The Wicked 10: Must-Read Indy Titles

The Wicked 10: Must-Read Indy Titles

BY MATT TUCK, BLOGGER SUPREME

IG@matt.tuck.writer

FB@ The Comic Blog

The independent publishing scene is thriving. More indy comics are reaching a wider audience than ever before thanks to the numerous comic adaptations. This week, let’s talk about ten titles before they get the live-action treatment.

1. SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN

At the moment, this is the top prospect when it comes to comic investing and speculation. SIKTC truly put James Tynion IV on the comic reading radar. Sure, he had been penning Batman at DC, but we’ve since learned that horror is his true forte. He’s since made a huge name for himself, and it has carried him to a major deal with the digital subscription platform, Substack. 

Everything Tynion writes gets elevated in the eyes of speculators because it all has a distinct cinematic appeal besides being solid comics from top to bottom. That gets his titles more attention than practically anything else on the market, and we can assume that would garner more attention on the Hollywood front. It adds up to huge sales and even larger sticker prices on the secondary market for his first major hit, SIKTC #1. 

Something Is Killing the Children is a twist on the monster hunter genre. A small town is plagued by monsters that apparently only the victimized children can see. Erica Slaughter enters the picture and says she can see these monsters, much to the chagrin of the adults in town. It has built a mythology all its own that has spawned a spinoff series, House of Slaughter. There’s already a Netflix deal in place for a live-action SIKTC series, and it is feasible that HOS could be next in line depending on the former’s success.

2. SAGA

After years of waiting following the cliffhanger ending of Saga #54, the space fantasy opera (and occasional sitcom) has returned in full force. Famed writer Brian K. Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples made the announcement at last year’s New York Comic Con, and the anticipation has been palatable since. 

By no means is Saga a hidden gem. From the beginning, it’s been a critical darling and favorite among fans of non-mainstream comics. The first issue immediately became a hot collectible, which drew more speculators into the fold. These days, the property is so well known that Saga inspired a Taco Bell commercial.

If you have been looking for something non-superhero related, this is an interesting read. Bear in mind, the storytelling is less conventional than you may expect. At its heart, this is a family drama that is set in the context of “a never ending galactic war,” as the blurb on the back of the Volume One trade paperback describes. The main characters, Alana and Marco, are soldiers in opposing armies who have a child together. In a Shakespearean-esque drama, they are hunted across the galaxy, and Alana finds herself the star of an intergalactic soap opera. What makes the story interesting is its supporting characters. There’s the Robot Kingdom, ruled by princes and princesses with old-fashioned televisions for heads, a rocket ship made from a sentient tree, a bounty hunting spider-woman, and my personal favorite, the Lying Cat, a panther-size cat who knows whenever someone is lying. It’s both ridiculous and serious at the same time. 

On a side note, Vaughn said during his NYCC panel that he doesn’t see Saga being adapted for Hollywood, but I’m sure a truckload of money could be awfully persuasive. 

3. ICE CREAM MAN

As I have written before, Ice Cream Man is one of my favorite comics being published, regardless if it’s mainstream or independent. This is such an interesting blend of horror anthology with a growing mythos surrounding the devil incarnate, the titular Ice Cream Man. The stories are unsettling and eerie just like a horror anthology should be, but there’s also a dose of quirky humor in many of the issues. One of my favorites was Ice Cream Man #20 that was a spoof of “Green Eggs and Ham.” It was satire mixed with a morose tone that meshed perfectly.

The word on the internet is Ice Cream Man has a live-action series on the way. The problem is that it had been with the streaming outlet, Quibi. If you just asked yourself, “What’s Quibi?,” therein lies the trouble, who has since gone out of business. Reportedly, Roku has purchased a number of titles from Quibi, so there is hope for the Ice Cream Man show. Then again, is Roku really the best fit? This comic has been so good that part of me wonders if it actually needs to be adapted into live action. I’m thinking an Adult Swim or HBO Max cartoon series might be a better fit.

4. THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH

What exactly is The Department of Truth? This is one of the harder titles to describe. It very much has a horror quality with beautifully painted artwork. On the other hand, TDOT is a conspiracy theory comic that fits with today’s political climate. Put it all together, and this is an intriguing comic that hooks you no matter where you jump in. 

Another James Tynion IV comic, TDOT presents different conspiracies with each issue. My introduction to the department was issue #10. The story focuses on the myth of Bigfoot, the legendary man-ape of North America. Part of the comic is told from the perspective of the Department of Truth agents, who are tasked with investigating this particular tale. The other half of the story features the apparent ramblings of a man obsessed with Bigfoot, which ultimately drives him insane.

What the reader learns is that Bigfoot both is and isn’t real. It’s the abstract concept of Bigfoot that becomes real and takes a concrete form. The idea itself causes madness in those it infects, and the only way to bring it to an end is to kill those infected. When the obsessed Sasquatch hunter goes missing, the reader is left to assume the worst. 

In the age of QAnon when crackpot conspiracy theories are treated as facts, The Department of Truth is all too relevant. I promise you, like a good urban legend, once you pick this up, you won’t put it down.

5. WHALESVILLE

Believe it or not, there are cool indy titles that aren’t horror stories. Weird, right? In recent years, the horror revolution has washed through the independent scene, and the macabre atmosphere has been felt in the mainstream more and more often. If you caught the newest volume of Ghost Rider, the first issue is straight horror. Whalesville offers something completely fresh and imaginative that has a modern Roald Dahl fantastical quality to it. 

This is a graphic novel, so there’s only one issue to buy, which is refreshing. The artwork has the feel of a high quality, classic children’s picture book that deviates from the normal panel layout in exchange for engrossing two-page spreads. Not every comic can pull this off, but it works for Whalesville

The story itself is one of the more unique plots on the market. It begins with a young boy who is being swallowed whole by a whale. The comic details his final thoughts, and he imagines his father hunting and killing the creature. Then the boy discovers an entire town living inside the whale, which makes him rethink the entire revenge scenario. Ultimately, it creates a conflict between the boy and his father as the fate of the townspeople lies in the whale’s survival.

6. BLACK HAMMER

Superheroes in the Twilight Zone; that’s what you get when you open a copy of Black Hammer. Next to Hellboy, this has become Dark Horse’s most famous property. The main title has been ongoing since 2016, and there have been several spinoffs, including Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, and Black Hammer: Reborn

What’s it all about? As many comic writers are prone to doing, Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer is centered on the DC Golden Age-inspired team of superheroes. Led by Black Hammer, they protect Spiral City from the Anti-God. During one fateful encounter, they are whisked away to another dimension and find themselves in the mysterious Rockwood. Despite the series being named after him, Black Hammer dies shortly after they arrive, and the rest of the team find themselves trapped on Black Hammer Farm. 

Four years ago, the Hollywood Reporter noted that Black Hammer had been optioned by Legendary Pictures. Since then, there has been no word on whether a movie or show received the green light, so this one may be stuck in developmental hell until the contract expires. Sooner or later, Dark Horse will get Black Hammer to live action.

7. WE LIVE

If there is anything indy comic fans like as much as horror, it’s post-apocalyptic wasteland adventures. We Live takes place in the distant future. Humanity is on the verge of extinction (isn’t that always the case with fictional apocalypses?). Earth is covered in monsters, and the remaining people must fight for survival. Then come the mysterious “message senders” who offer to transport 5,000 children off the planet. The plot then focuses on teenage siblings as they trek across the end of the world to reach an extraction beacon as the clock winds down.

We Live already has a sequel series on the agenda, Age of the Palladions. There has not been any movie or streaming series talk, but that is likely coming in the near future. Aftershock clearly has big plans for the property, and I suspect we will be seeing much more from We Live soon. That has made the first issue investment gold as investors and speculators await word on it being optioned.

8. IRREDEEMABLE

Mark Waid made the news circuit last week when he told the Spec Tales podcast that a live-action series is in development for Irredeemable. It has lit a fire under the early issues from the 2009 title, and it has led to a growing interest in the all things Irredeemable.

Basically, it’s an evil Superman comic. Think Injustice Man of Steel meets Omni Man from Invincible. While we have seen this type of story before, the part that has piqued my interest is Max Damage. Where Plutonian is the supposed hero who has flipped to the roll of evil megalomaniac, Max is a villain who is finding his path as a hero. It turns the idea of good versus evil upside down and confronts the concept of what makes a hero/villain?

Although details are scant for the series, Waid promises more news is coming. Once the production company is named and Irredeemable is rolling, the world will discover this title. That’s why it will pay to join the fray sooner rather than later.

9. GASOLINA

When it comes to independent publishing, Image Comics borders between aspiring for Marvel and DC levels and championing the indy movement. That being said, most Image titles get the most exposure and publicity. Yet, Gasolina is a comic that has fallen into relative obscurity.

The story puts a horror spin on a drug war. On the surface, there is a cartel war raging in Mexico, and the main characters are siding with the rebel forces struggling to bring an end to the violent reign. While that can be a realistic horror story in itself, things take a turn toward sci-fi, and it makes the comic all the better for it. The cartels use bug-like, killer monsters that are implanted Alien-style inside a human host. They are indiscriminate when it comes to monster hosts, be it adults or children. In a weird twist, the cartel members become almost religious figures in regards to playing gods with the monsters and the innocent victims. 

There hasn’t been a new issue in three years, so that is a good reason why no one is talking about Gasolina. However, this could be a great live-action series. With so many titles being optioned, I would think Gasolina would have a good chance at getting the call up. 

10. CULT OF DRACULA

This title has been picking up steam in the past year thanks to the upcoming streaming series. While few details have emerged besides the Candyman himself, Tony Todd, is in talks to star, creator Rich Davis has said that the show is moving forward. 

The story began in 2021 with Cult of Dracula, which has gained a following on the indy circuit. It takes the usual suspects from Bram Stoker’s famed Dracula, but adds the appeal of an ancient following as it merges with modern life. The second chapter of the Dracula retelling, Rise of Dracula, has reached the local comic shops, and the third installment is in the works.

When the series finally sees the light of day, it could cause a huge influx for the early issues. 

Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.


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