In Nude Magazine, Bare Essentials , I wrote about my favourite comics from the UK indie press. Since then I’ve been thinking about how I got into indie comics, my favourites, and those that have influenced me most. So I’ve decided to share some of these with you. You’ll probably notice these are all black and white (I like brush and ink), many of them Canadian, almost entirely by writer/artists, and on subjects of a personal and often teenage nature. In no particular order, these are the reason I wanted to draw comics at all:
Krazy Kat: George Herriman
Not technically indie, but certianly not mainstream, I first saw Krazy Kat in a book about the history of comics when I was a kid. There is something beautifully odd and unfinished about Herriman’s world and a simplicity of style that allows the subtle and philosophical issues of the characters to resonate. It’s a universal love triangle and I love that character of Krazy is non gender specific.
Scott Pilgrim: Bryan Lee O’Malley
As my most recent favourite comic it almost didn’t make it on here. If I’d have read this as a teenager it would have blown my mind. What’s not to love? The art style is cute and cool, the story is funny and surreal and it’s all a bit navel gazey about life and lovers. I love it!
Maus: Art Spiegeleman
This is the first time a comic proved to me that this medium could present serious personal and historical subject matter with incredible immediacy. The simple art style forces the reader to be interactive; here you bring your own emotions and imagination to the page.
Ghost World/8 ball: Daniel Clowes
Clowes work is predominantly observational and unglamourised. His drawing style is kinda ugly and so are the thoughts and activities of most of his characters. I found I could relate whether I wanted to or not.
Black Hole: Charles Burns
I was attracted firstly by Burns stunningly dark drawing style, every thing looks sinister and a bit over worked. The theme is a creepy metaphor for teenage alienation and I like that nothing is spelled out, resolved or explained so that the situation lives on in your mind.
Peep show: Joe Matt
Joe Matt cracks me up, his work is autobiographical, painfully so. I defy you to read one of his books and not shake your head laughing, saying, “why are you telling me this?” He also comes from the school of simple, unglamorous kinda ugly artwork.
I never liked you: Chester Brown
I like Chester for much the same reasons as I like Joe Matt (above), and it’s hardly a surprise that they are friends who turn up in each others comics. I retain a special place in my heart though for Brown’s writing about his mother’s struggle with mental health. And ‘Playboy’ is possibly one of the most painfully embarrassing things I’ve ever read.
Love and Rockets: Jamie & Gilbert Hernandez
I don’t always know if I’m coming or going with Love and Rockets, but it doesn’t matter. And I know Beto possibly has the more interesting storylines. But part of me will always be in love with Jamie’s slick black and white art work. Such clean lines, such beautiful ladies, there’s a kinda 1950’s feel, and I do love the strips from the 1980s!
Blankets: Craig Thompson
Again, this is less about the story for me and more about the art work. Although the theme does appeal, its teenage navel gazing first love. (Do you see a pattern yet?) Thompson’s brush-pen line work is just beautiful. Like Love and Rockets, I pour over the artwork and daydream of one day being able to draw like that.
An honourable mention also goes to
Cerebus: Dave Sim
What began as a fantasy parody of Conan, has become one man’s epic experiment in comic self publishing. Running from 1977 to 2004 Sim refers to his master work as “longest sustained narrative in human history.” Sim is to put it politely a bit of a nut bar, but he has done much to push the scope of what comics can do and deserves kudos on being the pioneer of creator owned, self published work. I like the earlier books best, before Sim’s warped world view and latent misogyny truly kick in, and my favourite character is Lord Julius, (Groucho Marx by any other name.) I admit I’ve not read all of Cerebus’s 16 ‘phone book’ sized tomes, (I made it a far as ‘Women’ which is book 8), and I may never read any again….