Talk:Alternative comics

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Why does "indie comics" redirect to this article?[edit]

"Indie Comics" are comics that are self-published. "Alternative Comics" are comics that are not mainstream. They are not synonyms. Of course, the majority of indie comics are alternative comics, but not all. Plenty of alternative comics are put out by publishers like Darkhorse, Oni Press, Top Shelf, and even the arguably "mainstream" DC Comics (under their "Vertigo" and "Zuda" imprints). There's no mention of the phrase "indie comics" in this article at all. ButteredToast (talk) 10:04, 6 May 2010 (UTC)


I wish to expand upon my reasoning for getting rid of the Elfquest image. While Elfquest is not completely a mainstream comic, I don't think its an image that really embodies the spirit of alternative comics. It still deals with a genera that is very common in comics, fantasy as opposed to alternative works which try to tackle generas outside of this. I hope you undertand my reasoning, and I might ask permission to upload and display a famous example that I feel embodies what alternative comics are about. (In particular I'd recommend the first graphic novel "A Contract with God" because of its historical significance to US alternative comics.

I agree with your resoning for removing Elfquest. How about a new image that shows a number of significant alternative comics? ike9898

While I agree that Elfquest may not be appropriate for the title image, I think it's fair to say that it, along with Cerebus, is probably the most prominent of the indy/alternative comics -- the Starblaze reprints were the first "graphic novels" to get into mall bookstores, and probably the first successful western comic to be strongly visually influenced by anime. It's easy to underestimate its novely and overstate its allegedly commonplace tropes -- the elves, for example, are painted more as noble savages than the aristocratic types of Tolkien.

I have an entirely different point of view about "alternative" comics, one that barely includes Elfquest, and I'm not sure how to negotiate it here. While no doubt Elfquest sold more copies than the other comics mentioned here, as measured by (my perception of) its influence on critics and other artists, it is not of great historic value. But my POV assumes that the present state of the art of what we're talking about should refer to things like Acme Novelty Library, not manga. And to comics with pointedly "adult" themes. To my mind, titles like Maus, RAW, Weirdo, Love and Rockets, Eightball and Yummy Fur are each infinitely more prominent in this history than Elfquest, or than many of the comics that have been recently added to the description (the comics published by Epic, Escape, Pacific, etc.). Anybody have a sense of how to reconcile this conflict? Are we talking about two seperate histories?--BTfromLA 06:01, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Elfquest is historically important as an alternative comic, primarily with regards to self-publishing; it was a first-waver. At a certain point it was Elfquest, Cerebus, First Kingdom and not much else, at least on the American scene. It's not a question of sales or artistic exploration (per se) but of envelope-pushing in the distribution arena. Note however, that this refers specifically to the original twenty-issue magazine size Elfquest series, not the Elfquest property as a whole. Also note that it was considered to have "adult themes" at the time, because the market as a whole was so much thinner. So yes, in a way, we are talking about two separate histories. Maybe more. 08:06, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

I think Elfquest illustrates why we need to differentiate between "alternative" and "independent" comics. Though these two arenas clearly overlap, "alernative" now clearly implies something more specific. Elfquest is paramount to the history of indy comics, but it is was only occasionally "alternative," at least in respect to its themes, adult material, etc.
Maybe it's time to split the article or make a clean differentiation between those comics that were created and released by independent publishers and those comics that focused on topics and subject matter that is alternative to the mainstream.
Maybe it's a problem of the category -- when we define something (like "alernative") by its relationship to something else, it's going to be incohesive and imply multiple "histories".
Good points, all. I suppose this is the sort of thing that should be wrangled over at Wikipedia:WikiProject Comics, as it points to larger questions of organization: do we structure comics-related entries by marketing category, or chronology, or theme, or publisher, or physical format, etc. I'd think the goal would be to come up with something that is as simple and consistent as possible.

In hopes this will help to clarify those issues, I'm going to copy this discussion to Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Comics.--BTfromLA 18:28, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Personally I think Elfquest was alternative for it's time. It had science fiction, fantasy, sex, death, murder and other adult themes. Just because the art is pretty does not mean it wasn't alternative. But of course it was also Independent. I think it should be listed on both pages when an Indie Comics page happens. Independent comics "were" the alternative when they began.

Dump of addition made by User:[edit]

This editor added a long series of short descriptions of comics creators; it was largely unencyclopedic and unwikified, it didn't follow the underground/alternative dichotomy we've established, and any information salvageable should be in any case added to the individual articles on creators. The dump follows. -leigh (φθόγγος)

Introduction (for non-comix readers) to creators and work emblematic of the altcomics movement[edit]

Robert Crumb: Founder of underground comics – Creator of characters such as Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat. Severely attacked by feminists for his often misogynistic cartoons. The subject of Terry Zwigoff's award wining biopic/ documentary, 'Crumb' (which is produced by David Lynch) I have his works all in anthology format, including a signed and numbered hardcover collection. (Zap comix, My troubles with women)

Daniel Clowes : One of the greatest and most versatile artists and writers today… does everything from punk slapstick to lurid surrealism to VERY poignant naturalistic fiction to violent noir trillers. What ever he does, it’s always surprisingly original and genre-defying. Responsible for Ghost World, which you might have heard about, it adapted into a critically acclaimed movie (also directed by Terry Zwigoff, Clowes wrote the screenplay) three years ago. Clowes is Modern Literature at its finest. (Eightball, Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron, Ghost World, David Boring)

Joe Sacco: Journalist working in the comics medium, unique for his humanistic approach to journalism. Spends time in war-ridden countries and makes comics out of his experiences. Prior to this he has worked mostly in comedy and autobiography, even then his work was very political. (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde)

Peter Bagge: Influential artist with an rubbery outrageous cartoony style, synonymous with the grunge movement in Seattle, Large body of work mostly revolves around cynical and misanthropic Gen X slackers, most particularly the semi biographical character, Buddy Bradley. Has since mellowed down and dabbled with humorous journalistic pieces and D.C comics (Did a short-lived – yet brilliant – series for DC called Sweatshop, an anti-establishment satire on the comics industry… how ironic.) A master of situational comedy. (HATE!, Neat Comix, Studs Kirby: The voice of the nation, Sweatshop)

Art Spiegelman: Best known for MAUS, a story about his father’s account of the holocaust, illustrated with all the characters as anthropomorphic mice. Very unsettling, not only because of the depiction of the sufferings of Jewish prisoners of war, but also his antagonistic yet understanding relationship with his father, a survivor of the war. A veteran of the underground, he edited the avant-garde comics anthology RAW in which MAUS was first serialized. Recently edited and published a collection of comics for children, Little Lit, and a Post 911 comic, in the shadow of no towers. (Maus, In the Shadow of No Towers)

Chris Ware: An obsessive-compulsive perfectionist of an artist, probably the greatest illustrator in the world. His work has to be seen to believed. Writes VERY depressing stories in contrast of his innocuously beautifully rendered drawings. Work first appeared in RAW has roots in the avant-garde, his comics are very experimental. (The Acme Novelty Library, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid in the World)

Chester Brown: Minimalist Montreal based artist with a unique style. Best known for his autobiographical comics which deal with adolescent alienation and sexuality. Recently did a biographical comicbook based on a Canadian anarchist, Louis Riel, which I have yet to obtain. His shorter, less serious works can often be very weird. His first book, Ed The Happy Clown is about a Clown whose penis gets stuck on Ronald Regan’s head after it sticks in an anal-dimensional doorway(?!?!!) (Yummy Fur, The Playboy, I Never Liked You)

Seth: Sophisticated New Yorker-styled cartoonist outrageous for his comics UNsexiness. Draws comics about his nostalgic obsessions, senile old people, retired fan salesman and boring shit. Except the way he writes it is far from boring. They are very engaging and deep. Good friends with Chester brown, they draw each other as Characters in their autobio strips. (He’s only in his late 30s, not 75 like his comics suggest. (Palookaville, It’s a Good Life if you don’t Weaken, Clyde Fans)

Joe Matt: Humorous autobiographical cartoonist whose work is (although quite funny) also very disturbing … he’s on a pathway to self destruction. His ‘diary strips’ have so far recorded his violent fights with his girlfriend, his addiction to pornography, his various character flaws and his inevitable break-up with his girlfriend. Most disturbing is the pornography part… This guy thinks of nothing but porn all day long! Good friends with Chester and Seth, who are also characters in his autobio and has to bear his sad, deterioration ever since. (I think the three of them influenced each other to work in this genre) (Peepshow, The Poor Bastard, Fair Weather)

Harvey Pekar: Founder of autobiographical movement. Writes a series called American Splendor, about the plight of the working class in Cleveland. Which was made into a very good movie in the same name released last year. Frequently collaborates and is a good friend of Robert Crumb. A very intellectual literary enthusiast and Jazz collector, his comics range from mundane daily happenings to illustrated essays on his thoughts on authors/music/politics etc. (Amrican Splendor)

Art movement v publishing movement[edit]

The "Alternative" category is described here (correctly, in my view) as an art movement that grew out of the underground comix movement. But some of the stuff that was talked about here earlier (see Elfquest, above) about the "independent" (i.e., not Marvel or DC) publishers that emerged (and mostly died) in the 1980s is still here. I'd like to trim that out, or move it to an "independent comics publishers" entry, or some such. Many of these "independent" comics are "genre" comics that clearly were not part of the same underground-inspired movement that includes The Hernandez Brothers, Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, etc. While publishers (Fantagraphics in particular) are an important factor in the story of Alternative comics, I think it is most useful to focus on the qualities of the work, which include serious literary and artistic experimentation. Any objections if I take a stab at trimming what I see as the extraneous stuff? --BTfromLA 20:17, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Dump the list[edit]

I've very tempted to remove the long list of Alternative Comics as it doesn't really serve any purpose. Perhaps it should be replaced with a survey of key creators / titles and the various 'schools' within Alt comics to give the reader a better flavour of the range covered?

Any objections?

Peteashton 05:58, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

Lists of this type are problematic in Wikipedia. Every reader adds their favorite to the list of notables and soon it is enormous. That being said, the lists really can be helpful to the reader. If I didn't know anything about alternative comics, I would want the article to name some examples. Maybe your suggested scheme would be better, but be careful not to make it to much like 'original research'. I don't think it would be appropriate to class creators into different 'schools' if these schools are your own original classification system. ike9898 16:29, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
POV in classification is a major issue, I grant you, but there are some trends that have been recorded elsewhere such as the Highwater Books and, um... I'll have a scour through my Comics Journals for some "year/decade in review" pieces and see what jumps out. Also anthologies tend to act as good markers in the development of alt-comic.
I should add that I don't in any way think this should be definitive - more a cursory survey that helps the reader dig deeper. Peteashton 22:35, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

The best way to remove that silly long list is to create Category:Alternative comics. - Frankie (talk) 16:51, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

American Bias?[edit]

Some relevant non american comics are not cited in the article: the french magazine Métal Hurlant ('74-'87) and the italian magazines it:Il male ('78-'82), it:Cannibale ('77-'79) and Frigidaire ('80-'86). The most internationally know character/work from these italian magazines is RanXerox.
--BMF81 12:34, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

Hey man, WP:BOLD. ike9898 15:12, 10 December 2005 (UTC)
All right buddy :) --BMF81 17:27, 10 December 2005 (UTC)
In some sense, underground/alternative/independent comics were a largely American phenomenon in that there was, at least in the past, a major split between underground and later alternative comics and mainstream comic books and strips, largely enforced by a comics code and very narrow genre conventions. In Europe and Japan, where comics have always been considered a serious art form, this stark dichotomy didn't exist; there have always been "serious" comics in those countries. By European standards, North American alternative comics might not have ever seemed terribly non-mainstream to begin with. I could be wrong about this – if there was a strong non-mainstream comics movement in Europe or elsewhere, by all means add information about it to this article. Peter G Werner 02:15, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
I probably should have looked up the links you listed, first. Métal Hurlant was the French predecessor to Heavy Metal, which has never considered part of "alternative comics". That was more of a predocessor to the kind of "alternative mainstream"/cyberpunk trend exemplafied by publishers like Image Comics and the like. Peter G Werner 02:21, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Personally I agree with this, and in my opinion many english wikipedia pages suffer from this problem. Thos who grew up in the UK reading comics in the 70s and 80s consider Crepax, Meobius etc alternative comics and I think to ignore them is wrong. (talk) 08:32, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

All true. I'm going to mine a great compendia by Maurice Horn written in the 1970s which took a world approach, and see if there is a more complete, more inclusive and thereby more accurate perspective to bring to this article. After all, Liberatore, Crepax, Manara, Moebius and many, many others were a huge influence on comic book creators outside the mainstream, and thanks to Métal Hurlant's American counterpart Heavy Metal they were read/consumed in the US and Canada just as readily.(Sintauro (talk) 17:29, 7 June 2011 (UTC))

The Invisibles[edit]

I am not really familiar with The Invisibles, but I wonder if is really the type of comic described in this article. It was published by DC. Although its subject matter is not exactly 'mainstream', it still seems to be an adventure, good vs. evil thing. Do it belong on the list? ike9898 17:51, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, from what I have understood, although a traditional adventure comic on surface, its all-encompassing conspiracy theories are so far out, it couldn't be classified as anything else. 惑乱 分からん 16:12, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
Regardless, it's published by respected yet mainstream Vertigo and by an acclaimed mainstream comic creator after he had already achieved fame. It's not alternative. (unsigned comment from user: )

Indie comics?[edit]

I notice that someone has created the 'indie comics' category. That seems inconsistent with the terminology used in wikipedia comics related articles. Opinions on renaming the category 'alternative comics'? Or deleting the category? ike9898 17:49, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

What about renaming this entry to "Indie comics"? It'd save any confusion with Alternative Comics (publisher). I don't think we should delete the category. (Emperor 22:51, 22 June 2007 (UTC))
I think "alternative comics" is the preferred terminology. 惑乱 分からん * \)/ (\ (< \) (2 /) /)/ * 15:36, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

B-Class Assesment required[edit]

This article needs the B-Class checklist filled in to remain a B-Class article. If the checklist is not filled in by 7th August this article will be re-assessed as C-Class. The checklist should be filled out referencing the guidance given at Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Assessment/B-Class criteria. For further details please contact the Comics WikiProject. Hiding T 10:11, 31 July 2008 (UTC)

Alternative, independent, and creator-owned[edit]

There is an attempt through redirects to conflate "alternative comics" with "independent comics", and an attempt in the text to conflate "alternative comics" with "creator owned". Traditionally, these three terms reflected three very different aspects of comics.

  • "Alternative" was a descriptor of the content, an alternative to what was viewed in the comics field as the mainstream.
  • "Independent" was a descriptor of the distribution; for a while, it could be summed up as being independent of the magazine distribution system, although even that got fuzzy, and eventually it seemed to largely boil down to "not Marvel, DC, Archie, Harvey, or Warren".
  • "Creator owned" is a descriptor of the copyright status, and the article tries to depict that as only a small and unidirectional difference from "alternative", the difference is actually large (plenty of significant creator-owned superhero works exist, certainly from the rise of Image on forward) and flows in all directions (Tales From The Closet, a clearly-alternative gay-themed soap opera, was not creator owned, for example.)

---Nat Gertler (talk) 16:59, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

And a big section of the piece seems to be about self-published comics, which is a different axis again. --Nat Gertler (talk) 18:29, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Agreed. I take issue with the entire opening section's wording: Alternative comics defines a range of American comics that have appeared since the 1980s, following the underground comix movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Alternative comics present an alternative to "mainstream" superhero comics which in the past have dominated the US comic book industry. Alternative Comic Books span a wide range of genres, artistic styles, and subjects. Alternative comics are often published in small numbers as the author(s) deem fit. They are often published with less regard for regular distribution schedules. Many Alternative comics have variously been labelled post-underground, independent, auteur, small press, new wave, creator-owned, or art comics. Many self-published minicomics also fall under the alternative umbrella. There is a slight difference between alternative comics and creator-owned. Not all creator owned comics are alternative comics because they may focus on the superhero genre.

My objections are:

  1. just because a given title doesn't have superheroes in it, doesn't make it an alternative comic; certainly not to the mainstream of comic book publishing: E.g. I would not qualify any of Harvey Comics' titles like Richie Rich, or any of the various Archie Comics line of comic books as alternative comics; they are in fact more mainstream that the most well known superhero titles today.
  2. It should be noted that Alternative comics were not all conceived in direct opposition to mainstream comics, many simply happen to be outside of the mainstream, conventional arena simply due to their subject matter and approach (i.e. Jeff Smith's "Bone," or even an arguable "superhero title" like James O'Barr's "The Crow.")
  3. And Nat Gertler hit it right on the head: "There is an attempt through redirects to conflate "alternative comics" with "independent comics", and an attempt in the text to conflate "alternative comics" with "creator owned"." which is an unfortunate oversimplification and it could mislead someone who is reading this article/attempting to understand the genre, and its context. Can someone go in and rewrite those lead/opening paragraphs so that anything not published by Marvel or DC doesn't get ascribed to Alternative comics? I'm not writing this as a comic book fan, -but as a dedicated historian of the medium, and as a sober critic of the form and its practitioners. I think this is a good article and a necessary one. A lot of students and writers rely on Wikipedia for just the kinds of distinctions and factual specificity that is not currently written into that opener. I'd do it myself but don't want to ignite a fiery edit war, as I suspect there are a lot of strong feelings on this subject.(Sintauro (talk) 17:13, 7 June 2011 (UTC))
My suggestion is that you take a stab yourself. This is not a very active article, so I would not assume an edit war will erupt. I have an arguable conflict of interest myself, as a publisher of independent comics, some of which are alternative, some of which are not, some of which are creator owned, some of which are not, and the distinctions do not fall in easy patterns. Just make sure you provide sourced references for your distinctions. --Nat Gertler (talk) 17:25, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
Many thanks Nat. I had a couple of items that I originated get pounced on (frankly with the hindsight of a few years time, -justifiably so) by some editors and admins who eventually helped me and a couple of other editors out a lot (Emperor, Bert and others) so I guess I shouldn't be so shy at this point, I'm just remembering my first tinge of outrage when someone went over contributions I thought were complete/relevant/notable etc. I feel especially invested in this topic also, but want to make sure it serves to specify, and not necessarily just superficially include or exclude work in comics beyond any of my own biases and perspectives, a comment above noted how North American the focus was, and I had to absoluetly agree that it renders the piece very incomplete. So I'm going to hit up a couple of guys at The Comics Journal, specifically Rich Kreiner, and see about getting a second/third opinion before jumping in. Thanks again bro.(Sintauro (talk) 17:41, 7 June 2011 (UTC))

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