In a field still dominated by super heroes, independent comic books and strips don’t often get the attention they deserve. Except for a few political or controversial titles many excellent indie comics and graphic novels frequently fly under the radar. Here are a few that I think are worth reading.
RACONTEUR is a beautifully drawn black and white regularly published comic book anthology that features autobiographical stories by a variety of cartoonists. These include such great artists as Mike Lynch, Isabella Bannerman, and Mark Parisi, who are better known for their single panel cartoons. These stories are little gems. Some are funny, others are sad or bittersweet. They’re all based on true incidents from the artists’ childhood or adult life.
EYEBEAM by Sam Hurt, ran as both a comic strip and a comic book and is now available as a series of collections in graphic novel form. Eyebeam is a wonderfully surreal comic that has a dream-like quality to it. Imagine living life in a series of Salvador Dali or M.C. Escher paintings and you have a general idea of what reading this is like.
SO BUTTONS, written by Jonathan Baylis is an excellent autobiographical comic book series in the tradition of Harvey Pekar. That is to say that Jonathan writes the stories and a number of different cartoonists draw them. Those include the wonderful illustrator, Dean Haspiel, and the very funny Fred Hembeck. Jonathan’s stories range from the sad to embarrassing to humorous, taken directly from his life.
BOX OFFICE POISON, by Alex Robinson. This comic has won awards and received great acclaim. On the off chance you haven’t seen it I wanted to bring it to your attention. Box Office Poison ran as a comic book some years ago and is now collected as a graphic novel. It’s about a group of friends, their lives, loves, disappointments and triumphs told with great humanity, character, and humor. Wonderful stuff!
GERTRUDE’S FOLLIES, by Tom Hatchman. These comic strips and now graphic novels are about the fictionalized and sometimes true adventures of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris in the 1920’s and beyond. They are written and drawn in Tom’s cool and surreal style. Imagine a sit-com about intellectuals and their eccentric friends who just happen to be Hemingway, Picasso, and the impressionists. Check out this smart and funny strip.