute our hero blasts off into space in Big Ben, you know you are in for one hell of a ride! Mo Ali and Andy Bloor’s follow up to their fantastic debut issue is another long awaited small press sequel that has been well worth the wait, as the guys really step things up a gear and their enigmatic hero learns more about his past while soaring through space in a clock tower. It has all the weirdness of a silver age Kirby story, but distilled through the contemporary psychedelia of Grant Morrison and rendered in the shadowy darkness of Brian Bolland. Bloor’s artwork is as out of this world as the story! Mo pushes his skills to the limited with planets that look like babies, giant rock creatures and a mirror image female version of our hero who he confronts in a diner via a homage to Sapphire and Steel. Every panel is a thing of beauty and the sheer amount of black ink on the page seems to bend light into it and makes this one of the most dazzling and original books around.
#5 NPC Tea (Sarah Milman)
Making your small press comic stand out from the crowd isn’t easy, but Heart of Time’s Sarah Milman managed to create one of the most eye catching indie comics of the year with NPC Tea. By rendering the whole thing in a super stylish pink and blue colour scheme, she told certain parts of her story in each respective colour, depending on the character and the mood of the action. But what separates this from your average zine that also does this, is that she still draws everything in her cartoonish and anime infused style that we came to love with The Heart Of Time. All of which made NPC Tea one of our favourite looking books of the year. But it’s not all style over substance though, as Sarah’s story of a world where orcs and elves co-exists with humans, and a uni student discovers an elemental god working in a tea shop in Cardiff is packed full of character, charm and wit, that would mean it was an essential read, even without it’s super cool visuals. So by combining the two, you have an absolutely perfect combo!
#4 Dalston Monsterzz (Nobrow Press)
Like a hipster Studio Ghibli movie, Dilraj Mann’s Dalston Monsterzz is set in a version of fashionable East London where monsters fly around the skyscrapers and psychedelic street gangs rule at ground level. This story of two friends who get caught up with a girl on the run from her evil step father, is set in this strange world which is sort of like our own, but so far removed as to be utterly fantastical. It is brought to life by some truly outstanding artwork from Dilraj, with a style and look that feels completely fresh and new. Mixing animation and illustration with cutting edge fashion the book just oozes cool from every panel. While the bright and garish colour schemes and large format book courtesy of publishers Nobrow, makes this one of those titles which transcends ‘comics’ and should be on the reading list of every well read fashionista in Shoreditch, as well as every discerning comic fan looking for the next big thing!
#3 Wired Up Wrong Deluxe Edition
Rachael Smith has expanded out her critically acclaimed mini comic and re-released it with over 100 new pages in order to create this ‘Deluxe Edition’. As with several other books on this list, Wired Up Wrong examines issues with depression and anxiety in a very open and frank way – but also with bucket loads of humour which stops this from being a melancholic self help comic. Rachael’s cartoony and expressive style allows her to mix heart felt and poignant moments with the surreal and stupid to create a perfect balance of intimate discussion on the subject of mental health, but also a very readable comic at the same time. In fact, with these extra pages it feels as if there is more space for Rachael to tell her story as she brings in discussions on sexual harassment and self harm, along with more ongoing jokes such as the Wheel Of Feels. Rachael portrays her mental state and emotions in such an expressive and intelligent way (representing them as two distinct black dogs who dictate her mood) that if you are suffering with depression then you really will not feel alone as she manages to perfectly encapuslate the way these emotions can make you feel. And if you know someone who you think might be suffering this is a brilliant insight into the complex way that their head might be working. What started off as a nice collection of some interesting strips, has become one of the most significant and powerful small press comics of the year.
#2 Samurai Slasher: Late Fees (Mike Garley Comics)
You might not expect intimate reflections on childhood and a rampaging samurai killing machine to go hand in hand. But Mike Garley manages to do just this with Samurai Slasher: Late Fees. This one shot was kept separate from the main Slasher continuity as Garley experiments with using his iconic horror character as a metaphor instead of the hero. Looking at a young boy’s relationship with his father, the Slasher is used as the young boys way of coping with his father’s absence and fighting off the metaphorical demons that plague him. It feels an incredibly personal story despite being interspersed with head slicing action courtesy of Lucasz Kowalczuk. It is a great example of what a strong creation the Slasher is, that it can be used in this way with out taking away from the upcoming 3rd volume of the main series. Visually it is stunning, and avoids being another slice of life book by making the most Lucasz’s incredible art style. Although he as a slightly more understated style for the character moments, this is just the quiet before the storm as it means he can really cut loose with some of the more fantastical elements to make them truly leap off the page with spectacular effect! A book that came completely out of left field and manages to balance highly personal story telling with all out action in a way which we never thought was even possible.
#1 Something City (Avery Hill Publishing)
It’s been a strong year for Avery Hill, with an eclectic and highly unique group of new titles being released, many of which were quite challenging and unconventional reads. However for us, the book which stood out from this unconventional crowd was Ellice Weaver’s Something City. Comprising a collection of very different tales of characters living in the titular city, it is a strange and beautiful mix of personal stories and anecdotes that feel like you are sitting down with an old friend to learn about the weird and wonderful people living in their neighbourhood. Although the idea of a comic about nudists, inmates in an open prison and star gazing teens might not seem the most obvious subject for a comic, Something City is endlessly readable and a book that we kept coming back to again and again. This was in no small part thanks to Ellice’s beautiful artwork, with it’s unique mix of colour and composition. With each chapter featuring a geometric cityscape page that reminded us of something out of a vintage video game, through to the very ordered but also very loose style of pencilling and the exquisite mix of pastel tones in the colouring, this was a book that was a true work or art and an utterly mesmerising read from start to finish.