It’s that time at last! We’ve whittled down the contenders from a long list of over 100 to this final 10 who represent the very best in indie and small press publishing in 2018. There’s superheroes, science-fiction, slice of life, humour, horror, pirates, gangsters and even family holidays! But which is the best? That’s up to you to decide. So read through our pick of our favourite books of the year, but only you can choose the winner.
So VOTE HERE NOW for your pick the Best Indie and Small Press Comic of 2018
Voting closes at midnight on Friday December 14th!
Away (Markosia Enterprises)
Having made his name with books like Brethren Born and Late Knights, writer Jon Laight has swung for the fences and hit a home run with his first collocation for Markosia. Ably assisted by artist Grant Richards, Away sees a firefighter learn that he is secretly a galactic champion who embarks on missions in the blink of an eye while his loved ones remain unaware of what he’s up to or where he’s been. As the missions get more advanced so does the time he spends away from his family. Laight uses his personal experience as a firefighter and family man to make this ambitious sci-fi tale as emotive as it is epic.
Follow Me In (Avery Hill Publishing)
Following her travels in Mexico in 2003, Katriona Chapman’s first full length graphic novel is part travelogue and part doomed love story as it also chronicles the breakdown of her relationship with her boyfriend along the way. It makes for a really unique mixture of emotions as you read the book. On one hand you are drawn into the wonderful world she is visiting thanks to some truly stunning artwork which showcases the wonderful nature of the landscapes and areas she visits. But at the same time it is underpinned by the highly personal subplot of her break up, and the whole book is tinged with a sense of sadness about the end of a relationship. However, what makes it such an incredible book is that without both these elements Follow Me In would not have been quite as powerful as it is. As both parts, help make what could have been a fairly ordinary travelogue or slice of life tale into something really poignant and personal but also really beautiful as well.
Killtopia (BHP Comics)
Dave Cook and Craig Paton’s hyper-colour dystopian thriller is not only a fantastic example of an ambitious small press sci fi book, but is also a fantastic example of how to market a comic. By the time Killtopia was finally release towards the end of the year, we had had months of getting used to the concepts inside and the name was never off the top of our ‘most anticipated book of the year list’. Thank goodness it more than lived up to our expectations with its ultra violent mechs, larger than life wreckers and an undercurrent of dry British humour. All brought to life with some stunning Frank Quitely-esque visuals from Paton and a garish neon colour palette too. Killtopia went from being small press star to a full blow indie comics sensation when it was picked up by BHP comics and claimed its rightful place on the shelves of the nations comic stores.
Jon McNaught captures the minutiae of a holiday to the English seaside in this perfectly observed slice of sequential story telling. Packing his pages with up to 30 panels at a time, McNaught focuses on the quiet moments and the subtle details of a scene to create beautiful moments. From the mundanity of a motorway service station or provincial museum to the compulsory visit to an ageing relative. He combines these rites of passage into a nostalgic and slightly melancholic look at family holiday which he creates with mosaics of moments and weaves together into an incredibly readable, but also very poignant and thoughtful book. One that will be especially resonant for anyone who has enjoyed/endured a family holiday in a caravan in the West Country!
Gateway City (Sassafras Press)
Reading Russell Olson’s retro sci-fi crime noir is like being thrown into an inter-dimensional vortex (a bit like our hero) as you are sent spiralling back to the 1930s and a world of gumshoes and contraband booze, before being catapulted across the galaxy to a planet full of alien gladiators. Gateway City is like a love letter to the classic pulps, but with the slick production values of a contemporary indie. Olson’s artwork oozes class and the pages feel like they should leave inkstains on your fingers. But below this sheen is a superb twisting and turning crime story about a private eye investigating alien gangsters. With this new collected edition giving the series a slight realignment (thanks to editor John freeman) it helps bring the story into sharper focus. Gateway City is a vintage delight and with books like this and Lady Hollywood, Olson has announced himself as being one of our top creators to watch in 2019.
The Needle Man (Soaring Penguin Press)
In a shadowy art deco city, the secret police known as the Needle Men dispatch their unique brand of justice. But when one of them comes across a criminal who is set to turn their ordered world upside down he has to break the normal chain of command. Martin Simpson’s incredible graphic novel is a mix of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner, but with the art deco styling and golden colour scheme of Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby movie. With a hero who looks like a wizened Heisenberg and some of the most breath taking art we have seen all year, this is one of those books which helps to raise the bar of quality for indie comics.
Pirate Fun: The First Trial (Bell/Slorance)
Fun Mudlifter is back in the follow up to Colin Bell and Neil Slorance’s cult small press classic Dungeon Fun. Continuing the zany antics of our anti-heroine Fun and her ghostly guide Graves, Pirate Fun is a laugh out loud mix of crazy antics, clever wordplay and super sight gags. After mining the fantasy genre for all it’s worth, this time they’ve gone to the world of pirates for a world of krackoctopuses, pirate gameshows and magical mermen. There’s a cast of exciting new characters joining all your favourites from Dungeon Fun and Slorance and Bell continue to fire those jokes at you as if shot from a super powered gag cannon. Pirate Fun is the perfect all ages comics, but with more than enough to keep older readers happy at the same time!
Red Rocket Comet (LabRat Comics)
Writer Matt Garvey is no stranger to this list, thanks to books like white NOIR and The Ether in 2017, but this year’s entry is perhaps his most ambitious yet. Jerry and Lloyd are retired superheroes who share a past, but what dark secret is it that means Lloyd is appearing at Jerry’s window in the middle of the night. This Watchmen-esque premise is turned into something really special thanks to the story being split into two timelines, and with artwork from different artists providing the light and dark for these two strands. The dark is provided by Circussides’ Grayham Puttock whose shadowy and ominous pencil drawing style gives it a dark and horrific undertone. While the light is handled by ‘man of the moment’ Andy Clift, who gives the retro stories an old school feel, but with a hint of danger to them at the same time. While it is the artists who may appear to shine in this page-turning one shot, it is Garvey’s management of the two sides of the story that makes this into his most accomplished book to date.
Purchase Red Rocket Comet for £5 from Matt Garvey’s Big Cartel Store
The Adventures of Captain Cosmic (Frontier Comics)
It’s been quite the landmark year for writer/artist Andy W. Clift, but this has been perhaps his most important work to date. The Adventures of Captain Cosmic is the kind of comic you just don’t get any more – an unfussy cosmic adventure, that’s bags of fun to read! Inspired by the pulp serials of the 1940s and 50s, but with the kinetic artwork of classic Silver Age Marvel, The Adventures of Captain Cosmic isn’t trying to be snarky and poke fun at the genre, it’s an uncomplicated love letter to the period, but remains fantastically enjoyable at the same time. The stories are light and fluffy for the most part, but it is the artwork which really makes it, mixing psychedelic Kirby space scenes with the slickness of Darwyn Cooke or Bruce Timm. A truly interstellar read!
Set in the 1970s, Rachael Ball’s tale of a family coming to terms with the loss of their father, while also attempting to find out the story behind their mysterious neighbour the Wolf Man, is a glorious mix of heartfelt kitchen sink drama and fantastical childhood misadventure. It alternates from poignant family moments with very raw emotions, to surreal flights of fancy involving a go kart based on HG Wells’ time machine, and even has elements of horror with the mysterious man next door (who is much more than he might seem to the kids). However Ball handles all these strands to perfection without ever losing sight of where the story is going or where it has come from. With her masterful and expressive pencil artwork giving the book a timeless quality that evokes Raymond Briggs or Posy Simmonds, this is one of those books which should stand the test of time and be a well loved classic for many years to come.