It’s incredibly difficult to assemble a “Best Of” list in comics given the massive variety of publications that arrive in a single calendar year. That’s especially true in 2017 when many of the largest direct market publishers offered some incredible shake ups to ongoing lines as well as some explosive debuts. In order to make sure as many great titles got an opportunity to shine as possible, this list is here to highlight the best indie comics of 2017.
To be clear: these are all comics that come from outside of the direct market, ranging from hand-printed single issues to massive collections aimed at the book market. The stories are even more diverse -- including riffs on the superhero genre, mind-bending advancements of the form, and intricately sensitive autobiographical tales. Together they display the unique array of stories and styles offered within comics. No matter what you prefer to read, it’s impossible to argue these are 10 of the best comics published in 2017.
Created by Gale Galligan
Jon is a fancomic about Garfield. That’s true, but it also fails to encompass everything that this 10-page self-published comic really is. Jon is sincere and cute and funny. Jon is a story about how introverts struggle to relate to a world hungry for their unique personalities. Jon is a story about art and self-expression and how we build connections using our own skill sets. Jon is a story about the people who comfort us and how they allow us to flourish. Jon is a statement that Gale Galligan is a talent who we should all hope to see many more comics from in the years to come. This story of a man meeting his significant other’s friends is all of these things and more. Most importantly of all, it is true.
Created by Brigitte Findakly (writer) and Lewis Trondheim (artist)
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Poppies of Iraq makes a tumultuous and complex modern history and culture vastly more approachable through the use of perspective. Findakly’s life is combined with Trondheim’s cartoooning in order to provide glimpses of life in Iraq prior to the United States’ invasion. The comic moves between an autobiographical narrative and small memories of customs, life outside of the country today, and family photos. The result is an immersive experience that makes distant experiences seem both present and personal.
Created by Josh Simmons (writer) and Patrick Keck (artist)
Published by Cold Cube Press
Twilight Of The Bat might be the best Batman comic of 2017 and quite possibly the best since The Dark Knight Returns. Simmons and Keck delve into the post-apocalyptic landscape of G City with its only two remaining inhabitants Bat and Joke Man in order to both exploit the cultural weight of its mark and the dark themes swirling within that property. Its brutally direct confrontation with fascism, loneliness, and entropy would be impossible within the confines of Batman, which might be why the hero we need today is simply called “Bat”.
Created by Thi Bui
Published by Abrams Comicarts
The Best We Could Do taps into the very heart of immigration as it follows one family’s journey from Vietnam following America’s departure. Both Thi Bui’s artwork and prose are poetic, forming together to create an almost lyrical portrait of the heartbreak and struggle found within such a dramatic change. Family roles and culture are covered in detail, making the story of immigration relatable even for those that may never have left their hometown. It is necessary reading for Americans of any generation.
Created by Michel Fiffe
Published by Bergen Street Press
Whether you’re reading COPRA or COPRA Versus, there’s no comic more consistently stylish, innovative, or entertaining coming out on a semi-regular basis. Each of the few issues published in 2017 offered a unique reading experience, experimenting with color and format as the series barreled into some of its most shocking twists. The dual guarantee behind each issue is its ability to simultaneously act as pure entertainment and a workshop in comics as an artform, providing an infinitely re-readable experience that leaves us begging for more.
Created by Sophia Foster-Dimino
Published by Koyama Press
Sex Fantasy is composed of alluringly sparse lines and gentle curves that pulls readers into the complex set of emotions that belie sex and relationships. Originally published as small handmade pamphlets, the collection of Foster-Dimino’s many comics provides a comprehensive perspective on the delicate world she has woven over many years. Narrative is not as important as the effect of unique moments or even individual panels, all of which build upon one another in fascinating ways. The result is something entirely unexpected that will linger long after the last page is turned.
Created by Michael DeForge
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero is yet another illustration that there is no modern cartoonist as prolific, innovative, or surprising as Michael DeForge. The tale of Sticks is an intricately woven set of stories that include DeForge himself as an attempted biographer and many bizarre animals, some of which happen to share names with DeForge’s own colleagues. Through this lens the comic examines how we build narratives, both for ourselves and others, in a world that is unlike anything else on the comics page, but comes to resemble our own in the most curious of ways.
Created by Jillian Tamaki
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Boundless presents Jillian Tamaki as one of the greatest living comics creators of our era in a collection of short stories that often attain the level of transcendence. They range in style from the mundane to the fantastical, but are bound by a similar sincere and explorative tone that becomes transfixing when read together. Tamaki provides a spellbinding set of comics that encourages us to consider our relationships with society, one another, and ourselves through a diverse set of perspectives and settings.
Created by Emil Ferris
Published by Fantagraphics
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is reaping awards and praise for very good reason. Emil Ferris’ debut is a surprising work on almost every level. The complex narrative comments on the immensity of history and the complexity of the inner-self, often within the same page. The tale is constructed in just as fascinating a manner with a variety of styles presenting different layers all with ballpoint pen on lined paper. It is a comic that demands repeat reading and rewards readers with each page. Ferris’ talent is monstrous and the second volume of this comic promises to be a highlight of 2018 as well.
Created by Tillie Walden
Published by First Second
Imagine someone taking their most personal and formative stories, preparing them with years of concentrated effort, and then handing them to you. They are stories of love, learning, and loss with all the messiness of real life, yet they are bound by inks and layouts crafted to provide sense and make the experience cathartic. This is a human being defined by art and you are able to find them by turning a page: This is what it feels like to read Spinning.
Walden’s autobiographical story narrates the experience of being a skilled figure skater navigating the many changes of adolescence in addition to a move to Austin and coming out as a lesbian. It is that perfect memoir that manages to make the deeply personal read as universal, wherein intense moments of unique triumph and terror tap into those same emotions we all endured. In doing so Walden reminds us of a shared humanity in the most delicate and precise of manners. The effect is nothing short of beautiful.
And Spinning is simply the best comic of 2018.