By feebadger 10 Comments
Growing up, super hero comics were, obviously a huge influence on my reading and my life. Yet, my comic book reading history didn't begin with them and, instead, began with the independent market. Being Welsh and growing up in a small town, it wasn't until i visited the 'big city' in my later adolescence that i first saw the bright and shiny American comics. Until that moment i had found sustenance in the independent scene and comics like 2000AD. Independent comics to this day feed my soul in a way that mainstream comics never can or could. They are freedom, expression, an opiate of the senses, so, in the interest of piquing someone else's interests as i had my own, i thought i'd share with you the ten Indies comics that inspired me the most growing up.
Seek out the ones that grab you. Trust me, it will be worth it.
1. 2000 AD
The importance of this long running series on my mind, my personality, my psyche and my tastes cannot be over stated. For my formative pre-teen years, every Monday, my dear departed Granny would come home from work with a copy of 2000 AD under her arm, ready to assault my eager young brain with subversion and genuine thrill power. Little did she probably know of what went on within those pages but every week I would devour the mind blowing antics of Judge Dredd and Slaine, Nemesis and the A.B.C Warriors. There were stories by Alan Grant, Pat Mills, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, art byDave Gibbons, Kev O’Neill and Glenn Fabry and if there was ever a comic better attuned to BLOWING the minds of young readers, I have yet to experience it.
2. EDDY CURRENT
I bought my hardcover copy of Eddy Current off a friend of my ex-girlfriend when I was a teenager. He was a drug addled loon and wanted me to pay thirty dollars for it, even though I knew that this was a rip off. I paid the money, as i wanted to appear like a good guy in the eyes of my, then girlfriend and forever more after that, the drug addled loon would laugh and mock me every time I met him (which, thankfully, was not often) as he felt that he had successfully fooled me into parting with money beyond the worth of what I had bought. Fool. I would have paid him a hundred if I knew what was in that book. A rush of seedy underground comic book making at its finest, visionary and dark and funny as all hell, Eddy Current, to this day rocks my world.
And to that drug addled loon, wherever you be in this wild and crazy world; thank you, from the bottom of my crackling and buzzing black heart… thank you.
3. ZERO ZERO
Published by Fantagraphics, Zero Zero was an anthology of independent comic book artists that opened my mind up the possibilities inherent, not only in the comic book world, but also within art in general. I think most generations of comic book readers have an anthology title which touches them, whether that might be Tales From The Crypt, Taboo or Marvel Comics Presents. For me, it was Zero Zero. It enabled me to experience, in one sitting the length and breadth of comic book talent, ranging from Richard Salato David Mazzucchelli and, of course, including my first introduction to the work of the next man on our list.
4. BIOLOGIC SHOW
It is not the most violent, not the most graphic comic ever made, not even close, but its quiet and intense atmospherics leave you wishing you had waited until first light, whilst sitting in a crowded room to read it. I can’t even begin to tell you what it is about, but I can urge you, if you are one who seeks out experience, to find it and consume it heartily.
5. SIN CITY
Who wasn’t influenced and blown away by Sin City when it first appeared? The art, the noir, the sheer black and white of art and theme, the pure grit and raunch of Frank Miller’s (now) seminal work was as revolutionary as it was a heark back to the traditional and potent power of the comic book page. The subsequent series may have sometimes been hit and miss, but for pure story telling power, you couldn’t go past the independent spirit of Sin City and its doomed inhabitants.
Peter Bagge should have some kind of award. I don’t know what it should be or why, I just believe he should. There are many great tomes that capture the times, the zeitgeist of our existence; the Great Gatsby, A Confederacy Of Dunces, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, Catcher In The Rye… oh, andHate. Damned straight I’m putting that in there as NO other book or comic captured the spirit and underlying ennui and emotion of my formative years as the adventures of Buddy Bradley and his cronies did. I laughed, I cried, I had a long hard look at myself in the mirror. Through the years that Hate came out, my friends and I grew with the comic and characters as they grew with me and as a mirror of my own sometimes sad and depraved existence, I have to hold Hate up as a classic, not only of comic book literature, but of literature. Period.
7. MILK AND CHEESE
Mindless violence and addiction as portrayed through a rogue block of cheese and a subversive carton of milk. What was not possible in comics? Nothing, that’s what Evan Dorkin and his obnoxious creations told me. Then they beat me about the head with pipes, vomited in my mouth and told me to get out into the world and DO something, ya dorky fanboy you!
8. SOUTHERN SQUADRON
Published by Cyclone Comics in Australia (where I do dwell) The Southern Squadron were the first really independent superhero title I had read outside of The Big Two. Australia has a veeery distinctive and wholly original sense of humour and outlook on things and it was ll here in the Southern Squadron. A fairly amateur group of heroes, the Squadron stories were filled with the laconic wit of the average Australian ‘bloke’ or ‘sheila’ and though it didn’t have the scope of their competitors, made up for it with pure heart, humour and independence. When all that was on offer were rather insipid American heroes, the warts and all approach of a very real and very independent comic book team and comic book company was a welcome reprieve.
9. FLAMING CARROT
What the hell was going on? To this day, even when I go back I don’t know what is happening, why it is happening, or why the hell I find it so funny. And that was the draw of the Flaming Carrot. Anything that could entertain you as much as it confused you HAD to be a good thing, right? Far more aware of him as a concept and a name before I ever read the title, it was the Bill Plymptonesque art that first drew me in. The completely hilarious insanity was what kept me reading. Surreal insanity in the form of a vegetable headed crusader fighting against… uh, something?
Yes please. I’ll have some of that.
10. JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC/SQUEE
Jhonen Vasquez has gone on to be somewhat of a poster child for the independent circuit, and rightly so as his earlier works were as brilliant as they were idiosyncratic. Completely cartoony (though I don’t think ANYONE could have foreseen him working for Nickelodeon when they first came out) Johnny was as hilarious as it was bone crushingly violent. A strange combination to be sure but one which absolutely suited the sensibilities of my friends and I. Johnny, of course, lead into the even stranger Squee series about the quest of one small boy to find some semblance of normality in his life. He is, of course, thwarted at every turn and in that, perhaps, I took some form of recognition of my, of all of our struggles to have the world recognize us, not as the weird freaks we truly are, but as human beings with real feelings, real desires and really really big knives..