The wave of awesome indie comics continued to swell in 2014 with the comics world increasingly focusing beyond just Marvel and DC to focus on the work outside the superhero mainstream. The world of indie comics is so varied and vast that no year-end summary could be anything close to comprehensive; so instead, let’s check in with some of the most exciting indie publishers of the year and see how they’ve done.
Archie Comics…has somehow become one of the most exciting and headline-grabbing publishing companies in 2014? Afterlife With Archie, that zombie Riverdale comic by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla wrapped up its first arc with a delicious twist and recently published a magazine-style edition to sell to its wider newsstand audiences. Then they killed off Archie himself in the final issue of Life With Archie, in what was one of the most heart-rending reflections on morality we got in comics this year. Halloween brought along the creepy Sabrina comic, which is a stand-out debut in a year full of good horror comics. Then, as if that weren’t all enough, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples announced a Archie relaunch coming in 2015. Yes that Mark Waid and that Fiona Staples doing an Archie comic…if you can avoid resist putting that on your pull list, you’re a stronger person than I am.
BOOM! Studios also spent 2014 solidifying a reputation for quality all-ages content and fun, fascinating genre work. It became Cartoon Network’s official home for licensed comics, not just the Adventure Time juggernaut, but also Steven Universe, Regular Show, and, my personal favorite, Bee and Puppycat. Then there was Lumberjanes, an all-ages girl adventure series that’s taken the comics world by storm. But for me, it’s the original genre content like Dead Letters and The Woods that define BOOM! Studios in 2014. The publisher is taking chances on interesting stories from up-and-coming creators, and it’s paying off in spades. For my money, Empty Man, a miniseries from Cullen Bund and Vanesa del Rey, is on my best of 2014 year.
Unfortunately, the biggest news for Dark Horse isn’t exactly cheery. As expected, when news of Disney buying Star Wars came out, Dark Horse lost the Star Wars license to Marvel. Sure, Star Wars comics are going to live on at Marvel, especially that Princess Leia miniseries, but the Dark Horse Star Wars universe has been growing for 20 years, and it’s sad to see that come to the end. But Dark Horse’s other long-lasting property celebrated a happy anniversary this year. Hellboy, Mike Mignola’s comic that spawned a whole comic universe still thriving today, is 20 years old. What’s most impressive about the whole Mignola-verse is how consistent and coherent it is, even 20 years on. You can start with that initial Hellboy story and end with the latest BPRD issue, and it all, more or less, makes sense. In a world of reboots, that is no small feat.
Then…there was Image, which continues to dominate the indie comics scene thanks to high-profile creators and tons of new debuts this year. Early in the year, the Image Expo generated a lot of buzz for series to come out this year, and also spawned some interesting discussion on race and gender representation in comics creators. Then it won lots of Eisners, especially Saga and newcomer Sex Criminals. If I started to list the buzz-worthy comic debuts that came out this year I’d be here all day, but certainly The Wicked + The Divine by Gillen and McKelvie spawned some of the best comics commentary of the year, and Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta is going to make a billion dollars on TV. Plus, though it just debuted late in the year, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Bitch Planet is promising to make waves in 2015.
And…that was a very condensed look at indie comics in 2014! There’s something for everyone out there if you dip your toes in to the indie world, and, if you’re anything like me, once you get started it’s easy to get hooked. Here’s to a 2015 filled with funny, weird, scary and smart indie comics by awesome creators!