What is alternative comics?

What you need to know about alternative comic books

Alternative comics is a wide range of comic books and graphic novels that spans various genre, styles, and subjects. They first appeared in the 1980s, following the underground comix movement.

Alternative comics are mostly the product of a single creator. Its publication does not have to meet deadlines; instead it is published whenever the author decides and with little regard for distribution schedules.

While the content of mainstream comics is often done to maximize sales, alternative comics on the other hand tackles more sensitive stories and are released in small numbers for select audiences.

This is because alternative, auteur or independent comics contain obscure, direct, appalling and offensive subjects that may not appeal to general readership.

Alternative comic books history

When underground comic books became less creative in mid 1970s, it became hard for comic artists to look for publishers, those who continued publishing found that their readers had dramatically decreased.

To address the situation, comic artists anthologized new comics that were artistically ambitious. Instead of the usual violence, sex, and drugs themes evident in underground comix, they focused on developing the comic art and the story lines.

Two of the earliest examples of alternative comics were RAW (by Art Spiegleman) and Wierdo (by Robert Crumb). Both were subtler and more complex compared to its precedent.

Best alternative comics

• Acme Novelty Library – Created by Chris Ware; featuring interesting characters, the most famous being Jimmy Corrigan comics. Of which it narrates tales of disappointment, sadness, dissatisfied affection and an individual’s dehumanization in a modernized world.

Acme Novelty Library comics is widely recognized in the comic industry, earning several awards such as Best Continuing Series, Best Publication Design and other notable recognitions.

• Doofus comics – Written by Rick Altergott, this alternative comics talk of Doofus and his friend Henry Hotchkiss adventures in Flowertown USA. Fans of Doofus claims it to be one of 20th century’s last great comic strips.

• Dirty Plotte comics – An intensely-drawn and highly detailed comics by Julie Doucet. It talks of Doucet’s most bizarre fantasies and deepest thoughts presented in various unlikely scenarios.

• Mickey Rat comics – He is an alcoholic, seedy, drug-induced version of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse created by Bob Armstrong. Comic readers wondered why he was never sued by Walt Disney in making bold resemblance to its famous character.

• RAW comics – Featuring a mix of various contributors, RAW was a flagship publication of the alternative comics movement in the 1980s. It followed the underground comix tradition but with a more intellectual approach.

• Weirdo comics – Serving as a low art counterpoint to RAW comics, Weird reflected its author’s interests, from fumetti (speech balloons), outsider art to assorted weirdness. Created by Robert Crumb, it was published from 1981 until 1993.

Other popular alternative comic books include; Bad Boys (JR Williams), Dykes to Watch out for (Alison Bechdel), Lenore (Roman Dirge) and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (Jhonen Vasquez).

Alternative manga

Published outside Japan’s comic commercial market, alternative manga features a different style, narrative, and theme.

Originated during Japanese post-war, their market was more famous among parental groups for their vulgar contents. It later on appealed to a slightly adolescent audience, to the more mature market.

Acclaimed alternative manga titles are AX Collection, Me and the Devil Blues, Tokyo Zombie, Black Jack and Red Colored Elegy.

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