THREE MUST-READ COMICS YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
YOUR INDIE COMICS READING LIST
Indie comics have been my bread and butter for years. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Big Two and everything they have done for the comic industry, but my heart beats for the little guy. There are a plethora of independent and bite-size publishers out there to choose from, and a great deal of it is better than what most would expect. There are of course your classic earth-shattering indie properties out there–The Walking Dead, Hellboy, Preacher, and Scott Pilgrim to name a few–but beyond the behemoths of the indie world there hide a special few lesser known titles that everyone should know about. Three of these unsung heroes are books that are all completed and wrapped up in a nice little bow for you to enjoy, so let’s take a look!
THE SIXTH GUN
Topping the list is probably the most well-known of the three: Oni Press’ The Sixth Gun, created by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt. It is a fantastic paranormal old west adventure for a bit more of a mature audience. At its core, it’s is a gun slingin’, demon slayin’, curse breakin’ non stop joyride. Given that I have no intention of ruining any of these books for those who are interested in reading them, I’m not going to give a whole lot about the stories away. So the long and short of where the strength of The Sixth Gun lies is in the mixing of the genres. Cullen Bunn does an absolutely brilliant job bringing the paranormal and the old west together. The first arc deals with the main character, Drake Sinclair, trying to stop his former Confederate commanding officer, General Hume, from collecting six cursed guns used to unlock a secret vault. Along the way, Sinclair picks up an unwitting partner, the adopted step daughter to one of Drake’s old acquaintances, named Becky. This young lady happens to have the infamous sixth gun, that once belonged to Hume himself, in her possession.
The first arc deals heavily with thwarting the recently resurrected Hume and his posse from their goals of domination and madness. Along the way you get a beautiful artistic rendering by Hurtt of magical gunfights, chases, mythical beasts, and creepy paranormal scenery. Several of the secondary characters and plot devices really add to the story and flesh out the world. Things like a prophetic group of dead soldiers hanging from a tree, ghost armies, and a giant thunder griffin lend a bit of zazz to your moments of what would otherwise be dreary filler content. The art and story work so well with each other that you actually fly through the pages with pretty surprising speed. A close friend of mine describes it as “[A] haunted Civil War, but with more nerd sh*t,” which of course should sell pretty much anyone on flipping through these pages.
As a pretty significant departure from the tone and content of The Sixth Gun, the next title is, believe it or not, an all ages book. Skyward, created by the late Jeremy Dale and printed by Action Lab Entertainment, only ran for 9 issues before Dale passed, with the book at the very end of its third arc. Skyward is a young adult adventure that appeals to pretty much any demographic. Right off the bat it feels incredibly similar to Jim Butcher’s first book in his series The Codex Alera. The young protagonist, Quinn, is confronted with events that are a new spin on some of your old favorite story plots. The boy coming of age. Finding out he’s more than what he thought he was. Getting his life flipped upside down, from simple and boring to dangerous and exciting. The story takes these classic elements and intense situations and provides a fun and lighthearted rendering of them for a broad audience. It fits the bill for both younger and older audiences. Kids and young adults get to follow along with a hero they can relate to, and those of us born before the new millennium get to indulge in some old school nostalgia with a new face.
The real draw of the comic lies with its creator, Jeremy Dale. He pulls double duty, writing and drawing Skyward, and his love of his material shows. The story is thoughtful and intriguing, and his art style compliments his words flawlessly. His attention to detail shines through and you can really feel the individuality of his touch on the book. The added elements of impending war and royalty give a wide breadth to the depth of the tale. The minor characters are well-developed and engaging. And he gives you giant warrior rabbits, so if any of you are fans of Sakai and Eastman, you’ll enjoy the little nod to your number one samurai, Usagi Yojimbo. This one I can wholeheartedly recommend to kids, young adults, parents, and pretty much anyone else out there. Skyward is pure gold for all ages.
Finally we come to the most strange and thought-provoking book on the list. Boom Comics released a six-issue series from none other than Simon Spurrier, illustrated by the up-and-coming Jeff Stokely, called Six-Gun Gorilla. This comic sold pretty well where I am from, and has a decent following, but what got me to scoop it off the rack was finding out the backstory behind the book’s creation. In 1939 a publication in the UK called Wizard ran a 15-week series called Six-Gun Gorilla by a now-unknown author. The old strips have been loosely used as a base for this bat-shit crazy visceral brain beater. On the other side of our “six gun” theme, unlike Bunn’s adventure into an old west vibe we are given what I like to call “the semi-archaic space fantasy” with a Western flair tying it together. It’s kinda like how Star Wars has lasers, but dudes are still swinging swords at each other, same deal, but with revolvers instead of light sabers. It is definitely necessary to mention this is most certainly a mature audiences kind of book, and if you don’t believe me, the first few pages of issue one will convince you of it pretty damn quickly.
In Six-Gun Gorilla we’re given an alternate dystopian future, where resources are thin, war is raging, and, in true “crazy future people” fashion, the battles on “The Blister” are being transmitted to the indulgent home world consumerist public. That’s right, it’s one of those! The story follows a man who, like many other men and women, has a psychic video transmitter implanted in his skull for the viewers back home. He essentially has nothing left to live for, fighting just for the chance to cease to exist. Much like The Wizard of Oz, the book is not really about the title character. In fact, the big guy doesn’t even show up until the last few panels of the first issue. The gorilla is exactly what you want him to be, though: A massive primate shooting big ass pistols, adorned with ammo belts and a poncho. Could you really ask for more? Throughout the run, the gorilla and protagonist slowly unravel the underlying veil of illusion that is the underlying plot of the whole book as reality and circumstances warp to reveal the mystery surrounding the odd situation unfolding in this universe.
Overall, this book is a psychological mind bender. Nothing is quite what it seems, and the power of the human brain and its ability to disassociate sits at the center point of the plot. To be completely honest, it is something you have to read more than once to truly understand and appreciate. In fact, even after multiple readings, you will more than likely still be left with a lot of unanswered questions, and a happy sort of confusion. All said and done though, the character development and brutal action alone is well worth the price of the trade for any comic enthusiast. Spurrier lives up to his reputation by delivering a real thinker to his readers. Perhaps more impressive is how perfectly the artistic style of Stokely fits in to really expand the world into something tangible and intriguing. Every scene stands up on its own through the writing and accompanying art. Six-Gun Gorilla is a sleeper you truly want to rouse from its resting place.
Given all the content out there from the indie market, it’s impossible to really pinpoint the “best” comics. Essentially, these comics are what I have come to see as some of the best content you can find that you probably haven’t already been turned on to. There are hundreds of books out there that don’t get the credit or readership they deserve, and these three books fit the bill for some long overdue attention. I can’t promise they will change your life or your view on comics, but I can guarantee that any one of these books is a solid choice if you’re looking to be entertained by something new!