Creator owned books are probably the greatest thing about the comics industry for a variety of reasons. As a punk rock, do-it-yourself kind of guy, I love the lack of corporate involvement in creator owned comics. You see, when you read a book from Marvel or DC Comics, you’re reading a book that has editorial mandates and corporate interest from Disney and Warner Bros., respectively. To emphasize what that means, it restricts creator input in a series that you’re putting your hard-earned money towards. You’re not just reading a comic from Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, you’re reading a comic by those two, Jim Lee, Dan DiDio, Mike Marts, and many others who should have no business having input on a comic made by incredibly creative people. You’re not reading a comic that’s sole intention is to be good, you’re reading a comic that a company thinks will sell units. The primary goal of these comics is to make money. So, in essence, you’re losing so much with editorial involvement that’s not there when you read a creator owned book. No one tells these people what they can and cannot have within the pages of their creations. And while I adore characters like Batman and many other mainstream heroes, there’s something magical and pure about reading a comic written and drawn by the creators of the property.
So, it’s in honor of Creator Owned Day that we wanted to take the time to have a look at some Creator Owned Comics That You Should Be Reading if you’re not already.
You see, we here at Geeks of Doom have a recurring column called “You Should Be Reading,” that features a comic that one of the writers here absolutely loves and that we think, well, that you should be reading. Haven’t seen that in a while? Well, don’t worry, coming soon this will be something that will happen more often. But today, I’d like to take a moment to turn your attention to some great ongoing comics that are creator owned that you should absolutely be reading. Granted, there are far more that you should read than what I’ll be listing here, but these are just some of my favorites. And if you happen to be looking for these comics and they aren’t in your local store, make sure to ask the retailer to order you copies. Most stores don’t take chances on independent publishers because they don’t sell because people don’t know about them, so don’t be afraid to request copies. That’s one way to guarantee that you won’t miss out. Ready to go? Well okay, let’s do this!
Chew (John Layman/Rob Rob Guillory – Image Comics): Chew is easily one of my favorite comics that I don’t talk about enough. The series is about a strange alternate Earth where the FDA is the main unit of crime enforcement because the majority of crime that we see is food-based. In fact, each government agency that we’re familiar with deals with crime related to that field. In addition to the FDA, we also see NASA handling space-related crime. So, that alone should get you interested in the comic. Not enough? Well there are also gifts/superpowers that the characters have that are at the very least interesting. The hero of the comic is a man named Tony Chu, a cibopath. Don’t know what a cibopath is? Well, it’s a person who has the ability to eat something and tell its entire history from growth until consumption. For an apple that would mean that a cibopath could see the apple starting as a seedling, growing from its tree, being covered in pesticides, being picked, and then placed into a store. But considering that this comic focuses on crime, Chu has to taste far more than apples and beets, he is forced to solve murders with his gift. And while this may sound weird and gruesome (it is), the comic is also completely hilarious. Each issue is told with a sense of humor that is matched by very few in the comics industry, and while the comic sometimes does face a delay, each issue is worth the wait. If you’re not reading Chew, you absolutely must start whether you get caught up in singles, paperbacks, or Omnivores. And when you do, make sure to check out Rob Guillory’s backgrounds, because there are several treats that will make you laugh as hard as you’ve ever laughed while reading a comic. Paula Deen, y’all.
Morning Glories (Nick Spencer/Joe Eisma – Image Comics): Where do I begin with Morning Glories? Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma have been creating one of the most involved and mystifying comics on shelves over the past couple of years, and they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The comic centers around a group of incredibly gifted, brilliant high school students that are brought to a prestigious boarding school named Morning Glories Academy. But when they get there, it’s not what anyone expected. If I recall correctly when I first read this comic, I expect just that, highly intelligent, gifted teenagers in an interesting setting. I guess I was thinking something along the lines of The Umbrella Academy or The New York Four or something in between those two comics. But boy was I wrong. What I got was this bizarre and amazing combination of Lost and The Breakfast Club that dealt with strange occurrences within the lives of each of the students as well as a boarding school that is cloaked in mystery. There are unexpected twists and turns in almost every issue that can depress you, make you happy, or more often than not, make you want to read so many more issues. Not all of the answers are given, but in our interview with Joe Eisma, he mentioned that the series has a tentative 100 issue outline, so we’re in for a nice, long story with a clear ending in the minds of the creators. And that alone is exciting to me. If you’re looking for something to fill the void that Lost left, Morning Glories is your answer. The comic is available in paperback collections, as well as a gorgeous hardcover edition that collects the first two volumes. Do yourself a favor and read this comic monthly.
The Sixth Gun (Cullen Bunn/Brian Hurtt – Oni Press): It’s not often that I read western or supernatural comics, but when I picked up the first issue of The Sixth Gun, I thought to myself, “Why am I not reading more western and supernatural comics?” Well, honestly, the majority of the the other comics that I tried in these genres are not as imaginative and exciting as The Sixth Gun. This comic combines two genres that maybe shouldn’t go together as well as they do, but Bunn and Hurtt pull it off in an amazing way. I’ve gotten behind on the series, but I’m currently catching up alongside of several other comics from the past six months, so I can’t tell you the current direction of the series, but the first two arcs center around ghosts, demons and cowboys fighting over the supernatural power of six guns. The concept is so bizarre and the mash up of supernatural/western is one that you wouldn’t think would work so it’s hard to relay what’s so awesome about it. But I highly suggest you check out the first volume to get a feel for what the creators are doing with the book. I love it. In fact, I’ll be doing a “You Should Be Reading” on The Sixth Gun when I get all caught up, so you keep your eyes out for that.
Skullkickers (Jim Zub/Edwin Huang/Misty Coats – Image Comics): I’ve written about Skullkickers probably a million times during my position as a writer here at Geeks of Doom, but that’s because I absolutely love the comic. It deserves every bit of attention that it can get as it’s one of the most fun and enjoyable comics that is currently being published. It’s a fantasy book about two warrior mercenaries that like to battle as much as they like to party. The writing from Jim Zub is imaginative and hilarious and is matched perfectly by Huang and Coats’ artistic additions to the series. Every page is filled with fun, and in an industry that takes itself far too seriously, it’s nice to see a fun comic that never takes itself too seriously. I cannot suggest this comic enough to the readership of this site as it appeals to a power metal sensibility while also staying completely on point with its fantasy demographic. By now, if you’re not reading and loving Skullkickers, I have no idea what’s wrong with you. You need to fix this. I have yet to meet someone that hasn’t read and loved this book, so what are you waiting for? The collections aren’t expensive and the single issues retail at $2.99, so there’s no real harm in giving it a shot, but if you want to trust me on this one, pre-order the Treasure Trove edition. I’m willing to bet that you’ll end up adoring this comic. I sure as Hell do.
Fatale (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips – Image Comics): Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have been one of the most dynamic creative teams of the past decade. Through titles like Sleeper, Criminal, and Incognito, these creators have solidified themselves as being synonymous with crime comics. So, when it was announced that these Marvel/Icon mainstays were taking their new work Fatale to Image Comics, I have to say that I was shocked, but more than that I was excited. Because at Image, these two would be doing something all on their own. What was released was a comic that dealt with supernatural violence in a smart and calculated detective/crime style that made it stand out amongst their catalog of stand out comics. It’s a unique subject matter from these two, and the two issues of this series have already gone back to second and third printings, which to those uninitiated in the comics world means that it’s extremely popular, and it looks like it will stay that way. Considering the low sales and high quality from Criminal and Incognito on Marvel’s Icon imprint, it’s nice to see Brubaker and Phillips break out on their own and experience success. They’re move was rewarded, and now we’re rewarded with some absolutely amazing comics.
Again, this is not to be a comprehensive list of all the amazing creator owned books. These are just some of my favorite ongoing creator owned books from outside of the big two publishing companies. Nonetheless, there are other amazing creator owned books out there like Blue Estate, Rachel Rising, Princeless, and many more. There are even some awesome collections of mini-series that have recently come out like Key of Z, Echoes, Beasts of Burden, and many, many more.
So, literally, there is something out there for anyone, this is just a guide. So, go to you local comic book store and ask about creator owned comics to see what’s right for you. There’s a serious shift in the industry to creator owned work, so let’s support the initiative and make sure to have at least one creator owned book on your monthly pull list.