If there has been one good constant about the 2020s, it is that there has been a plethora of delightful indie comics of all genres and art styles, by passionate and talented creators. These titles are those that were either self-published, originally written for the ShortBox Comics Fair, or published through small independent publishers. They all showcase a true love for the unique forms of storytelling that comics can create and fill me with delight upon reading them. I sincerely hope that you can find at least one new title to enjoy from this list.
A few notes before properly diving into the list. Firstly the majority of the titles presented here are digital only, but a few of them (specifically LSBN, My Date is a Total Ike Woman, Silhouette of the Sea Breeze, The Single Life, and Witching Hour) have physical release options and How to Break a Curse is only available as a physical book. Secondly, I have helped contribute to the publication of several of the comics on this list through crowdfunding campaigns so, for transparency, I have indicated which titles those are. Finally, these comics are personally recommended for readers aged thirteen or older as they all cover topics and themes that are not appropriate for young children. The only exception is ‘rainy summer day’, which can be enjoyed by readers of any age. Each comic has content and trigger warnings where appropriate.
Originally written for the 2023 ShortBox Comics Fair. In this melancholic comic, Aspen finds an angel in the daisy bushes of his greenhouse. An emotionally moving tale about moving forward after losing those who mean so much to us.
Trigger warnings: Self-harm, implied suicide and abuse
Hari Conner’s excellent LGBTQ+ fantasy romance webcomic Finding Home reached its well-earned conclusion last year, wrapping up a delightful tale of two people literally, and metaphorically, finding a home together. A delightful character-focused story whose writing is smart in its worldbuilding and entirely heartfelt.
Content warnings: The story addresses trauma, a past abusive relationship, discrimination, and mental health issues (including substance abuse). Brief instances of implied sexual content. Chapters and pages that feature such content are highlighted by the author. The author recommends this comic for readers aged 16 and older
Originally written for the 2022 ShortBox Comics Fair. mapurl’s How to Break a Curse focuses on two women who have come to a town to have their curses broken. One is cursed to have all of her relationships end in heartbreak, while the other one is cursed to have all of her relationships end without heartbreak. A charming character-focused story about the value of connection.
Content warnings: Discussion of death
Colorist: Sloane Leong
Published by: Silver Sprocket
The war between humanity and the Collusus has unexpectedly ended. While the rest of the world rejoices, Commander Kyoko Sugimoto and her lead engineer Mischa Polyakov, find it difficult to celebrate as it means the giant mecha they’ve spent three years of their lives developing to defend humanity is now worthless. A hopeful queer, sci-fi graphic novella that asks what we can do to move forward and change.
Content warnings: Sex, some blood. For adult readers.
Published by: TOMBOYS
(Translation by: tsuk. Lettering by: Red String Translations)
Disclosure: I was a backer of this manga’s Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign
Butches, and massive otaku, Asahi Yadate and Ushio Toudou meet up for a date at a local theme park showcasing their favourite characters. Both are convinced that their date is way out of their league, but in reality, they have much more in common than they had originally realized. A heartfelt manga about the joy that comes from finding someone who fully loves and accepts you for who you are.
Content warnings: Discussions and depiction of gender essentialism, cissexism, and sexism. Some sexual humour in a side story
Originally written for the 2023 ShortBox Comics Fair. In this haunting tale, two friends sit at the water shore and share stories about mermaids. One friend’s story is of a childish wish, but the other’s is a much grimmer tale. A masterful work with extremely effective foreshadowing, wonderfully panelled art, and an engaging ghost story. For those who enjoy a good folktale.
Content warnings: Violence, mild gore, death, mild nudity
NOTE: Also available as part of a book bundle available until the end of February 2024, which contains several of Hana Chatani and Sloane Hong’s comics
A short, soothing comic about frogs and toads enjoying a rainy summer day together. Utterly delightful, its lines and colours are reminiscent of a storybook that readers of all ages can enjoy.
Originally written for the 2022 ShortBox Comics Fair. After unexpectedly getting fired, April stumbles upon a house cleaning opportunity that seems to solve all her problems. But the more time spent cleaning the strange house, the more memories she seems to uncover. A dreamy comic about processing memories, grief, and moving forward.
Content warnings: Death, children in peril, a major weather event, and depiction of the process of grieving
Published by: Amaitorte
One of my favourite yuri manga of 2023, Nekobungi Sumire’s Silhouette of the Sea Breeze is a delightful oneshot for those who enjoy slice-of-life elements in their speculative fiction. A quiet, character-driven story about a cat-eared woman and the mysterious woman who frequents her restaurant, Sumire has crafted a world that you wish you had more time to experience.
Content warnings: A character in peril, which may be distressing for those who are claustrophobic and/or have a fear of drowning/water
Disclosure: I was a backer of this comic’s Zoop crowdfunding campaign for the physical edition
Pakora has been summoned by her mothers to attend the Winter Harvest Festival, but she is dreading going as she has no sufficient offerings or a bride to marry. Resigned to face their disappointment, she is surprised to find a woman claiming to be the Matriarch Goddess Audra, appearing and calling herself Pakora’s bride. A delightful character-focused fantasy story with excellent visuals and worldbuilding.
Content warnings: Infrequent violence and blood, mild nudity, and depictions of emotional abuse from parents. The author recommends this comic for readers aged 13 and older
Miyuki Imamura, a single lesbian, celebrates her sixtieth birthday in comfort. While she enjoys her solitary life, reaching a milestone year has caused a great deal of self-reflection on her life and relationships. A thoughtful examination into the lives, joys, and experiences of queer women across time.
Content warnings: Workplace sexism, double standards based on gender, past compulsory heterosexuality
An elderly woman, who is losing her memory, is given an android that resembles her late wife. An exceptionally comic, in both its illustrations and writing, that delivers a strong emotional punch in a short number of pages.
Content warnings: Death and memory loss
Originally written for the 2023 ShortBox Comics Fair. Broomsquire Frederick has been trying to carve a broom for himself but has been unsatisfied with the results. Thankfully, his friend Leonard offers a fresh new perspective. A heartwarming story about creativity, and the meanings we ascribe to what we create.
Published by: Quindrie Press
Letterer: Eve Greenwood
Disclosure: I was a backer of this comic’s Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign
Esio travels through the fae realm in the hopes of having her wish granted. She knows the rules, and what to expect, but she wasn’t anticipating running into a dishevelled and confused stockbroker who has stumbled into the realm by accident. With gorgeous colours and stunning linework, Witching Hour is an utter delight to read and experience.