Marvel has great success with the MCU, which no doubt will continue with the July 8th release of Thor: Love and Thunder. DC has likewise had a multitude of great television offerings, with the trailer for the third season of Harley Quinn recently dropping. It seems like it's impossible to avoid these monoliths, but independent comics do exist.
Sometimes they are created by obscure branches of larger companies or experienced writers branching out. Other times they can be pure amateur productions that break the mold. Whatever the case, fans of Ranker have come to vote for their favorites. These include some of the most influential works in the medium.
Note: Ranker lists are fan-voted, live, and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
Scalped is a renowned comic from DC's Vertigo imprint by Jason Aaron and RM Guera. It was originally planned as a reboot of the DC character Scalphunter, but he was dropped in favor of a more grounded tale. It surrounds a group of Ogala Lakota people living in a South Dakotan reservation.
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The series deals with poverty, crime, and substance abuse that can plague minority communities. The protagonist, Dashiell Bad Horse, returns to the reservation after years away. Upon returning, he deals with the politics of the reservation and cultural identity. The series was praised when released, although it is controversial nowadays for not having any actual Lakota involved in its creation.
Warren Ellis frequently wrote books for Image comics, but his biggest success was Helix's Transmetropolitan. Despite the author's other dark heroes, like Netflix's Castlevania's Trevor, Spider Jerusalem will always remain his edgiest protagonist. A gonzo journalist in a transhuman future, Spider seeks the truth in order to keep public figures in power accountable.
The series follows Spider as he leaves retirement to finish his publishing deal. He descends into the city to meet up with the news media and report on local transhuman affairs. The series has a lot to say about abuses of fame and power, accusations of which even come to Spider. The series came out in the '90s, but remains relevant today as news media continues to evolve.
8 Southern Bastards
Southern Bastards is an ongoing series that began in 2014. Created by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, it takes place in the small and lawless Craw County, Alabama. It stars Earl Tubb, the son of the local sheriff and a former high school football player. He ends up getting into conflict with his old team's coach, Euless Boss.
Coach Boss turns out to be a crime lord and Earl attempts to do something about his violence. Of course, things don't end up being that simple. The series was described as a dual tribute and criticism of Southern American culture. It earned a lot of comparisons to Aaron's previously mentioned Scalped and took home an Eisner in 2016 for Best Continuing Series.
7 Paper Girls
If one has kept a close eye on Amazon's streaming schedule, they'll see that a TV adaptation of this comic is coming in late July 2022. However, Paper Girls has plenty of merits as a comic that shouldn't be missed out on. The art by Cliff Chiang is also not to be missed as it perfectly illustrates the bizarre adventures of Erin, MacKenzie, KJ, and Tiffany.
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The story, penned by Brain Vaughan, concerns the aforementioned girls getting caught up in a war. Not just any war, though, but an inter-time war between time travelers. These warring factions, the Teenagers and Old-Timers, impose their dark reality on the girls' optimistic future. It's a great, unique story with four incredible leads in the girls themselves.
While a television show has long been in development hell, as of writing, Chew hasn't gotten its deserved adaptation. It's a shame, as it would make for a great detective TV show. Tony Chu works for the FDA in an alternate America where chicken is outlawed. Here, he solves crimes by getting psychic imprints from the food that he eats.
This extends to human beings as well, leading to the necessities of these "cibopaths." Tony ends up bouncing between several different departments over the series. The series was praised for both its off-the-wall premise and its mysteries. This led to a spinoff, Chu, released in 2020.
5 Deadly Class
Unlike Chew, Deadly Class did receive a television adaptation on SyFy. Unfortunately, it ran for only one season and left Deadly Class fans with tons of questions. The original Image comic is more than worthy of a read for those fans. The series takes place in a secret San Francisco school that trains assassins.
The protagonist, Marcus Lopez Arguello, joins the school off the street. There he comes into conflict with other students, which usually include the criminal elite. While following the "outcast gets into special school" format very common in teen stories, it subverts it in dark and surprising ways. The series is as of yet unfinished, but the final arc has been announced.
With the success of The Boys, works by Garth Ennis have been very hot. Nothing is "hotter" than Ennis' religiously charged Preacher, whose protagonist commands the powers of heaven and hell. Jesse Custer is possessed by a being called Genesis, the spawn of angels and demons. After this power murders his congregation, he journeys to literally find god for revenge and answers.
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The Vertigo comic is often considered Ennis' best work, with wild characters like the Irish vampire Cassidy and Custer's girlfriend Tulip. The series also received a TV adaptation which was received quite well. However, it diverged from the source material. The original work is dark and violent, but also an influential masterpiece that Steven King has cited as an inspiration.
3 East Of West
East of West is a book for people who love wild, out-there concepts. The story takes place in an America where the Civil War never ended and the country has split up into seven countries. If that isn't enough, the apocalypse has come as the Four Horsemen materialize around America. The story follows Death, part of the group opposing the end of times.
Despite the lofty backstory, the series is largely a revenge-focused Western. Death seeks revenge on the other horsemen and their followers who almost murdered him and his mortal family. The series was praised for its lofty story and its excellent art. It remains one of the best examinations of hope in the hopeless in the comic book medium.
2 Y: The Last Man
Brian K. Vaughan is a great comic book writer who has already been mentioned. For all of his successes, they all began with his first creator-owned comic Y: The Last Man. While the creator himself considers it a stepping stone to his other work like Saga, fans on Ranker consider it the second-best Indie comic. It's easy to see why with its extremely unique premise.
An unknown event has caused the death of every mammal with a Y chromosome except for protagonist Yorick and his pet monkey. The series title is a clever dual reference to Yorick's name, chromosome, and the ongoing mystery. As society collapses and splinter groups form either, Yorick travels the broken world. The series was revolutionary when it was first released but has seen more criticism for its gender politics in recent years.
The biggest success of DC's Vertigo imprint is arguably Fables. Bill Willingham's 2002 series redefined tons of classic fairy tale characters from the public domain as residents of New York City. They've formed a small community known as Fabletown, but reverberations from their homeland still affect them now. Local sheriff Bigby Wolf attempts to keep the peace, but the chaos of their lives continues to threaten their community.
The series has been lauded for its excellent writing and as such has won fourteen Eisner awards. This success leads to numerous spin-off titles and a 2022 miniseries continuation. The series also received a 2013 video game adaptation in Telltale's The Wolf Among Us series. Unfortunately, no film or TV adaptations have made it out of development hell, but the series still remains the number one pick for indie comic fans.
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James W. Potvin is a freelance writer for Screen Rant. This is is his first professional writing job, but he's been making infographics about nerd culture interests for years. In the past, James has worked in education. He loves video games, and his favorite is Kirby.More From James Potvin