Maybe you've never read a comic before but you saw a movie with a character you love? A show from your childhood or something brand new? Maybe your friend just said you HAVE to check out what's happening in comics but you have no idea where to start. Comics have been around for a long time and it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start, and that's where I come in.
Comics have been around for such a long time that most people associate them purely with superheroes, and often childish scenarios, but that's no longer the case! If you've never really looked into the offering of non-superhero comic fiction, you might be surprised to find out how many of your favourite movies or shows are based off of a comic, from The Walking Dead to Netflix's Locke and Key. Image Comics is the third biggest comic book and graphic novel publisher behind Marvel and DC, and since 1992 they've been giving independent creators an opportunity to publish their own ideas without giving up creative freedom or rights, and while they're not the only publisher doing this, they certainly have the most reach.
While superhero comics can reach into a variety of genres, I find that you're able to get a more complete view of a creator's vision with an independent book, because they're not waiting on final editor approval, or have some far out idea that the higher ups at DC would never let Batman do. It actually makes it easier in my opinion to find something that speaks to the specific genre you're looking for.
If you're looking for some sci-fi, Descender is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read, and I'd challenge you to find a better use of water colours in the medium.
Maybe you're into a more 80s sci-fi feel, and something like Paper Girls would be perfect, or even a mix of fantasy and sci-fi with Saga. The benefit of getting into stories like these is getting to know the creators and follow them through all their works. Both Paper Girls and Saga are written by Brian K. Vaughan and if you like those, you'd surely love any of his other work.
There's some fantastic horror books out there as well. Maybe you saw Locke and Key on Netflix and want to know what happens next, or just want to see how it all began (the show's good, but the comic is so much better), or something a bit spookier like Wytches. I love Wytches because once again, the art stands on it's own and gives you the claustrophobic feeling you'd expect in a horror setting.
One of the greatest benefits to reading these independent books is knowing that you're getting a complete story. You don't have to feel lost with decades of history behind a character to catch up on, or feel like there's no good resolution to the character arc you're super into.
There's so many incredible books that it's impossible to give you a fair view on everything, but if there's any genre or story you're interested, I can promise you there's some amazing stories about it from independent creator books. Oh, one more benefit is because they're creator owned, the creators get a significantly higher percentage of profits than mainstream superhero stories, so you're supporting them in a more direct way.
Just because I couldn't let you go without talking about them, as well as those mentioned above, here's a list of some of my absolute favourites.
East of West: Sci-fi meets western in this story about the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. Seriously amazing.
Southern Bastards: A brutally violent town in the American south that lives and dies by it's high school football team. It's not happy, but it is a great read.
Scalped: Another very violent story that takes place on a Native American reservation. It puts it's foot on your neck and keeps pressing. Written Jason Aaron, the same guy who wrote Southern Bastards.
Invincible: Ok, so this is a superhero story, but it's an independent comic by Robert Kirkman, same guy who did The Walking Dead. Maybe you've seen the new show? If you haven't you should. Also, you should read it. It's great.