When you think of comics, what do you think of? $3 to $10 books proclaiming “NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME INSIDE!”, or books with colorful characters of all types fighting each other for undefined reasons? More often than not, the scope of comics is only seen through the eyes of the Big Two publishers: Marvel and DC Comics. Comics go beyond past capes and promoting the movie based on the comics of the same name.
What if I told you there was an entire world full of comic book publishers that housed equally exciting and promising comics that weren’t about men and women in tights punching each other and explored just how different and unique comic books can be as a medium? As it turns out, that’s what this article is for!
I’ll be elaborating (and selling you) on some of the best and brightest comics that aren’t about superheroes, comics that aren’t incomprehensible because you missed 70+ years of continuity and story beats, and comics that push the boundaries past the usual conceptions of what some people think they can be.
These are comics for people that aren’t into superheroes from the great publisher, Image Comics.
Written by Kieron Gillen; Art by Jamie McKelvie and Various; Colors by Matthew Wilson; Published by Image Comics
The Wicked + The Divine is a comic about a pantheon of gods from different religions and cultures that possess young people every ninety years. “They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead.” The comic is a series about what fame and celebrity of the highest degree can do to a person. It’s told through the eyes of a fan of the Pantheon for the majority of the series before things get complicated, weird, sexual, and an entire other host of emotions and adjectives, as the hook of the series reveals itself to be a murder mystery of godly proportions, among other things, as time goes on. It’s an inventive series that will defy where you think the plot is going, and the creative team gels smoothly and consistently with special interludes, or entire arcs, by upcoming, new talent to illustrate different points of view.
Written by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, and Various; Art by Brandon Graham and Various; Published by Image Comics
Island is a comic magazine unlike any other. It’s by creators, for creators. Series curator/co-creator Brandon Graham describe it as “each issue holds three 20-30 page, no ads, issue-length, chapters of new work from around the globe.” You’ll never know what kind of story you’re in for inside these the sometimes over-sized pages! Not only are you getting completely original stories; you’re getting it straight from the creators and new talent. It’s a magazine that is part showcase and magazine for unorthodox comics of all types and genres.
Written by: Rick Remender Art by: Greg Tocchini; Colors by Dave McCaig; Published by Image Comics
Our oceans are the most unexplored parts of our planet. The Bioshock franchise and ABZÛ are some cases of video games exploring the underwater world that’s all but unknown to us. Low is a comic that takes place in the depths of the ocean because the surface isn’t a hospitable place for humanity anymore. According to the series’ press release, “Millennia ago, mankind fled the earth’s surface into the bottomless depths of the darkest oceans. Shielded from a merciless sun’s scorching radiation, the human race tried to stave off certain extinction by sending robotic probes far into the galaxy, to search for a new home among the stars. Generations later, one family is about to be torn apart, in a conflict that will usher in the final race to save humanity from a world beyond hope.” Low is a comic about hope, despair, and fighting against hopelessness in the face of danger. Featuring some of the most gorgeous art ever put on a page, it will send you on an emotional roller coaster with each issue.
Written by Rick Remender; Art by Wes Craig; Colors by Lee Loughridge; Published by Image Comics
Kings Dominion School for the Deadly Arts is a school for the next generation of killers. No joke. All the crime families send their kids and young assassin there to train and excel in the arts of murder, subterfuge, and high school. It’s the 1980s rock and roll adventure of your teenage dreams as Marcus, a down-on-his-luck kid, is accidentally indoctrinated into this prestigious school of killers to complete his goal of “killing the President of the US.” Over the course of the series, Marcus quickly gets ingrained in the school politics and colorful cast of characters that are his friends and foes as he navigates the hallways of teenage angst, different social groups and killer clans, and assignments that’ll both test his mettle and change him forever. Wes Craig illustrates this demented coming of age comic with high speed, kinetic energy and a brutality that fits the world of the comic perfectly.
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by Michael Lark; Published by Image Comics
“In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains. Forever Carlyle defends her family’s holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home.” Lazarus aka science fiction Game of Thrones is a series that is defined by the slow-building tension and cast of characters that live, die, and expand to entire neighboring cities, and other families, all vying for power. Michael Lark grounds this dreary and dirty world with realistic tones and character designs along with action that’ll make you wince with the brutality of it all.
Written by Nick Spencer; Art by Joe Eisma; Published by Image Comics
School sucks, that much is certain. What about Morning Glories Academy? It’s a school for gifted children that involves enemy factions, the military, time travel, ghost rituals, explosions, and student council voting. Morning Glories is (at the moment) a fifty issue series involving all of the above. Being called “Runaways meets Lost” is a special pedigree for a comic. Immediately, from the first issue, this teen-filled drama is ripe with mysteries aplenty, evil higher ups, and a diverse cast of students that’ll leave you gasping for air at the latest and greatest plot twist because Morning Glories has that in spades.
Written by Matt Fraction; Art by Chip Zdarsky; Published by Image Comics
Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. They engage in sex and time stops…..not in the metaphorical sense though. Suzie and Jon both have the unique ability to stop time when they climax! It’s a really human comic about love, life, relationships, and having sex. It’s super hilarious and features Sex Cops who want to control others like Suzie and Jon, robbing a bank to help the local library, and monsters made from cum… This comic is not for kids.
Written by Brian K Vaughan; Art by Fiona Staples; Published by Image Comics
Star Wars + Romeo and Juliet = Saga. It’s a tale of two lovers: parents Marko and Alana, who change everything with the birth of their daughter Hazel, in the process of the galactic war that both of their species are in. Saga is a series that’s now considered one of the best comics of the 21st century with its visually stunning artwork by Fiona Staples providing gorgeous backgrounds of alien life, planets, and characters like royalty TV heads, spider bounty hunters, ghost babysitters, and spaceships made out of trees. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples began the journey of this family five years ago, and it’s reached galactic heights of fame as one of the “it” comics — and it’s fully deserving of the praise. Despite the alien setting, it’s a familiar story of keeping your family together through the good and bad times. Saga tackles topics of drug abuse, abortion, family ties, and everything in between… The risk is always high when you’re on the run from people wanting to kill you, but this team makes the journey worthwhile.