I recently posted my ten favorite Marvel minis of the 1980s, and then a DC version—both looking exclusively at the 1980s, which I consider “the era of my youth.” Those were the books I read and reread, memorized numbers and creators, and obsessed over when I couldn’t get laid. Which was often.
My comic book reading is much different now, as is the business. The days of long-term numbering, casual cameos, and generalized hammy fun are long gone, replaced by an environment that uses miniseries primarily as “event books” to separate you from more money than your regular pull-list, or as storyboards for movie ideas. You really have to turn to the independent publisher, or Vertigo/Icon, to find the kind of innovation and risk-taking that Marvel and DC displayed in the 1980s with books like Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Longshot, etc.
And so turn I have.
But the world of indie books is vast, and my experience with it cannot possible be all-encompassing. Whereas I’m fairly sure I read 90% of the Marvel miniseries output of the 1980s—and probably 75% of DC’s—I can’t even find a comprehensive list of all the indie minis from that era, or any era. Plus, it’s really from the early 2000s to now—not the 1980s—that indie publishers really have been able to shine.
And so, there are my 10 favorite non-Marvel, non-DC miniseries, without a “year” or “decade” limitation…If I missed any of your favorites, please drop me a comment and I’ll certainly track them down and check ‘em out.
One more thing: I know that Vertigo and Wildstorm are DC imprints, and Icon is Marvel. But they’re also not DC or Marvel. So they’re here. So there.
10. Black Hole (12 issues) (Kitchen Sink Press/Fantagraphics, 1995)
Picking number ten is so hard. It means I have to make cuts. Some notable ones: Warren Ellis’ one-shots from Avatar Press under the “Apparat” imprint, which I discounted because they were really one-offs, not miniseries. Also, Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s “Fell,” which wasn’t intended as a limited series even though it only ran for seven issues. And a whole bunch of Grant Morrison because he can’t appear more than twice on the list—it just wouldn’t be right. I couldn’t include Punk Rock Jesus because it’s too recent to have had a lasting impact on me, even though I think I’ll be revisiting that book soon. I also eliminated Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra’s “Just a Pilgrim,” because it’s a little too similar to another Ennis miniseries that did make my list. And this one killed me: I couldn’t include Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker, by Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston, even though it was basically flawless.
So why Black Hole? Because, more than the others mentioned above, it is a truly different kind of book. In twelve issues, writer/artist Charles Burns created an entire world of horror and darkness. In short: An STD mutates teenagers into … Really horrifying creatures. It confronts sex, conformity, revolution, alienation—everything most people first turn to comic books to help them escape from. It’s comics-as-art, in the truest sense.