What You May Have Missed 2023: Indie Comics

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.

Daisy Bush by 4threset

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

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What You May Have Missed: Indie Comics

Just in time for the Small Press Expo, I have dedicated my final entry in this year’s “What You May Have Missed” article series to a variety of excellent comics that were either self-published or released by small publishers.  As with my previous entries, I hope that this entry allows readers the chance to find and support delightful comics that may have otherwise escaped their notice.

The majority of these comics are intended for a young adult audience, personally recommended at about 13 years of age or older.  The final three books are recommended for adult audiences as they contain graphic content in terms of sexuality and/or violence.  Overall, these comics cover a variety of themes, art styles and subject matter, and are an excellent showcase of what the medium can accomplish in terms of art and storytelling.

Young Adult:

Canvas by Theo Stultz

In this delightful original fairy tale, a young painter finds it difficult to pursue her passion, as it is tricky to create compelling art without any models.  Desperate, she tosses her baby teeth into her family’s well to make a wish.  The results were immediate and unexpected.  With delightful characters and a fun art style, this one is not to be missed by those who love fairy tales.

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What You May Have Missed: ShortBox Comics Fair

 

As mentioned in my previous blog post, traditional, in-person, means of showcasing various art projects were not available to artists of any medium during the initial years of the pandemic. Comic creators were hit especially hard, as conventions and festivals dedicated to selling and displaying the works of these artists were no longer available, with independent and self-published publications taking the largest blow. Thankfully the internet had alleviated some of these issues, with many retailers supporting digital comics and online sales as a means to reach their audiences.

One such event is the ShortBox Comics Fair, an annual digital comics fair established by Zainab Akhtar of independent comic publisher ShortBox. The event originally began in October 2020 as a means to sell out-of-print books and zines, and from 2021 onwards the Fair has become a month-long celebration of new comics by creators from all over the world. It is a fantastic showcase of the vast breadth of creativity and storytelling that is only possible in the medium of comics. While it may be only going into its fourth year, I eagerly await each October to discover what new comics are there for me to read.

Here is a list of twenty comics from both the 2021 and 2022 ShortBox Comics Fairs, which are among my personal favourites. The majority of these comics are intended for either young adult or adult readers, personally recommended at about 14 years of age or older, and cover a variety of themes, art styles and subject matter. I have made sure to include content warnings, typically those provided by the creators, to best ensure readers are properly prepared to read these comics. I hope readers are able to discover at least one new title they love from this list, and will be willing to visit the next online fair this forthcoming October.

Note: Every comic here is available in digital-only formats, with the exception of two comics that are only available as physical books (Give Her Back to Me and Mending a Rift). Two books are available digitally and physically (Twigs and Wormturn).

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Needs More Love: “The World Beyond My Shadow”

[Panel One: Schreiter’s left foot is shown walking into the panel. Her shadow is light and slightly noticeable Panel Two: The text box reads “And one I leave the door…” Schreiter stops walking, her shadow is visible in front of her. Panel Three: Schreiter’s antenna make a “Flopp” sound, as they disappear into her head. These are a visual cue that she uses to identify autistic people, emphasizing the metaphor that autistic people feel like aliens in the neurotypical world Panel Four: The text box reads “…I start.” Schreiter stands alone on the sidewalk in the center of the panel, which is a wide shot, emphasizing how small and insecure she feel when stepping ‘beyond her shadow’. Her eyes are wide and uncertain. Her shadow is at its darkest and most visible]
[Panel One: Daniela Schreiter’s left foot is shown walking into the panel. Her shadow is light and slightly noticeable Panel Two: The text box reads “And one I leave the door…” Both of Schreiter’s feet are present in the panel.  She has stopped walking, her shadow is visible in front of her. Panel Three: Schreiter’s antenna make a “Flopp” sound, as they disappear into her head. These are a visual cue that she uses to identify autistic people, emphasizing the metaphor that autistic people feel like aliens in the neurotypical world. Panel Four: The text box reads “…I start.” Schreiter stands alone on the sidewalk in the center of the panel, which is a wide shot, emphasizing how small and insecure she feel when stepping ‘beyond her shadow’. Her eyes are wide and uncertain. Her shadow is at its darkest and most visible]
Comic books are one of my greatest passions.  I read comics almost every day, and even if I am not reading them I am certainly thinking about them.  I love the versatility that the medium has to tell different types of stories, both fictional and personal, and how they showcase diverse ways of being to the audience before them.  I am especially happy to see more narratives, especially those which have previously been ignored or untold, gaining more interest and attention.  One example of this is the growing number of comics and graphic novels focused on examining and discussing the topic of neurodivergence and mental illness.

Among my favourite examples of a comic that has accomplished this is Daniela Schreiter’s The World Beyond My Shadow, a graphic novel discussing Schreiter’s experiences of being a woman on the autistic spectrum.  Originally published, in German, by Panini Comics Deutschland as Schattenspringer: Wie es ist anders zu sein in 2014, the comic received an official English translation by Panini Comics in 2016.  The book is a graphic memoir detailing Schreiter’s everyday life and childhood experiences as an autistic woman, specifically describing her experiences with sensory overload, navigating the confusing and contradictory social world of neurotypicals, and, most importantly, highlighting how much she loves being an autistic person.

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Autistic Observations