If you look at what’s outside the walls of Marvel and DC, you’ll be very surprised to find out just how vast the world of comic books is. With publishers like Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and Dark Horse Comics as the flag bearers of independent, creator-owned comics, there are plenty of exciting, fascinating, and weird stories to discover. But what if I told you there were even more publishers beyond those three within the indie comics space? The following article is a quick guide to get you up to speed on the various indie comic book publishers out there. Find out what each of them brings to the table and the kind of comics you can expect to discover once you flip through their pages. Next thing you know, your reading list gets bigger than ever.
While the most popular series under the Dynamite Entertainment banner is Garth Ennis’ creator-owned comic “The Boys,” the American comic book publisher is most widely known for its immense library of comic series based on licensed properties. Everything from Game of Thrones to The Terminator has graced the pages of Dynamite, telling even wilder stories that extend beyond the screen. Have you ever wanted a comic book based on the Army of Darkness? What about Battlestar Galactica or Voltron? You don’t have to look far, as Dynamite is the publisher for seeing beloved properties be turned into comics. With such big licenses now for Disney, James Bond, and even the ThunderCats, the publisher is not stopping their momentum anytime soon.
Founded in 2016, Vault Comics is one of the youngest and fastest-rising independent comic book publishers in the US today. With an emphasis on telling new and diverse stories, Vault focuses on bringing to life the most inventive Horror, Sci-fi, and Fantasy comics you can find on the shelves. 2023 was a big year for the publisher, as it debuted promising new series like Zack Kaplan’s Beyond Real and Christopher Yost’s Unnatural Order. Vault looks to continue that momentum in 2024 with a lineup of new comics from such creators as Daniel Kraus, Tim Seeley, Peter Milligan, Greg Pak, Slash (yes, that Slash), and many more.
With origins dating back to the mid-'70s, Fantagraphics is one of the longest-running alternative comics publishers in America. But as much as the industry has evolved since then, Fantagraphics has always held on to the roots that made the industry such a colorful place. It’s where modern cartoonists can tell their unique stories that don’t fit the typical mold of today’s mainstream style. On top of publishing critically acclaimed alt-comics like Barry Windsor Smith’s Monsters, the publisher carries the flag in reprinting classics like Peanuts and Uncle Scrooge for readers today.
Similar to the style and practices of Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly specializes in alternative comics, classic reprints, and even foreign work translations. Based in Montreal, Quebec, it is the most prominent comic book publisher in Canada today, boasting a collection of titles from beloved cartoonists such as Daniel Clowes, Kate Beaton, and Adrian Tomine. With its strong reputation for quality content and production, Drawn & Quarterly is a publisher you can always rely on to give you comics that are quirky, unusual, and absolutely beautiful.
Founded by French comic artists Mœbius, Jean-Pierre Dionnet, and Philippe Druillet in 1974, Humanoids is a revolutionary graphic novel publisher that started with a pure focus on science fiction titles. Its most popular series, The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Mœbius, has inspired generations of comic book creators and filmmakers with its avant-garde world-building and bold storytelling. To many, The Incal encapsulates everything that makes Humanoids such a fascinating publisher to follow. It’s where you can find many of the best European comic books adapted into English for a much wider international audience.
Founded by comic book creators Matt Pizzolo, Steve Niles, and musician Brett Gurewitz, Black Mask Studios is an indie comic publisher known to give up-and-coming minds in comics a space to tell bold and transgressive stories. While the publisher may not have the biggest catalog of titles, you’re assured to find a comic that catches your eye because of Black Mask’s penchant for the provocative and eye for incredible talent. It’s where you’ll find the early works of creators such as Matthew Rosenberg, Tini Howard, and Vita Ayala, as Black Mask was the publisher that gave them the shot they needed to break into the industry.
Scout Comics embodies what is fun and beautiful about creator-owned comics. The indie comics publisher focuses on giving up-and-coming creators the platform to tell unique stories regardless of style or genre. Because diversity is the name of the game for Scout, it has spent recent years building a lineup of comics through different imprints. With Black Caravan as their horror imprint, Chispa as their premier Latinx label, and Scoot as an all-ages imprint, Scout offers one of the most varied catalogs within the indie comics scene. Then, in a unique twist, Scout also sells directly to consumers with options for monthly subscription boxes that readers can customize to have their favorite titles. So, if you love exploring new comics by budding creators, there’s plenty of neat stuff to discover from Scout.
Mad Cave Studios is an indie comic publisher that celebrates creativity and uniqueness. Since 2018, Mad Cave has run an annual talent search that awards striving comic book writers and artists with a print run for their projects. The search gave creators like David Hazan, Anthony Cleveland, David Galiano, and more the spotlight they needed to get comics made by the publisher. With great turnouts every year, Mad Cave’s talent search shows no signs of stopping, giving us readers a great way to discover more creative talent in comics.
Most known for being the long-time publisher of the super popular Scott Pilgrim series, Oni Press delivers a lineup of comics ranging from horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. But instead of doing the typical monthly releases, Oni specializes in more irregular schedules by publishing mostly miniseries or original graphic novels. The special exceptions to the case were classic titles like Cullen Bunn’s Sixth Gun or their licensed comic series of Rick and Morty. As one of comics’ most diverse publishers, there are plenty of surprises to discover when you look deeper into what part of the Oni Press banner.
Like Vault Comics, Source Point Press specializes in publishing some of the best horror, fantasy, and sci-fi comics in the independent comics scene. With such genre specialists as Cullen Bunn, Joshua Werner, and Garrett Gunn all putting out multiple books for the indie comic publisher, you know you’re in for some fun once you dive into SPP’s growing catalog.
TKO Studios is among the newcomers on this list that made a name for itself in comics quickly for its unique business model. Instead of monthly releases, TKO launches new original graphic novels in waves yearly. They also sell their books directly to consumers and comic book shops, bypassing third-party distributors. Found a book of theirs that interests you? Just go to their website and buy it from them directly! But beyond their consumer-friendly ways of selling comics, TKO has been making waves by attracting a range of up-and-coming creators like Juni Ba and Alex Paknadel and industry heavyweights like Garth Ennis and Jeff Lemire to tell bold new stories.
As part of the long-running American book publisher Random House, Pantheon Books is an imprint focused on publishing classics, international fiction, and graphic novels. While Pantheon is not necessarily considered “independent,” its impact on alternative and creator-owned comics cannot be overlooked here. With its reputation for immaculate print quality and groundbreaking stories, Pantheon is where you can find many of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels ever made.