What you need to know about alternative comic publishers
I know a lot of people believe that comics ARE Marvel and DC…and not much else. And with their total media domination, it’s easy to understand why: Thor: Ragnarok is the best-reviewed superhero movie of all time, The Justice League hits theaters in a few days, Marvel’s Runaways premieres on Hulu shortly after, and Black Panther is just around the bend!
(Okay, if I were speaking all that to you IRL, I’d be out of breath.)
It’s a lot.
But it’s totally fair that we associate these two major publishers most with comics. They started it. They blazed the trail for comic creators and other publishers.
But there’s something better than Marvel. Better than DC. It’s where originality is an even bigger deal. A place for diverse, underrepresented stories to shine…
Meet: alternative comics.
Starting out as an underground movement, these comics went “above ground” in the 1980’s. Acting as an alternative to the superhero titles flooding the market, these titles had no limit on genre, style, or topic.
They were ignored originally largely because of the assumption that underground comics = taboo topics. But it wasn’t until re-packaging them as anthology magazines that acceptance became the new norm. Readers began appreciating them for their craft.
Alternative vs. indie
Fast-forward to today: alternative comics and superhero comics do share the same publishers. Only these are considered “independent” comic publishers, like Dark Horse and Oni. While strictly no-superheroes-allowed publishers, like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, maintain the “alternative” publisher label.
Alternative comics concern themselves with content beyond maintaining their superhero universes. And don’t worry about competing to deliver what the Marvel and DC dominated mainstream market does. Indie publishers are a voice for a variety of comics and create universes of all sorts at their curation. And, the most important thing: both alternative and indie publishers bring bold, unique voices to comics. Your bold, unique voice.
How submissions work (for you).
To put it in perspective: Marvel and DC don’t accept submissions from individual creators. Instead, they provide portfolio reviews at comic conventions. Also, encouraging creators to pursue other publishing channels because, their philosophy is, as my friend Melissa Cassera puts it: “good work ALWAYS gets found.” That said, getting published in the industry isn’t as scary as it sounds. Why? Because you are exactly what many alternative/indie comic publishers are looking for. New talent. No closed doors here! In fact, publishers like Image Comics only deal with individual creator-owned submissions. Which gives you, the creator, total ownership of your intellectual property (a.k.a. an amazing level of creative control.) They care about your big picture just as much as theirs.
How cool is that?
Take the world by storm.
You might not realize it but alternative/indie comics are just as popular as superhero titles when it comes to being adapted into film and TV.
Take Charles Forsman, his comic series The End of the F***ing World, published by Fantagraphics in 2013, was recently made into a TV series on the UK’s Channel 4. And now it’s on Netflix (with a second season to come!) Binge-watch alert 😜
Allow yourself to dream. Don’t think that you can’t publish your comic or get it in front of the perfect readers. You CAN! Don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s never too early to start dreaming. Your thoughts turn into action.
So get yourself ready to make that comic by envisioning it done and on that comic book store shelf!
To help make it a reality: I’ve put together a FREE cheat sheet of some of the top alternative and indie publishers’ submission info, including important details they’re looking for and where to find more.
Get it here.