10 Amazing Indie & Self-Published Comics You Might Have Missed in 2016

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  • indiecomics2016 afternothing After Nothing Comes
    Writer/Artist: Aidan Koch
    Publisher: Koyama Press

    Like other books on this list, Aidan Koch’s collection of out-of-print mini-comics, After Nothing Comes, reads more like poetry or non-narrative art than a conventional comic. Koch tells her stories, if they can described as stories, as they take an elliptical shape: moving, doubling back, turning inwards to consume themselves. Describing the process of making the first mini-comic in the collection, “Warmer,” Koch says that she was “building it all intuitively, which is how everything started for me.” That fluidity shines through not only in poetical choices, but also in her abstract aesthetic—figures bleed together, geometric shapes and empty layouts take to the fore and her light, uninked pencils exude a peculiar energy at once soft and energetic.
  • indiecomics2016 morganjeske [Dot Dot Dot Dot] Vol. II
    Writer/Artist: Morgan Jeske

    A continuation of last year’s enigmatic [Dot Dot Dot Dot] Vol. 1, [Dot Dot Dot Dot] Vol. 2 sees the first iteration’s nameless protagonist continuing their journey through an ever-expanding and frightening landscape. Whereas the first volume embraces the abstract, [Dot Dot Dot Dot] Vol. 2 is significantly more corporeal. Author Morgan Jeske gives the dangers incredible weight, embodying them as a faceless maw. These books don’t feature any dialogue, named characters or conventional narrative, and yet, they’re not quite the hyper-abstract poems that some other comics on this list are. Think of it as a visualized metaphor for a journey into one’s self; as the protagonist goes further down their path, they encounter uncared-for corners, dilapidated structures, previously occulted threats—stand-ins for repressed trauma and forgotten memories. Jeske beautifully renders the book as a series of incredibly dense and ever-shifting shapes, and it functions as a highly experiential read, designed to simply wash over the reader.
  • indiecomics2016 id I.D.
    Writer/Artist: Emma Ríos
    Publisher: Image Comics

    Originally serialized in Island, the comic magazine that author Emma Ríos co-edits with Brandon Graham, I.D. ranks among the best science fiction this year. Beautifully illustrated, and divisively printed in red ink, the graphic novel asks compelling questions about the nature of identity—how it’s composed, maintained, expressed. The work is painstakingly researched, but Ríos refuses to drown the book in exposition. Rather, she lets her familiarity with certain concepts—the fledgling science of body transplantation—inform her story, which she elucidates through intimate character moments.
  • indiecomics2016 laid-waste-cover Laid Waste
    Writer/Artist: Julia Gförer
    Publisher: Fantagraphics

    The latest release from Black is the Color author Julia Gförer, Laid Waste tells the story of Agnes, a young woman grieving amongst a growing mound of dead children during the Plague Years. Like many of Gförer’s comics, the story is told indirectly, and the cartoonist communicates mostly through minute details and slight body movements. Characters emote through tics and fidgets, rather than dramatic overtures of physicality. Laid out in a stoic two-by-two grid, Gförer’s story unfolds at a meditative pace, and the beauty of her comics appears in this aesthetic confrontation. Her pages march along a steady, staid rhythm; her compositions are a cacophony of thin lines, scratchy and abrasively textured and her bodies often appear to converge or overlap one another. The result is this enigmatic narrative that is as challenging as it is cathartic.
  • indiecomics2016 eleanordavis Libby’s Dad / Frontier #11
    Writer/Artist: Eleanor Davis
    Publishers: Retrofit Big Planet / Youth In Decline

    One of the most vital and compelling cartoonists working today, Eleanor Davis produces comics that are routinely some of the best being published. Her 2016 releases are no different, and looking at both Libby’s Dad and “BDSM,” Davis’ entry from Youth in Decline’s Frontier anthology series, in unison evinces her range as an artist and her elegance as a storyteller. Libby’s Dad, a mini-comic released through Retrofit, appears to be drawn with a crayon. Davis’ characters are articulated through lumbering, oddly shaped figures, and her curved lines convey an immediacy to their texture. In “BDSM,” she draws angular, pointed figures. Her usage of ink allows her lines more weight, and the thick, unbroken aesthetic creates a naturalistic quality—contra the animated, dreamlike Libby’s Dad. These visual differences reflect the narrative differences, both in style and subject matter: Libby’s Dad takes the form of an imagined event recalled by children; “BDSM” renders the knotty complex of emotions and sensations tied taut between two female performers who fall for each other on the set of an adult film. Each book is striking in its own way as Davis moves between fully-formed aesthetics.
  • indiecomics2016 onasunbeam On a Sunbeam
    Writer/Artist: Tillie Walden

    As prolific as she is talented, Tille Walden, like many of the other authors featured on this list, is one of the most consistently compelling cartoonists working today, and On a Sunbeam is one of her best works to date. Taking place in a far-flung future world that appears inhabited solely by women, the book centers on a burgeoning relationship between two young girls. This relationship culminates in the webcomic’s sixth chapter, a wordless sequence that features the two girls realizing their mutual attraction and kissing. Walden illustrates the scenario beautifully with an incredible eye for color. This romance only compromises one half of the book, though, and Walden effortlessly weaves these two halves—telling the story of one character at different parts in her life—into a seamless whole.
  • indiecomics2016 sexfantasy8-gumroad Sex Fantasy 8
    Writer/Artist: Sophia Foster-Dimino

    One of the great joys of reading Sophia Foster-Dimino lies in her precision. Her comics, brief and dreamlike, are simply immaculate. Composed of clean lines and diaphanous vignettes, Foster-Dimino’s comics function as obtuse narratives—at once anarchic and radically stoic. The latest installment in her series of mini-comics, Sex Fantasy 8, is no different. The author manages to capture this seeming paradox of clear lines and amorphous stories by rendering a scenario that first seems chaotic and strange, but she dryly plays these sequences as matter-of-fact. The result is ethereal—evoking an intuitive response, though its articulation lies just out of grasp.
  • indiecomics2016 bianca-xunise Assorted Shorts
    Writer/Artist: Bianca Xunise
    Publisher: The Nib

    Over the last few years, The Nib has earned a reputation as one of the most fertile online publications for non-fiction comics, releasing essay comics on the 2016 election, the Syrian civil war and charter schools—they were even one of the few outlets to cover this year’s historic prison strike. In the last third of the year, Chicago-based cartoonist Bianca Xunise began contributing to the site, publishing brief personal essays like “The Weight of Being Black in America” and “You Never Forget Your First Time.” Xunise’s contributions concern the intersection of womanhood and blackness, and she draws with a direct and simple style. Jocular and endearing, Xunise’s figures communicate volumes with expressive mouths and eyes, and she balances the weight of her subject matter without it precluding a wry sense of humor—not an immodest achievement. Her pieces vary in length, subject and tone, but not one of her contributions to the site should be missed.
  • indiecomics2016 cover-1024x1024 Your Black Friend
    Writer/Artist: Ben Passmore

    Originally self-published, and later distributed through Zainab Ahktar’s Shortbox project, Ben Passmore narrates Your Black Friend in a second-person voice. This perspective centralizes the tacitly white reader (the white liberal specifically), clarifying who Passmore speaks to and forcing his object into the open. Insightful, personal and necessary, Your Black Friend lays bare the biases and overcompensatory tendencies of all the progressive white people who claim they’re not racist. Passmore’s rhetorical technique centralizes the white reader as the object, but his use of first-person thought bubbles grounds the titular black friend—a universal stand-in of a commonplace experience. Passmore achieves the same affect visually: he leaves the fills on his white characters un-inked, but he uses opaque blacks to ink the hair and reflection of lights on black characters. It makes them present in a way the caucasian characters are not, evincing the nuances and complexities of the book. The book is currently available through publisher Silver Sprocket.
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