What are Indie Comic Books?

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What are Indie Comic Books?

Independent or indie comic books are created and published outside the domain of the major comic book publishers — Marvel and DC Comics. Independent comic books are often self-published or published by small, independent publishers specializing in niche or alternative genres.


Indie comic books cover various genres and styles, from superhero comics to autobiographical to science fiction and experimental comics. Because indie creators have more creative freedom and control over their work than those at “The Big Two” major publishers, they often take risks and explore subject matter and themes that may not be considered mainstream.


Indie comics have played an essential role in developing the industry, with many influential titles emerging from the indie scene. Some indie comic books have also been adapted into successful movies and TV shows, such as “The Walking Dead” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”


The “indie comics” label ranges from a single person creating one issue to sell online or at a comic con to million-dollar companies like Dark Horse, Image, and AWA — check out this long yet non- comprehensive list of indie comics companies. This disparity in size can be confusing for some.


All of that being said, there are some pretty huge differences between working for “The Big Two” and the smaller indie companies. Those include:


In a creator-owned title, the creators retain ownership of the characters and story. This means they have more creative control over the story’s direction and the characters they create. In contrast, when a comic book is published by DC or Marvel, the publisher owns the characters and story, and the creators typically work under contract for the publisher.


Due to that, the writer and artists are largely cut out of any profits or royalties generated by their creations. Marvel and DC employ their creators under terms of “work for hire” contracts. In contrast, creators of indie comics receive a more significant share of the profits from the sales of their work than those who work for DC or Marvel because, at creator-owned companies (like Image or Scout Comics), the creators retain the rights to their creations. That means an indie creator will receive a larger percentage of the revenue from sales

Ed Brubaker is the classic case of a creator who made something that became incredibly popular. He co-created the “Winter Soldier” character. He was not invited to the main premiere of the Marvel film featuring his story. According to an article by ComicsBeat, Brubaker got very little compensation from Marvel Studios for his contribution to the film, which grossed over $700 million at the box office.


While indie creators maintain control over their characters and stories, they must contend with limited distribution and marketing compared to those published by DC or Marvel. The major publishers have well-established distribution channels and marketing campaigns, which means their comic books are more widely available and promoted in comic book shops and other retail outlets.


Indie comics are also produced on smaller budgets when compared to what DC or Marvel can spend. This can affect the quality of the artwork and possibly the production values of the comic book, as well as the frequency of publication.


However, indie comics often explore niche genres and experimental storytelling techniques that Marvel and DC would never touch. Comics published by DC or Marvel almost exclusively focus on an established superhero. DC’s attempt at publishing books beyond that formula ended in 2019 with the end of their Vertigo imprint.


Vertigo Comics was known for publishing mature and experimental titles for mature readers. Vertigo was founded in 1993 by Karen Berger and published many iconic titles such as “Sandman,” “Preacher,” “Y: The Last Man,” and “Fables.” After the end of Vertigo, many of its titles and creators were moved to other DC imprints, such as DC Black Label and the Sandman Universe line.

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