Comic Culture: From the Big Two to Indie (and not looking back)
These days I find myself less and less interested in what is going on with the Big Two and more and more enthralled with the indie scene. A few months ago I actually severed the ties with DC and Marvel. I still purchase their trades here and there (mostly old stuff), but do not read any of their current monthly titles… that’s right…I said none. With all the events, crossovers, gimmicks, double shipping schedules and reboots I just decided it was time to move on. I was already reading a handful of indie titles like Saga and Chew, so I took this as an opportunity to loosen my wallet and see what else I could find. Fast forward to today, and I am not regretting my decision one bit.
Here’s the beauty of the indie scene, which I came realize very quickly:
- There are almost-never events
- There are almost-never crossovers
- There are almost-never gimmicks
- There are almost-never double-shipping schedules
- There are almost-never reboots
Do you see a trend there? Indie books, for the most part, stay away from all the usual tropes that are synonymous with the Big Two. There are always exceptions to the rule, so that’s why I say “almost never” instead of “never.” But for someone like me who wants to read a good story, about good characters, which have no barriers, these books are clearly the way to go. They stay contained in their own world, and aren’t affected by other books in a shared universe. One book events are contained to that one book. Imagine that!
To clarify, I am not talking about licensed IP’s like Ghostbusters or Adventure Time because those are someone else’s creations that are being licensed for use by a company for “x” amount of years. Whereas characters owned by DC and Marvel are published through themselves respectively, these characters can be published through any number of outlets. This offers some flexibility, but in the end, are still someone else’s creations. The writers and artists working on these books obviously get paid, but don’t hold any actual intellectual property over the books or characters themselves.
Specifically, what I am referring to are indie books published by companies like Image, Boom Studios, Oni Press and Monkeybrain (to name a few) that are straight out of the creator’s mind. These are characters, worlds and situations that the creators have shaped and molded 100% themselves. There may be underlying similarities to other books and characters, but that’s where they end. The creators are free to run with their books because there’s no one pulling the strings behind the scenes. They make the decision about who lives and dies, and also set their own schedule. Of course they strive to release the books monthly, and on time, but this is not as much of a factor as keeping the quality and integrity of the book. This is something that appears to be lost on the Big Two these days because of their focus on “getting the books out on time.” That’s where you run into issues with fill-in writers and artists, which I am personally not a fan of. If I have to wait a few extra weeks for a book to come out so the creative team can catch up, that’s fine by me. It’s better than ruining the tone by adding a fill-in for one issue.
In the end, the success of these indie books rests almost solely on the creators themselves, and for that I give them props. They are putting their ideas and butts on the line, and that takes a lot of time, effort, money and guts. These creators obviously can’t survive off of one title, whether it is indie or not, so they always have multiple projects going at once. And, frequently they will be working at the Big Two while working on their indie books. We all need to pay the bills, and I am aware of that. It’s just that I’ve reached the point where I will support a creator’s indie book over his Big Two book plain and simple.
It goes without saying that I have definitely become a proponent of the “indie movement” over the last couple of months and it’s for good reason. The indie landscape couldn’t be riper with great books popping up every week from well-known, as well as new creators. The fact that they have the ability, now more so than ever, to create their own book that isn’t a Big Two character and find an audience for it is simply priceless. The money is obviously nice, but somehow I have a feeling that comes secondary to seeing your vision come to reality.
So do me and yourself a favor next time you buy your comics. Simply swap one Big Two book for an indie book. I promise you won’t regret it. And maybe, just maybe you’ll find it was worth the gamble.