Avatar Press, IDW Publishing, Archie Comics, Aftershock, Valiant, Dynamite Entertainment, Top Cow, Boom! Studios, Oni Press, Heavy Metal and Devil’s Due Publishing. There is life, vibrant and fascinating wonderful life outside of major comic publishing giants such as Marvel, DC, Darkhorse and Image. Check out these top five publishers and expand your comic horizons in 2016.
Note: You may have noticed that I haven’t ranked any of these top five picks. That’s because they’re all equally deserving of your attention. I love comics – personally I’m an Image Comics guy and over 90% of my pull list usually falls under that category. But I’ve tried branching out, because like many of you – I’m sick of the same old recycled superhero stories and I’m craving new and unique comics. These publishers – have shown that they can deliver the goods so I urge you to check them out and then harass your local comic shops to order more of their books.
Founded in 1999 by Josh Blaylock, Devil’s Due Publishing is a slick comic company that just so happens to be producing one of my absolute favorite series on the planet right now – Squarriors. The first volume “Spring” is available now and it looks stunning – artist Ashley Witter is one of my favorites and this book is her at her best. My quote on the back of the trade is 100% the truth sir. Tiny animals going to war with one another has never looked so damn jarring and gorgeous all the same.
DDP has utilized crowdfunding to bring a lot of their work to life and they’ve done a great job with providing backers with some extremely cool perks. If you love comics, DDP deserves a shot. Whether it’s Blaylock’s own series Mercy Sparxs or that other one I keep raving about on a daily basis, you should be asking your local shops to bring in their titles.
The Talent: Josh Blaylock, Ashley Witter, Ash Maczko, Matt Merhoff, Shawn DePasquale, Sherard Jackson, K. Lynn Smith, Dirk Manning.
The Titles: Mercy Sparx, Squarriors, Scorch, Galaxys for Hire (Digital), Plume, Tales of Mr. Rhee, Operation Nemesis.
Launched just last year (2015) in April, Aftershock Comics is off to one helluva start… They’ve assembled some of the best names in the industry and their initial series are both original and acclaimed already in such a short period of time. EIC Mike Marts and publisher Joe Pruett both have long and storied careers in the comic industry and their team that they’ve assembled at Aftershock is a powerhouse.
Hell, they landed Garth Ennis for another war story inspired tale in Dreaming Eagles (because Ennis loves that shit and he does it so damn well). Other books that I need to get into yesterday include Strayer from one of my favorite writers Justin Jordan (Spread) and American Monster from the incredible Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets). Aftershock needs to be on your radar sooner than later. They are off to a very quick and promising start.
The Talent: Garth Ennis, Justin Jordan, Juan Gedeon, Brian Azzarello, Juan Doe, Marguerite Bennett, Ariela Kristantina, David Hine, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Jenkins, Andy Clarke.
The Titles: Strayer, American Monster, Insexts, Second Sight, Replica. Super Zero, Dreaming Eagles.
Founded in 2005 by Ross Richie, Boom! Studios is probably on your radar first and foremost for their comic book adaptations of popular TV shows like Adventure Time. Here’s the thing though – they’re doing it so damn good that you forget that these series were originally birthed from your TV screens.
But that’s really just the beginning for Boom!, because they are producing some of the hottest new creator-owned titled today including We(l)come Back, John Flood and more. If you haven’t picked up a Boom! comic – better late than never and this is a publisher that you will not regret.
The Talent: David Petersen, Mark Waid, Brian Joines, Sam Humphries, Marguerite Bennett, Kurt Busiek, Ryan Ferrier, Christopher Sebela, Royden Lepp, Kate Leth, Matt Cummings, Justin Jordan, Grant Morrison, Dan Mora, Ryan North.
The Titles: We(l)come Back, Adventure Time, John Flood, Curb Stomp, Sons of Anarchy, Mouse Guard, Irredeemable, Imagine Agents, Incorruptible, Fanboys Vs Zombies, Rust, Power Up, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Klaus.
Avatar Press has been around since 1996. Founded by William A. Christensen (who I run into every year at the Avatar booth at the Calgary Expo – nice guy), this publisher has been by far the most controversial and boldest of any comic publisher that I’ve ever read. Their on-going series aren’t restrained by any boundaries whatsoever, for better or worse. Crossed for example, a post-apocalyptic world gone mad series created by the master himself Garth Ennis, has went on to become the publisher’s biggest earner.
Recently the legend himself Alan Moore even did a run on Crossed and he killed it. KILLED IT. Crossed + 100 is one of Moore’s greatest stories of all time. The man who penned Watchmen, just delivered one of his finest works in 2015, expanding upon the world Ennis originally spawned. Do yourself a favour and grab that collection – it’s a fucking masterpiece.
They’ve been known to challenge readers with some of the most disturbing covers ever made. The Crossed Torture Variants make early Cannibal Corpse album covers look like stuff you’d see hanging in your grandparents’ den. Like Avatar or not, they have attracted the biggest and best names in the industry and they are easily the coolest renegades in the comic world today.
The Talent: Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, George R.R. Martin, Max Brooks, Kieron Gillen, Jacen Burrows, Simon Spurrier, Warren Ellis, David Lapham, Mike Costa, Christos Gage.
The Titles: Crossed, Uber, The Extinction Parade, The Skin Trade, FreakAngels, Gravel, Black Summer, Chronicles of Wormwood, 303, Ferals, Absolution, Providence, Rover Red Charlie, God is Dead.
Valiant Entertainment has been around since 1989. I’ve never been all that familiar with the publisher until last year when they started rebooting some of their titles like Bloodshot: Reborn. Jeff Lemire is one of the only writers on the planet that can get me to put a hero book on my pull list. He did it with Animal Man, he’s doing it with Old Man Logan and he’s damn sure doing it with Bloodshot. I can’t wait for the film adaptation of that character – thanks Deadpool for opening the floodgates.
I also really dig Valiant for constructing their shared universe so well – their Book of Death crossover event was easily my favorite of 2015 (screw you Secret Wars). They recently launched Faith, which is shattering preconceived notions of your typical female superhero and they are constantly delivering the best in superhero titles today. If you’re tired of the same old Marvel and DC hero books, give Valiant a shot – they’re doing it correctly in a big way.
The Talent: Jeff Lemire, Lewis Larosa, Fred Van Lente, James Asmus, Robert Venditti, Cary Nord, Tom Fowler, Jody Houser, Marguerite Sauvage, Mico Suayan, Robert Gill, Matt Kindt, Doug Braithwaite, Juan Jose Ryp, Clayton Henry, Joshua Dysart, Peter Milligan, Jen Van Meter.
The Titles: X-O Manowar, Bloodshot: Reborn, Harbinger, Faith, Quantum & Woody, Shadowman, Ninjak, Archer & Armstrong, The Book of Death, Wrath of The Eternal Warrior, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, Imperium.
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