Comics as a cultural force have more than come into their own in recent years, as anyone visiting the cineplex can tell you. It’s tough to find a movie that exists outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and if you do find one, chances are good it’s a DC property. As always, much of the most distinctive and unusual work in the medium comes from the world of Indie publishing. If you like graphic storytelling but find yourself experiencing superhero fatigue, one of these recent Indie titles may fit the bill:
Writer and illustrator Mario Acevedo assembled 300 single-panel cartoons for Cats in Quarantine, ranging in tone from whimsical to macabre; the 2022 collection chronicles the Covid era as assorted felines contend with Zoom meetings, drone deliveries, and the dreaded lockdown weight gain. Our reviewer calls the book “an entertaining and sometimes pointed look at years in quarantine.” When life feels like a litter box, what can you do but laugh?
Buster (2022), written by Ryan Barnett and illustrated by Matthew Tavares, celebrates the life and career of legendary silent film comedian Buster Keaton in graphic novel form—a comic subject ideally suited to a visual medium. Our reviewer concludes, “Through the illustrator’s artwork and Barnett’s unaffected prose, a bygone Hollywood era beautifully comes to life.” A unique work of biography and an excellent addition to any movie lover’s library.
The 2023 graphic novel Whisper of the Woods, written and illustrated by Ennun Ana Iurov, veers into horror territory as it follows a man through a gorgeously rendered Transylvanian forest as he looks for a lost friend. Our reviewer calls the unsettling, fairy tale–like work, derived from Romanian folklore, a “page turner” and characterizes the reading experience as “immersive and engrossing.” Keep your neck covered!
Gonzo Parenting: The Comic Book (2003), written by Jay Rooke, takes a cockeyed view of child-rearing, the frequently impossible, thankless task that requires a strong sense of humor to endure. The book chronicles such familiar domestic activities as assembling something without instructions and hiding from one’s offspring in the bathroom; our reviewer lauds the “real-life parenting tales that will make readers laugh—and maybe recognize themselves.”
Writer and illustrator Eric Glickman’s Camp Pock-a-Wocknee and the Dynomite Summer of ’77 is breezier fare: Imagine a classic summer camp comedy like Meatballs translated into comic book form. Full of mischief, raging hormones, and a whiff of the supernatural, Glickman’s romp is “an endearing, gleefully raunchy coming-of-age tale,” per our reviewer. And you don’t even have to take archery!
Justice: A Tale of the Nepali Civil War (2023), written by Ram Khatri and illustrated by Sandipan Santra and Ingrid Lilamani, movingly details the experiences of an ordinary farming family caught up in their country’s internal conflict. Set in 2009 and flashing back to the Maoist rebellion against the Nepalese government in 1996, the narrative shows a family forced against their will to participate in the fight. Our reviewer notes, “Khatri’s decision to keep the action to a minimum and the scope of her story local is a wise one; it encourages the reader to focus on the human face of the conflict and the effect of war on civilians.”
Arthur Smith is an Indie editor.