Favorite Comics 2019

The DCN's Favorite Comics of 2019

It is time for the second annual "Top Comics" from everyone's favorite Driving Creators Network!
All kidding aside this is a fun endeavor to tackle because it provides an opportunity for so many doors to be opened and so much more joy to be had from the comics we read. Multiple readings upon multiple readings bring more and more life from the pages. It does get tough when whittling down the stack and you're left with two handfuls that have to fit into one. That though, is where the books begin to pick themselves for inclusion on this list. It is when the "feel" starts to set in about titles and the "it" that keeps making you put your eyes back on a book starts to grab hold of you. You rediscover the beauty of these titles and gain more appreciation for a slew of books along the way. It's extremely difficult but the enrichment gained is beyond any difficulty incurred.

I mean seriously ... "oh no, I have to re-read these glorious books, AGAIN" isn't exactly a disaster movie in the making.

There are two categories here at the DCN.

The first is the "published" for books from publishers you know/see on the shelves at your LCS regularly.  As a quick reminder, a book had to have at least two issues published in the calendar year to be on the "published" list and, if a debut title, had to have had three issues or more published in the year.

The second is "creator owned/self published" books that are crowdfunded, or from creators that either do their own publishing or have labels not considered "main" lines.  For the creator owned/self-published category the book had to have debuted during the year or had one new issue put out.


Before we get to the first list there were several excellent titles considered before making the final decisions.

A Walk Through Hell, Superior Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Friendo, Fearscape, Evolution, Criminal, Little Bird, Invaders, Transformers, Infinite Dark, DIE, Category Zero, Goodnight Paradise, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Ax-Man, Infinity Agents, The Resurrected, and Miskatonic High are just some of the titles that were fighting for inclusion on the year end lists.  I could very easily make cases for them but ultimately tough decisions had to be made.  For instance from last year's list (and here) Black Badge, Spectacular Spider-Man, These Savage Shores, Dark Ark, Evolution, Bone Parish, Megatomic Battle Rabbit, and Captain Cosmic all carried over into 2019.  All of these titles made this year's list incredibly difficult to finalize.  Some of them were cannibalized by other works from either the creative team or about the characters (Friendo, Friendly Neighborhood SM for instance).  Some titles suffered from going toe to toe with other titles from the same publisher (DIE, Infinite Dark, Fearscape, Transformers for example).  Others ended which ultimately cost them (Black Badge, Dark Ark, Evolution fit this bill).      

That said, there's three titles that have come back this year after being named to our Top Comics of 2018. Continued excellence seems harder and harder to spot on the shelves in today's comic world for a myriad of reasons. One of the biggest faults in having long(er) running books of high quality is that we, as fans don't allow for it anymore. We always look for something new and shiny instead of allowing a book to grow and explore. Many of the highly revered classic books and stories simply wouldn't be possible today because fans won't stick with a book for more than 6-12 issues and are highly reluctant to jump into one at an arbitrary numbered issue that has 'insert amount of history' before it.  For creator owned/published titles you're essentially playing the lottery in hopes of hitting a jackpot book.  This comes on two fronts; does the book end up being any good and is the creative team able to produce more than one issue (if not a one-shot)?  Things have simply changed, though it can be argued if it is for the better or not.

Enough of my rambling let's get to it eh?  SAVE FOR THE FAVORITE COMIC IN EACH CATEGORY here's the Driving Creators Network's FAVORITE COMICS 2019 presented in alphabetical order!  And I'll get by with a little help from my friends ...

Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists
(Creator/Self Published)

We kick off our list with a 96 page graphic novel that mixes Lovecraft inspiration with rural reality in a tale of dark truths.  Some bad guys are supernatural and others are all to real.  Whether they wear a badge or brandish blood sucking teeth, the evils revealed in AWBfT all combine for an excellent self cointained tale of things not being what they seem.  Secrets are buried everywhere and within everyone.  Though it is stand alone the story is left open for further exploration of our main character.  

Circle Pit Press
Erick Palicki, Wendell Cavalcanti, Mark Dale, Shawn Lee
With Natasha Alterici and Caspar Wijngaard

The Baboon
(Creator/Self Published)

A tribute to the timeless pulp classics of yesteryear, the Baboon is an all ages fun fest.  Treacherous villainy and golden age do-goodery gets an infusion of slapstick banter that'll put you in a Dick Tracy-esque mood.  Word is there are plans for more and hopefully so.  The cast of characters is in place, the relationships are set, and the atmosphere is there for a good old fashioned comic book series.  The Baboon doesn't just fit into the pulp mold of the books it pays tribute too.  It is right at home among them. 

Bow Tie Press
Jamie Jones


This is a brilliant piece of work.  As time is literally running out for the one he loves, a valiant little robot must embark on an epic quest to save her.  Fantasy driven and real world emotionally grounded Canto is a beautiful read for both younger readers and the young at heart.  The creative team's love for their creation shines through and is mirrored in this all new timeless tale of the conquering power of love.  This is the book you give to people to show them how powerfully a concept can come across through comics.

David Booher, Drew Zucker, Vittorio Astone, Deron Bennett

Captain Cosmic
(Creators/Self Published)
2018 Top Comic

The Silver Age is alive and well in modern comics.  Thanks to Captain (and Kid) Cosmic sailing the star ways taking care of any dasterdly evil doers and lendign their helping hands to those in need.  In the latest issue we are introduced to the Phantom Spaceman and are taught a valuable lesson as the story unfolds.  Everyone will love these adventures and characters.  This is the comic we all need.

Frontier Comics
Andy W Clift

Death Sentence
(Creator/Self Published)

Originally published by Titan, this truly unique book does what comics are supposed to do ... it dares.  Crude, rude, gory, political and brimming with social commentary are just the start of the descriptors for this story.  Now on its third volume and with a massive cult following Death Sentence is a poster book for what's possible with indie comics.  Politics and deconstructing humanity around a plague of an STD that grants you superpowers but kills you in six months ... Yup, phenomenal.

Titan Comics (Vol 1-2)
Monty Nero, Martin Simmonds

"Lawrence of Arabia is a figure who most americans know by virtue of the movie about his time in, well, "Arabia" but few know anything more than that. The same was true for me and, while I don’t necessarily know MORE about him, though I do, after reading “Dreamers of the Day,” I sure as hell want to. More than that, I want to know more about Beth’s intertwining journey into the research and I want to see her tell his story in the way she begins to here.

It is a simple book but often the best books are."
“Part travelogue, part biography, part auto-biography, yet more than the sum of its parts. Dreamers of the Day has heart and authenticity like no other.  This comic made me care more about T. E. Lawrence than Lawrence of Arabia ever did.

This is why I love indie comics.”
Dreamers of the Day
(Creator/Self Published)
This labor of love is part history lesson, travel log, diary, and comic rolled into one.  We are taken on a journey of discovery about TE Lawrence and what the comic medium can do.  Taking in this experience will enrich your understanding of the world and educate you in ways you’re not expecting.  Yes, DotD is an experience in understanding, self, and the comic telling form.  These are the types of projects that articulate the intelligence that resides in comic creators.

We search for more constantly and this is what Dreamers of the Day gives us.  The freedom to explore, literally, is at our finger tips.  Projects like this are a celebration of the entirety of the creative process.

Beth Barnett

Contributor at Driving Creators and youdontreadcomics.com

Toward the end of the year we were lucky to have Kellie come on board as a contributor.  She immediately jumped in ready to take on projects.  Along with her own approach is willing and open to trying new books, creators, and publishers.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with Kellie.  As for her picks: 


Soldier Mike Blackburn is sent from Earth to an offworld colony to do reconnaissance work because they haven’t heard from the colony since it was founded. Unfortunately he gets captured by soldiers, lead by the corrupt President Barrow, and has to escape with colony native Grace Moody. During their desperate attempt to return to Cemetery Beach, where Mike’s return ship is stationed, Mike learns more about the horrific secrets the colony has been hiding. Cemetery Beach is a seven issue mini series that’s perfectly paced from start to finish with nonstop action and plot points that keep you guessing until the very end. And the art style, with it’s intentionally rough linework and hatching, perfectly fits the wasteland dystopian setting. This is a great story to sit down and binge from start to finish.

Image Comics
Warren Ellis, Jason Howard, Fonografiks


Before they disappeared, The Moth and The Whisper were the greatest thieves of all time; no one could capture them, and no one knew their real identities. But then they disappeared, leaving behind their only child Niki. Desperate to find their parents, Niki takes on the identities of both The Moth and The Whisper in an attempt to take down crime boss Ambrose Wolfe, the man they’re sure was behind the disappearance. Niki finds help from unlikely allies, including the son of another crime lord, as they try to solve the multilayered mystery their parents left behind, and discover Wolfe’s true intentions. The character design is amazing and it’s exciting to see which disguise Niki will wear next, and the colors are rich and saturated. Moth & Whisper is an exciting futuristic mystery/heist story that can appeal to a wide audience.

Aftershock Comics
Ted Anderson, Jen Hickman, Marshall Dillon

Elk Mountain
(Creators/Self Published)

Representative of the superhero story that society needs, being a true alternative to traditional takes is what makes Elk Mountain a must have. Without being preachy social reality (not commentary) is put forth to help build the world in which this book operates. It hits close to home, and for some at the doorstep, with the troubles and violence of merely existing that portions of our country live with every day. The superhero feel isn't lost in that though and that's the real prize. An aware book that uses classic tropes and archetypes to bring about resonating issues our world faces is exactly what we need more of, and exactly what Elk Mountain is.

Jordan Clark, Vince Underwood, Brittany Peer, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

The Fearsome Dr Fang

TKO burst onto the scene with a new publishing model, top notch production and four outstanding debut entries. Of the group the golden age pulp entry that harkens back to no nonsense thrills takes the cake. Driven point to point and not mussing about is what this book's purpose is and it does the straight line perfectly. It is fast paced and makes you keep turning the pages for more. Everything about it feels like it came out of a magazine from the drug store shelves. While it does play at some of the dated approaches to characters (racial) it is clearly distinct in tone that it is homaging the storytelling and not the portrayal of persons. Pulp done right is always a win.

TKO Studios
Tze Chun, Mike Weiss, Dan McDaid, Daniela Miwa, Steve Wands

God Puncher
(Creator/Self Published)

Unconventional, cartoony, mesmerizing, off-kilter, and an absolute breath of fresh air to take in, God Puncher is like nothing you've ever come across in comics. This is a truly unique approach and the ballad of Tim Finnly turns the comic medium on its head. By using the primal thought that resides deep inside all of us (who we are and what our place in existence is) as a guiding tone Lane lays out a slapstick adventure that is full of heart and raw emotion. The seriousness of the thought and emotion is juxtaposed perfectly by the zany art style. A perfect combination of its elements, God Puncher is a book you absolutely need to experience for yourself.

Lane Lloyd

Immortal Hulk
2018 Top Comic

Has completely rewritten how a "superhero" book can be done and how we as fans can and should think about the characters we read. Going back to the origins of the Hulk character has opened up a door way (figuratively and literally) of mythos and recreation for arguably the most difficult to present, but most endearing when done right, character in the Marvel Universe. Each issue is an event and making the kind of impact that each one does is something that hasn't been on comic shelves in a long, long time. There is no better illustration as to why I love ongoing series and giving a book the ability to be what it is. The Hulk is a monster. There's no spin. There is however, an exploring of just how complex being a monster truly is and how love, fear, pride and a host of other human emotions are just as powerful as any gamma given strength.

Marvel Comics
Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Paul Mounts, Cory Petit


Valiant will gets press for several books but this book is the pick for me. Why? It captures so many singular aspects of good books and marries them together to create a great one. The weight carried by this four issue mini series is astounding. Both universal and personal levels are hit head on and executed brilliantly. There's a major threat introduced, but as with the recurring Valiant characters in play, it's just an additional part that makes the sum of the book that much better. There is a certain feel to the original Valiant books that set them apart. Incursion channels that original feeling and brings it forward in using one of the strongest recurring themes in the Valiant universe. Everything is bigger than us and there's always something even bigger than everything else. Powerful and relevant themes drive this book and it delivers.

Alex Paknadel, Andy Diggle, Doug Braithwaite, Diego Rodriguez, Marshall Dillon
With Jose Villarrubia, Leonardo Paciarotti

(Creator/Self Published)

Cyberpunk battle royale goodness and plight that tugs at the heart aren't usually two things that are found on the same page. Killtopia delivers both in grand fashion. Set on the backdrop of a dystopian future from where we currently exist we're given a point blank representation of the over corporatization we're quickly falling into. As much as things have changed, they've stayed the same. Most people are facing the same issues we try to manage in our lives. This is the heart of Killtopia. Just as the true story being told juxtaposes the thrill kill adventurous surface of the book the colors and presentation juxtapose the brutal realities that confront readers in each volume. Inspired many greats that came before it Killtopia does very well when held up side by side with 2000AD types of series. You'll get your glitzy neon glamour, cyber infused wrecking ball but you'll also get true depth in storytelling.

BHP Comics
Dave Cook, Craig Paton, Robin Jones (VOL 1), Micah Myers (VOL 2)

Mister Miracle

Just, holy shit. It's very hard to find truly elite books at the Big 2 in today's comic world. It isn't their fault and it isn't to say that really good books aren't being produced. They are. When you're dealing with characters and stories that have fifty to going on a hundred years of history the deck is stacked against you in finding a way to create a book that truly drives itself and breaks out from already built in aspects of the characters.  Acceptance of what is, can be, isn't, and can't be already in place makes it near impossible to create something truly unique. How do you do that? You take the most precious of characters (King Kirby's creations) from the most mythologicaly heralded sect (Kirby's 4th World) and you deliver arguably the greatest human story in modern comic history. What makes superheroes truly great is what's left after the super part is removed. Here everything is stripped down and what's left can't be touched by any superpower. Wow and damn.

DC Comics
Tom King, Mitch Gerards


King is. I need to re-read the series lest I be swayed by his other writings. King is. A haunting and tense story about depression, escape and family. King is. I felt empty at the end, but not in the ways I did while reading the earlier issues. King is. There is so much to love about this book. King is. But there is an undercurrent of dismissal of the reader that makes it hard to connect. Gerards is. This book is a masterclass in repetition and non-sequitur done right. Cowles is. The team is impeccable and there’s a reason it has earned as many awards as it has. King isn’t. It’s a shame I feel like I have to escape the praise to express my conflicted feelings about the book.

“Mister Miracle” is.

Prey For Us
(Creator/Self Published)

Having fun with a comic while still delivering a tense and dreadful plot isn't the easiest thing to do. In Prey for Us it is done effortlessly. Presented in a very tv-eque fashion, this sci-fi terror delivers very quickly on several fronts. There's some chills, dread, panic and even an 'awwww shit' moment at the end. With minimal dialogue and ample visual cues you are engulfed in a struggle that very rapidly descends into its many layers. The usage of everything about a comic book to tell a story is on display in this book and shows just how fantastic the creative team is. It's refreshing to find a book that purposefully makes use of the medium to enhance what's being read.

LabRat Comics
Matt Garvey, J Francis Totti

The Plot

This book forced its inclusion on this list. The debut issue of Vault's Nightfall Line exploded it's horror all over the scene when issue one landed. We graded it a 10 because it demanded such recognition. Pacing, imagery, feel and ... well everything about it is exactly right. This one is a deep and the slow burn keeps the icky feeling on your skin simmering. Like the dark force that has compelled so many to open the door, walk down the dark hallway, or look outside when they all knew they shouldn't there's something within the pages of The Plot that compels you to keep turning the page. Character driven horror is the best when the team behind it can make the characters more than just props. The premise of the book instantly sets up layer upon layer of terror for both characters and the reader. The visceral emotionally driven dread have charted a bold course for Vault's new imprint.

It's deeply personal which makes the whole of it that much more intense.  The premise of the book instantly sets up layer upon layer of terror for both the characters and the reader. The visceral feel and emotionally driven dread have charted a bold course for the new imprint at Vault. It's deeply personal which makes the whole of it that much more intense.

Vault Comics
Michael Moreci, Joshua Hixon, Jordan Boyd, Jim Campbell

"I'm a huge mark for psychological horror, and it's hard to pull off. Moreci and the team are doing a good job so far in blending the right balance of Gothic and gross. The house as physical edifice and metaphorical mind is a good conceit, and the family dynamics are melodramatic and ragged at the edges (aka, they're real.) The team's good at maintaining tension throughout each issue, and this is a book I look forward to each month."

Road of Bones

Horror comes in many forms. Here we're forced to deal with several. Most vividly on display is the absolute worst in the horror of the depths of man. What is usually tucked away and hidden until a gruesome final reveal is on full display in Road of Bones. The entirety of the book travels from one horrid display of what man is capable of to the next. Some is implied, some is shown, and some is directly moving the story. However, when you’ve got a story like this to tell setting is paramount. In this case the physical setting immediately sets the bleak and unforgiving tone that this story is dropped into. It’s perfect. It not only enhances but makes the horror of Road of Bones shine through. There are elements for every fan of the terror thrill and each one is expertly included to help make the others that much more effective. This one, when you're done, you don't feel good in the best possible way.

Rich Douek, Alex Cormack, Justin Birch


In Soviet Russia, you don’t eat people, people eat you. That’s how the joke goes, yes? Well, after reading “Road of Bones,” you won’t be laughing much. . .or, maybe you will. This dark mini will grab you by the shirt collar, dragging you into the frigid outdoors with a vice-like grip, refusing to let you go as the world darkens and the wind begins to howl and your teeth start to chatter and your stomach begins to gnaw and the hand that drags you starts to look just the teensiest bit like chicken until, suddenly, you’re alone and warm and covered in red, red, red, like the flag you’re escaping from. Dare you take the plunge?

Spencer & Locke 2

I'm so glad that David Pepose reached out to get this book reviewed. It was on my "read it at some point" list as several friends had mentioned the first series. Getting to it eventually would have been a mistake and out right robbing myself of pure comic brilliance. As innovative as the original series was the second amplifies the stakes ten fold. In comparison the first volume now seems like a gentle exploration of a mind fractured by intense trauma. Volume two is a much darker extrapolation of just what the fact of Spencer's existence means. Adding to the broken psyche relation and main tone of the book, the new antagonist represents one of the biggest mental health issues facing society currently. Continuing the the style and presentation that the first volume used once again helps relay both a wonderful comic and extremely important touching upon real world problems.

Action Lab (Danger Zone)
David Pepose, Jorge Santiago Jr, Jasen Smith, Colin Bell

Tomb of the White Horse
(Creator/Self Published)

People always want to be scared. Fear "sells" as they say. What separates good horror from the pack and great horror from the good is the ability to use all of the elements of the genre to enhance the overall piece. We've got that here. In what is intended to be a multi-part tale the opening of this story uses pacing and atmosphere to create a very wound ball of tension. Taking influence and inspiration from classics such as The Thing has clearly helped the team make the uneasy feelings come about without a visual reveal. Getting a horror story to come across properly in a literary medium is not the easiest thing to do. The actual tragedy one of the characters suffers in his life helps set the mood and make the setting that much more soul devouring. It's a great mix of the demons we all hide, those that lurk in the closet, and those that are waiting to be unleashed on us all.

Ian Mondrick, Benjamin AE Filby, Lesley Atlansky, Zaak Sam
With Kim Myatt and Danny Lore

Wailing Blade

This was an immediate smash success that has created instant classic imagery with the Blade itself and the Executioner (and hell, the Hammer too). Yes, ComixTribe pushed this first issue of this book through Kickstarter. Regardless, this book belongs. The choice to Kickstart the first issue is more due to their guerrilla approach and the "in hand with fans" take that ComixTribe has as a publisher. I'm calling this a cult hit right now. Iconic imagery dazzles in this post apocalyptic mash up of every punk-mecha sci-fi piece you loved growing up. Full metal to the floor, Wailing Blade is a fantastical ride on its surface but also holds a solid story underneath. There's immense world building being done and the universe of the Blade is just getting started.

Rich Douek, Joe Mulvey, Chris Sotomayor, Jules Rivera, Taylor Esposito

Wasted Space
2018 Top Comic

It is so damn good it was named the first series ongoing series from Vault Comics. This book is the perfect example of the growth that the current comic fandom as a whole is so begrudging to allow. Wasted Space tackles high concepts, uses low brow comedy, and finds the perfect in between to deliver arguably the best all around comic being printed right now. While one of the best aspects of the book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, it is the fact that it doesn't do so that opens up just how good the creative team is with the big picture that Wasted Space frames. The book never gives a sermon to the reader even though it is heavily dosed with social commentary. The intellectual sparring both between the characters in play as well as the book and the reader is second to none. It's bold in its aggressiveness with the issues but the execution of the story on all fronts makes the translation from the page effortless and down right beautiful.

Vault Comics
Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, Jim Campbell

Wrong Earth

"Ahoy Comics stepped up to the plate in 2018 and, for my money, immediately started pushing the envelope of the kind of quality you can fit on the shelves. The best of the bunch is Wrong Earth. A 60's campy comic classic mixed with a 90's violent vision created what just may have been the most entertaining read of the last couple of years. It debuted in SEP 2018 and finished up in FEB 2019. Perfectly encapsulating the fun side of comics while representing the edgier trends that the medium has seen, Wrong Earth proved so successful that it is being followed up with Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man (the two opposite "heroes" that were victim of an accidental switcharoo in Wrong Earth). As with comics that stand the test of time it is more than the window dressing. It delivers the fun that comics can but gives the reader a tale that deals with one of the most age old questions about what makes us who we are. The ending of this first volume went against the grain just like the entirety of the series did and has set up much more fun." 

Ahoy Comics
Tom Peyer, Jamal Igle, Andy Troy, Rob Steen
With Paul Constant, Grant Morrison, Juan Castro, Frank Cammuso, Tom Feister, Bryce Ingman, Mark Russell, Carol Lay, Alan Robinson, Kek-W, Matt Brady, Rob Staeger, Joe Orsak, Elliot Mattice, Gary Erskine, Robert Jeschonek, Steffie De Vaan, Cayetano Valenzuela


These Savage Shores (Published) - White Ash (Creator/Self Published)


These Savage Shores" proves that you can marry epistolary devices, intricate histories of global colonialism and throat-ripping vampires in one book.
Ram V, Kumar, Astone and Bidikar nail this book top to bottom. There's nary a hair out of place, and Bishan and Kori's story will thrill a wide range of comics readers, and this may be one of those books that entices new fans into the fold."


"Vampires are boring, you say. Vampires have lost their monstrous nature. Vampires are a metaphor that’s old hat and done to undeath. Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, and Aditya Bidikar are here to prove you wrong while also shoving the words back down your throat by providing a layered, textural and fucking gorgeous mini-series that demands to be read and re-read. One panel in and you will be hooked, suddenly finding yourself along These Savage Shores, where the days are scorched and the nights are full of teeth."


“If you’ve never seen a perfectly executed comic before, you haven’t read These Savage Shores. Easily one of the best comics of the year, and arguably one of the best 5-issue miniseries of all time. Deep. Meaningful. Soulful. Comic book perfection in five issues.”

It's almost impossible to think a title can put out monumental issue after monumental issue but that's exactly what this book did.  I’m crushed, in awe, and in love. Those were my immediate feelings upon closing out this magnificent book. The lines drawn in this epic saga and the journeys we’ve traveled are nothing short of brilliant. The overtones and bigger pictures that played the nuance during the start of the series have gave way to the very up close and personal theme of choice. The whittling away of the larger scopes to reveal the singular driving force behind it all was masterful.  This book visually invokes the beauty of tragedy. The paleness of the somehow still vibrant colors mirror the acceptance of the realization that one way or another we will always be what we are despite what we may want. The harsh but fine lines remind us that even the most beautiful things are capable of being the most deadly. All throughout the design choices display the wonder and hope that we all feel and so desperately want to have shine through and win the day. Combined with the harsh reality of the narrative these elements have created one of the best pieces of art that has been produced in the last five years.

These Savage Shores gives us our own choice. We can choose to see the beauty in tragedy or the horror in reality. Or, we can choose to accept it all and realize a tale that is beautiful, horrific, fulfilling, gut wrenching, and everything in between. The one piece we don’t have a choice in is the truth that monsters reside everywhere. However, the takeaway from that is our choice. That is perhaps the enduring beauty in truth that These Savage Shores will have. Monsters DO reside everywhere both real and imagined. Their purposes and designations are as varied as their real and imagined states.  You will be hard pressed to find a piece of art that is perfectly executed across as many levels as this book is. The marriage of history and myth is flawless. The literal and figurative representation is expertly done. The tale itself is horrifically beautiful and tragically elegant. Even though it rips your heart out you can’t help but love it. You’ll feel compassion while detesting the hate you can’t help but have. Even the character that is cruelest and most devoid of redeeming qualities will pull out understanding from you. Reflecting upon the totality of the circumstances will only deepen the heartbreak while sparking new flames of disgust for those you felt sympathy for.

While monsters are everywhere and heartache lies at the end of everything … choice is always ours, even when it isn’t. These Savage Shores is brilliant. I’m enriched and better for having chosen to trust this creative team.

Vault Comics
Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar


"Finally, a new spin on the Fantasy genre!

Everything I want to say about this is a spoiler, but trust this Yeti, it’s great!”

White Ash is an absolute breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre.  Mixing paranormal elements into a fantasy tale has helped create a truly unique world.  Ripe with mythology and mystery, White Ash envelops you in a brand new coming together of age old tropes, a take on Norse mythology, fantasy, love, coming of age, and mystery.  For a small town the secrets are pretty big.

It is insanely easy to get caught up in White Ash.  The characters, setting, and blending of the familiar draw you in and welcome you with open arms.  The mystery hints a bit towards the likes of a Twin Peaks while the mythology and fantasy is akin to Lord of the Rings.  The mix and balance of these elements is done seamlessly in this wholly new aesthetic.  Diving beyond the catchy surface elements reveals several issues that plague society.  Racism and classism are very real and run rampant across every day life.  White Ash doesn't hide from the very real effects of these within its pages.  There are other aspects of life (such as the awkward realization of romance) sprinkled in that help convey a very relatable atmoshpere despite the fantasy and mythological inspirations.  White Ash keeps the characters grounded in who they are while using the larger elements to illustrate what they are.  This approach makes it virtually impossible for readers to not identify with what's going on and to whom the events are happening.  

The following this book has already is immense.  The popularity has given rise to the series being picked up by Scout Comics.  Its beyond deserved as the quality of White Ash is second to none.  There's no detail left untouched.  The world building is on par with and even surpasses many "big" books you'll find at your LCS.  Soon enough you'll be able to see for yourself just how fantastic of a book this is.  Even though there is a complete HC edition available (and it is gorgeous) capturing the first four (oversized) issues of the series, this story is just getting started.  Even with the reveals we've had thus far there is clearly much more to this little town, the people, and the mystery that runs through it all.

Comic readers are always looking for enthralling new worlds, stories, and characters.  White Ash delivers on all of these fronts.  This book is hands down one of the best comics being made today, period.

Charlie Stickney, Conor Hughes, Fin Cramb With Nick Robles, Romina Moranelli,  Joe Quinones


Lately the independent comic scene has seen a very welcome resurgence. Some of the HANDS DOWN best books on the shelves are coming from publishers you may not know, know little about, or are new to the scene. This isn’t the first time that independent comics have burst to the forefront and it certainly isn’t the first time that indie publishers have been pushing out the best books on the shelves. There’s something a bit different about this time though. At least, it seems that way. This push has not just been sustained, but rather, the momentum has grown and there’s been more of a swell and growth. There’s depth to independent books now and they aren’t just serving a niche or telling a story or two that the “big” publishers won’t touch. For the past several years there has been connection between the independent outlets and the fans. The synergy has been glorious and I truly hope that this is the new norm. Now let’s get to your favorite indie publishers (alphabetically).

Founded in 2015 the company quickly got the attention of readers with one of the best books of the past five years. Animosity immediately showed that the company was intent on making an impact and producing original, quality stories. Other early titles such as Black Eyed Kids, Dreaming Eagles, and Alters showed that Aftershock was willing and able to deliver on a wide variety of comic stories as well as tackle relevant and resonating societal issues. More quality books have arrived and, as with their initial pushes, they cast a wide net. Jimmy’s Bastards, Dark Ark, The Normals and several other titles continued the strong debut titles and follow ups. The publisher has already had a very distinguished list of creators work on their books; Cullen Bunn, Donny Cates, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Francesco Francavilla, Mark Waid, Tim Seeley, Amanda Connor, Marguerite Bennett, Hayden Sherman, Eliot Rahal, and Christopher Sebela are but a few of the names that have already worked with Aftershock. They’ve got an anthology that looks as though it’ll be a regular thing (SHOCK) and have continued to enlist known creators to help draw attention to their ever growing line. There’s something for pretty much everyone within their library already. Not afraid of taking chances, Aftershock has been a welcome addition to comics.

Ahoy Comics launched in 2018 and was a smash success right out of the gate. They’ve already got a linchpin title/book/character with the Wrong Earth saga (Dragonfly/Dragonfly Man is now out and is the second volume in this universe). The other three launch titles (High Heaven, Edger Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror, Captain Ginger) all found varying degrees of fandom but were all critically acclaimed and well received (Captain Ginger continues to make new fans especially). The company has given MORE to the reader with each book they put out by including back up stories or novella type entries after the main story of each issue. It’s clear they are paying tribute to the whole of comics as well as just having some damn fun. The follow up wave of books was just as much fun (Bronze Age Boogie and Hashtag Danger getting most of the love) and continued the love for the medium. With what’s on tap for 2020 it is clear that Ahoy doesn’t plan on stopping the fun any time soon.

Two of the best and absolute hardest hitting books to grace shelves the last two years have come from the Tribe. Both Sink and Wailing Blade are as in your face as you can get. Distinctly different genres drive the titles but the results are the same. They’re fantastic and they’re perfect examples of what goodies are on offer with ComixTribe. The past 18 months have been especially good for the publisher with highly successful Kickstarters helping a guerilla approach to marketing their books. The outfit also Kickstarted The Standard and just finished a short campaign for the second volume of their acclaimed Red Ten series. Don’t let the recent success cloud over the fact that solid and well received books have been out in the wild for a while now. And Then Emily Was Gone and SCAM preceded the recent titles and created a nice buzz for the publisher. Heading into their 9th year of making books the Tribe looks like it’s just getting started.

The publisher has long been known for faithful retellings of licensed properties as well as quality expansions of said properties (The Abyss, Aliens, Mask, Buffy, Star Wars, Predator, Terminator, and Godzilla among them). Just as identifiable are characters/stories Dark Horse combined with the licensed properties in the debut (and highly acclaimed) book from the publisher Dark Horse Presents. Many books were spun from the pages of the anthology such as Concrete, Sin City, and Next Men. That anthology had three iterations with the last volume debuting a new fan favorite pulp hero in The Black Beetle. The outfit isn’t without its own properties however. Ghost, X, Barb Wire and most famously Hellboy. Not to be lost in it all are the recent run of books from Dark Horse that have embraced the new era of creating comics. Harrow County, Death Orb, Triage, Black Hammer, and The Strain have continued the fine precedent set by titles before them. The licensing continues as does the original creation. There’s a hell of a lot in Dark Horse’s basket and the quality has been steady for over 30 years now.

(Contributor Kellie Keener’s pick) “Image was the reason I really got into comics because they were publishing Saga. And it seemed like they were always putting out a new story, book, or #1. Which was great because that was so much less intimidating to me, a complete newbie, than heroes with 50+ years of history and countless reboots. Image gave me lots of options with a very clear place to start and follow a character or story. Image titles I love: Plutona (A group of kids finds a dead superhero in the woods and have to decide how to handle this; coming of age, dark), Saga (A family tries their best to survive despite a war raging on and everyone wanting them dead; space, drama, action, NSFW), Bitch Planet (takes place in a futuristic prison for women who are deemed Non Compliant; LGBTQ+ representation, action, social commentary, NSFW), and Rat Queens (Dungeons and Dragons-esque adventure following a group women who party hard and fight harder; LBGTQ+ representation, action, fantasy, NSFW).”
A wide open cabinet of stories has helped Image maintain the reputation of being a go to publisher for fresh ideas and quality books that they’ve had for quite some time. These titles all exemplify this perception of the publisher. Each year they seem to just add to the stack of top notch comics that’s been piled up under their banner already.

The hits just keep coming from Vault. Not even a full handful years old yet and they’ve already put themselves atop the “hot” list in terms of where to go to find the best quality of book on the shelves. Even though they focus on sci-fi and fantasy it hasn’t kept them from pushing the envelope within those categories. Finding new and intuitive ways to express these ideas has been paramount in their ability to churn out title after fantastic title. What may be most impressive is that readers of all ages can find a book they can relate too (and Vault is launching a specific YA/YR line shortly). In very quick time though they’ve published absolute chart topping titles such as Wasted Space, These Savage Shores, and Heathen. Another title, The Plot, launched their new “Nightfall” imprint (another publishing initiative) and looks to be yet another chart topper. The publisher instantly grabbed readers though with a wide array of approaches to sci-fi/fantasy and wasn’t afraid to take chances as is illustrated by Powerless, Karma Police, and Deuce of Hearts. I’ll end with the fact that Vault is also pushing what the medium can do with titles like Fearscape, Deep Roots, and Friendo.

I do want to mention Source Point Press and TKO Studios.
While TKO is brand new (having just released their second wave of books) they have immediately captured the attention of readers. The innovative approach to publishing aside, the stories they’re putting out are top shelf worthy. Everything about their books screams quality. With just eight titles released they’ve got, IMO, bon-a-fide hits in Fearsome Dr Fang, Goodnight Paradise, Sentient, and Eve of Extinction. That’s not a dismissing of the other titles but simply where my feelings are. Critical acclaim has found many of the books at TKO. Should this course continue I’ve no doubt they’ll be one of my favorite outlets in short order.
Source Point Press has been at it since 2012 but they’re a “new to me” publisher. I’d heard of ’em but only in the last year (little more) have a truly started getting ahold of their books. So far so good. I’m loving the recent uptick in grabbing creator projects such as Touching Evil, Gutter Magic, and Samurai Grandpa. On top of these there’s been high praise for titles such as Rottentail, The Family Graves, Hope and Achilles Inc. The partnership with Comics Experience has really helped get solid books out to the masses as well. SPP is picking up steam and I’m here for it.

*Eye on SCOUT, BOOM, IDW … plenty of gems in these publishers if you take the time to look.

What’s Kickin – August 2019

>>>>>10 DAYS OR LESS<<<<<

SINK: BLOOD & RAINCloses funding August 6th 2019 11:59 PM EDT
The second volume of the award winning crime-horror series from Comixtribe. It’s got murderous clowns for goodness sake. Sinkhill is a place where anything can happen but does have two constants. Blood and Rain. Date night from hell, a gang member having a crisis of conscience, and being in grave danger after moving into a luxury high-rise are all just part of the fun.

Variant cover, mp3’s, retailer bundles. Vol 1 – 2 HC tier available.

FALLENCloses funding August 8th 2019 6:57 AM EDT
22 pages of full color from Matt Ringel and Henry Ponciano delving into the synth-pop filled era of 1980’s New York. A mythological detective story, Fallen is the story of the mythological gods using humans as wards to influence the mortal world. As it stands, Zeus has been murdered and his ward must now find the answers. Who killed Zeus, and how? There’s a treacherous underworld to navigate but the Olympian family will be in support.

Digital and physical copy tiers.

BROTHERS BONDCloses funding August 8th 2019 3:23 PM EDT
Ryan Benjamin, and Kevin Grevioux bring the Eisner nominated webcomic to print. Demonic forces have taken over the kingdom and it is up to the exiled prince and his two blind samurai protectors to reclaim it. There’s action, adventure, coming of age, and a little comedy in this tale of fixing past mistakes to restore what once was.

Digital and print copy tiers. Con Preview exclusive and slipcase box set available.

LAD: THE HOMECOMINGCloses funding August 9th 2019 3:00 AM EDT
Umar Ditta, Carlos Pedro, Hugo Boylan, Kerrie Smith, and Dearbhla Kelly bring us a neo-noir inspired story about The Family. Running the town, the Family operates out of the Beacon Lodge. One rule only really, and that is “leave the Forest, and the Hermit alone” and all is well. Except it isn’t because the family’s father was found savagely beaten clinging to life just outside the forest.

Great digital and print tier price points. Retailer and t-shirt rewards available.

STELLAR ODYSSEYCloses funding August 9th 2019 2:00 PM EDT
A team of NINE creators has come together to bring a sci-fi anthology of four – six page stories all taking place in the same universe. Serving as an intro to characters with the Stellar Odyssey universe, the stories will be a glimpse into what’s coming. Aliens, shootouts, and escape await! Each story will have its own “cover art” as well.

Sketch card and pin up rewards. T-shirt and custom art available.

COGNITIONCloses funding August 11th 2019 9:30 AM EDT
A steam powered automaton with a human soul is spiritually linked with a demonically possessed mouse. They serve the British Occult Secret Service during the height of the Golden Age of the Victorian Era. Ken Reynolds dives into British folklore and riffs on a will o’the wisp, black schuck, and the legend of Bran the Blessed.

Single issue and trade reward tiers. Metal bookmark, collector’s box available.


TRIGGER MORTISCloses funding August 13th 2019 4:00 PM EDT
Derec Donovan combines the Spaghetti Western and Zombie genres in this 64 page hardcover. Devil’s Lantern, CO is under siege from a zombie plague that’s spreading like wildfire. Instead of focusing on CO gaining statehood, the cattle rustlers, or the love triange she’s involved in Sarah Mc’Clintock has to help band the living together to stave off the walking dead.

Signed art Remarque and enamel pin tiers. Alternate cover by Dan Panosian available.

TRANSDIMENSIONALCloses funding August 15th 3:42 AM EDT
TPub Comics is getting the final issue of the mini-series and the collected edition funded here. Project is done so straight to printing when the campaign ends. The story is about an emotionally broken underwater archaeologist that hides his true motivation for chartering an expedition to a sunken Russian submarine that’s been missing for decades. The deeper the crew goes the darker and more horrifying the story gets.

Digital and print copy tiers. T-shirt and commissions available.

BUN & TEACloses funding August 15th 2019 2:52 PM EDT
Claire Napier is editing a serial comics magazine. Each issue will be approximately sixty five pages (50 pages of graphic narrative content and the rest will be the magazine type trimmings). While each monthly segment will be fun all its own there will be a bigger, whole story being told. There are six creative teams in the first installment from all over the world.

Digital and print tiers.

THE ARCANE COCKTAIL ENTHUSIASTCloses funding August 19th 2019 2:59 AM EDT
Jeff Rider, Davide Puppo, and Anthony Lee come back for issue 2 of the story of Lark Leraar. A powerful sorcerer and the owner of the Arcanist Bar, Lark has discovered that dark magic has crept into the drinks as well as the new guy, Bill. Now it’s up to Lark and her friend Naomi to undertake a dangerous mission and save him. Magical worlds and mystical people are explored alongside flora and fauna that are used to make the most unique libations known!

Catch up tier and enamel pin rewards. Art print available.

DESTINY, NY: STORIESCloses funding August 23rd 2019 8:00 PM EDT
A perfect jumping on point for the Destiny, NY world. Pat Shand continues the world building with this collection of short stories that explores the characters much deeper and closer than ever before. All in all it’s 100+ pages collecting ten shorts that range from slice-of-life to holiday special to magical drama. They’re stand alone and provide a more intimate understanding of the characters of Destiny, NY.

Variant cover, bookplate, art prints. Catch up tier for entirety of Destiny, NY available.

HEART OF STEALCloses funding August 25th 2019 3:56 AM EDT
This brand new action/crime caper comes from Fraser Campbell. The man behind hits such as Alex Automatic and The Edge Off is bringing the tale of three estranged friends that find themselves on a collision course following an audacious robbery. Loyalty, friendship and ambition are at the core of the story. Did I mention it’s set in Alpha City, on the moon? It is.

Digital bundle, print, commission tiers. Likeness in issue 2 available.

THE SEVEN SAGAS OF SILVERBEARDCloses funding August 28th 11:31 AM EDT
A gorilla warrior battles over seven lifetimes to overthrow the uncaring Gods that betrayed him and would turn his world into a wasteland. Earth is dying and the Gods simply don’t care. Cures, Silverbeard has battled demons, monsters, and the blighted land itself to try and overcome the deities that care not for the plight of the land. Pete Taylor brings the silver age inspired saga to oversized life.

Digital and physical, bookplate, art print. Ink sketch available.

What’s Kickin – July 2019 Edition

*Time for another round up of projects being Kickstarted that we here at the Driving Creators Network feel you should check out! Some we’re backing but unfortunately we can’t back every project we dig. We still want to highlight and get the word out at the least!*

Ending in 14 Days or Less

Rise of the GoatmanCloses funding July 24th 2019 1:00 PM EDT
Afterlight Comics has another horror book book out there. Rise of the Goatman from Joseph Oliveira, Franccesco Iaquinta, and Adrian Garcia is a 29 page one-shot. A family retreat to a cabin in the woods changes dramatically when the daughter finds a diary from the previous owner that reveals the truth about the cabin. This looks to continue the strong line of horror comics from Afterlight (Wendigo Woood, Ghost Island, Stay Awake).

Art card print and poster rewards available.

Warcorns: Combat Unicorns for HireCloses funding July 26th 2019 11:52 AM EDT
Source Point Press is bringing this fabulously crazy tale from Garrett Gunn, Kevin Stokes, Jeremy Clark, Nicolas Touris, and Hde. This is an entirely new series, but the debut here is a direct tie to the Franklin and Ghost series (Garrett Gunn). Set between VOL 1 and 2 of F&G, Warcorns is a story about this elite Unicorn team being dispatched to bring in Franklin and Ghost dead or alive.

Chromium variant cover, challenge coin stretch goal, and Variant Franklin and Ghost TPBs available!

Facets: Advent Comics 10th AnniversaryCloses funding July 26th 2019 7:14 PM EDT
Advent Comics is celebrating its tenth anniversary in grand style. The 100 page graphic novel sees two cosmic beings discussing the fate of this universe. Depending upon how the events unfold on Earth, the Universe’s fate will go accordingly.  The Advent Comics Heroes and Villains are featured as they unknowingly play their role in a cosmic game of chance that can destroy the cosmos itself. There’s over 50 creators involved so listing them would be insane. The names do include Andy Smith, Bart Sears, Rich Buckler, and Allan Goldman.

Bevy of rewards offering up the entirety of the Advent Universe in addition to the 100 page 10th anniversary graphic novel. Hardcover reward tier available.

BeastlandsCloses funding July 26th 2019 8:00 PM EDT
Curtis Clow, Jo Mi-Gyeong, and Toben Racicot are back with their action adventure story set in a beautiful medieval fantasy world where some people have companion beasts known as Keepers. The exploration into what Mac’s (the main character) father was searching for cnotinues but now here’s a tyrant king that is looking to outlaw the Keepers This is for Issue #2 as #1 was successfully funded, and we can personally verify that the book is great.

Collector’s edition foil stamped covers. Variant and virgin covers for issue 2 available.

Wretches VOL 1Closes funding July 27th 2019 9:00 PM EDT
A 150+ page sci-fi graphic novel about family and the lengths we’ll go to save the ones we love from James E. Roche, Salo Farias, Chunlin Zhao, and Chas! Pangburn. On the rough streets of an alien planet, far from the one they’d called home, Shea and Sean were forced to grow up with nothing but each other. Forever outrunning the horrors of their past, they survive the only way they know how: by hunting and killing robots for profit! Brother and sister have to fight against all odds to be reunited in an epic set to the tones of Blade Runner, 5th Element, and Battlestar Galactica.

Original art and commissions. Charity tier with “4th Monkey Anthology” pdf that benefits efforts at the Ronald McDonald House in Long Branch, NJ.

Gorilla My Dreams: Gorilla Tails – Closes funding August 1st 2019 8:00 AM EDT
Ahmed Rafaat, Big Tim Stiles, S. Greenleaf, and Nathan Kelly bring and exploration of Struggle-Town and its residents. Spotlights shine on KNOCKAROUND-GUY as well as some of the other characters who cross paths with him; The cops, the crooks, even wannabe superheroes. Sure there’s Struggle-Town’s famous masked defender, but there are others who help keep the streets safe.

All stretch goals add to the stories and pin ups. Variant and blank covers & t-shirts available.

More Than Two Weeks Left

Acceptable LossesCloses funding August 3rd 2019 3:00 AM EDT
From Joe Glass, Danny Flores, Moose Baumann, and Michael Stock comes a self-contained 32 page comic detailing the last official mission of the USA’s sole superhuman military operative, the US Eagle. It’s some parts superhero, some parts revenge fantasy, and focuses on the grim action and cycle of violence in the war on terror and those fighting it on both sides.

Focus on digital copies but you’ll find some print TPB reward tiers for Joe’s THE PRIDE VOL 1. There’s also some great sketch rewards as well.

Everglade AngelsCloses funding August 11th 2019 7:00 PM EDT
From Scott Lobdell, Blake Northcott, and Roc Upchurch a tale of a girl’s softball team taking a shortcut through the Florida Everglades that sees them end up in a trap set by a murderous cult. They’d hope to have one last blow off before college and their inevitable parting of ways. Instead they’re caught smack dab in middle of murder and mystery. Facing unspeakable evil emerging from the darkness these girls are ready to fight back.

T-shirt and original art rewards. Buy one get one 50% option available.

The GameCloses funding August 14th 2019 12:05 PM EDT
Charlie Stickney, Conor Hughes, and Triona Farrell beg the question “So just what is The Game?” Well, it’s a hell of a question. The team describes it as Quantum Leap, if Sam happened to jump into the body of The Highlander and then got dragged into a sexy noir thriller. This is the team that has brought us White Ash so I’ve no doubt about the pitch.

Something is going on and it has been going on for centuries. An epic game has been and still is being played. By whom? For whom? Purpose? Yeah, all of that is shrouded in mystery. You can go to the campaign and read the first 10 pages of the story and get hooked.

Original art, dice, and SDCC exclusive ashcan rewards. Chance to get White Ash VOL 1 HC available.

Metalshark Bro: Isle of Misfit BrosCloses funding August 15 2019 11:00 AM EDT
The Bro is back thanks to Bob Frantz, Kevin Cuffe, Walter Ostlie, and Chas! Pangburn. The raunchy ride of dudes, bros, and anthrapamorphic folks carries on thanks to MSB whacking Beelz! Lots of weird ass demon creatures want revenge on MSB which means there’s oodles and oodles of gory deaths ahead! It’s an action filled, toilet humor laden comic that is just fun as hell. How could it not be with super pissed dude-bros that admired a douchebag demon dude gunning for revenge against our favorite bro?

Catch up tiers, enamel pins, and t-shirts. Kickstarter exclusive art book available.

Vault Comics Spotlight

*First and foremost I must give a very large and sincere thank you to Damian Wassel (CEO/Publisher) for taking the time to answer questions and provide insight.  Throughout this piece are questions I submitted and Damian’s responses*

Three years. 
In our first three years of life we’re considered to be where we should be if we can walk in a straight line.  A simple alternating of feet one after the other in succession along a straight line places us in the 95+ percentile of all in the three year old milestone category.  Vault Comics is three years old in 2019 and their line is certainly straight, but the last thing they’re doing is walking. While we struggle moving from gross to fine motor skills at three, Vault has blown through developmental milestones and is already setting new standards while creating new expectations of what comic books and creative properties can be.  The tag line “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics” is bold yet truthful.  From its inception the publisher was clear with what it was about.  Comic book fans and readers deserved bigger, broader, and better books.  Comic creators deserved the same.  Vault would be that platform for those that dared to create them and the outlet for those that dared to read them.  Today, during just their third year of being exactly what they stated they’d be, Vault Comics is a leader in producing books that take on the conventions of the medium, dare creators and fans to push the bar higher, and beg the conventions of the past to try and stop them.  The line of projects from Vault is nothing short of spectacular, and it grows exponentially with each new release.  I couldn’t help but feel this was all organic in nature so I asked about it:

> As I’ve gone back and traced some of the steps, creatively, there seems to have been an organic kind of gravitation that came to a head with Vault.  The collaborations beforehand show roots, so to speak, of what we’ve now seen over the last two years under Vault.  Would that be accurate?  Is Vault a sort of culmination of sorts, of a natural coming together?

With respect to the company itself, Vault came together after Adrian, Nathan, and I learned many lessons publisher a different kind of book in the preceding years. Our plans were tempered by wisdom Tim Daniel added when he joined the organization shortly thereafter.

With respect to our catalog, I like to think that our first few titles formed something of a nucleation site around with our future catalog could crystallize. But to lean into some sort of force-of-nature metaphor is to overlook the massive, nearly geological efforts, that Adrian—Vault’s editor-in-chief, has put into shaping our catalog.

> The approach from Vault is rather point blank.  The genres of focus where chosen very specifically and the titles that have been published clearly represent that chosen direction.  The diversity and inclusive nature of the properties is beyond reproach.  What, do you feel, has been the driving force in being able to fit your stated goal while also fielding top shelf quality titles?

Science fiction and fantasy are genres that, perhaps more so than any other, reward creative risk-taking. When you raise a call for the best science fiction and fantasy stories, when you explicitly invite bold, visionary, and distinct storytelling, the pitches you receive turn out to be of surprising quality. The stated goal in effect generates its own momentum. But, again, I can’t overstate the massive amount of work Adrian has put into this catalog.

> The launch titles very clearly expressed the depth of not only the talent that is in the industry, but also that lies in the sci-fi/fantasy realm.  As more titles have come out we’ve seen broadened takes on familiar settings within these realms.  Has the library that Vault has published been aimed at highlighting the diversity in the genres as well?

We’re constantly looking for sub-genres of fantasy and science fiction that are underrepresented in comics. Sometimes there are strong formal reasons those genres don’t work well as comics, but often, it’s just a question of finding the right pitch with the right team.

Appropriately the first wave of books encapsulated their vision and proved their point.  FissureHeathenPowerlessFailsafeKarma Police, and Colossi dove head first into the chosen genres.  Inviting readers to open their minds and find new stories and approaches within known storytelling tropes, this first wave of books did more than just mark or announce intent from Vault.  The diversity in creators and freshness in recipes for their tales immediately put Vault both up on high and out on a limb.  It was daring.  It worked.  The stories they presented right out of the gate gave everyone something to latch onto. We got a lesbian viking, some government/corporate intrigue, lovely sci-fi hearkening to the silver age, the Superhero genre turned on its head, and a suspenseful supernatural story with deeper meaning all rolled out together.  With their first package of books Vault put forth a breadth of comic books that you’d be hard pressed to find with any publisher today.  Even with their choice to focus on a couple of areas in sci-fi and fantasy the publisher managed to put books on the shelves that each had a unique vision and voice.

As more books started hitting the shelves it wasn’t just momentum that Vault was building.  The breadth of creativity within the sci-fi and fantasy realms started to rear its head.  That’s not to say that classic approaches were ignored, but rather it’s an illustration of the vision that Vault and the creators involved shared.  Spiritus merged several sci-fi tropes with the real world issues of criminality, subjugation, freedom, and human rights.  Zojaqan explored the boundless lengths at which we go to overcome and survive tragedy and grief while serving up fantasy derived exploration of the human spirit.  Alien Bounty Hunter took conventional approaches from sci-fi and brought in the same from other genres like crime/noir to create a classic book that pushed against the traditional modes of delivery for these types of stories.  Songs for the Dead presented in the vein of known fantasy realms to deliver a story about pre-conceived notions butts heads with how we act in terms of forming who we are.  With Maxwell’s Demons we got a disturbingly real look at dealing with domestic violence through the fantasy world created by the target of the cruelty.  We go on a wonky ride through who we are, what we do, and how we see and value others while getting an accurately absurd commentary of current society in Deuce of Hearts.  Of course, we can’t forget about the kid led overgrown mech-suit warfare against vampires on an Earth marked for destruction in Reactor.  The branches of Vault’s tree of books were clearly reaching out into new space and searching for new light.  This was one of the biggest draws for me.  It was very clear that they wanted to let these stories be told, but how?

> One of the major appeals of Vault is the individuality of the titles.  How do you manage the individual expression of the creators (once a project/team is selected for publication) in regards to the mission statement of Vault as a publisher?

The short answer is, we think of ourselves as stewards of our creators’ work. Our goal isn’t to put our thumbprints on their books, but instead to clear all the obstacles that stand between them and the best realization of their ideas and effort. Actually carrying this out requires an incredible amount of editorial, design, and production work per book, but we love what we do, so we put in the hours.

Putting in those hours become more than evident as the continued expansion of the Vault titles produced projects that were very clearly results of putting in those hours.  Both the staff at the publisher and the creators involved in the titles have poured their all into characters and projects that push boundaries and re-invent conventional thinking.  The expansion or continuing of projects at Vault is undoubtedly a direct result of these efforts. The shared universe of Cult Classic that was introduced in Return to Whisper has recently been announced to be expanding (Creature Feature).  Not only is Vagrant Queen being turned into a SyFy tv series but it is also has more issues coming.  The space saga unfolding in Wasted Space received the green light as an ongiong series rather than a limited endeavor. Stalag-X was the first OGN from Vault and was a collaboration with NYT best selling author Kevin J Anderson and television writer/producer Stephen L Sears.  The announcement of The Dark One OGN project includes a tv series and is being done in conjunction with Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Wheel of Time, Stormlight Archive).

As the publisher rounded into their second year they put the foot on the gas with the announcement of the partnership with British comic collective White Noise (Dan Watters, Ryan O’Sullivan, Alex Paknadel. Ram V).  From this we received what might be the single most impressive assault on comic book shelves in the last decade if not two.  The quartet of Deep Roots, Friendo, Fearscape, and These Savage Shores unleashed raw and unfiltered social commentary in the frame work of comic books that took the bar for creative success, MacGyver’d it into a rocket, and rode it into new stratospheres of comic book making.  Stunning on both literary and visual fronts, these books didn’t pull any punches in reflecting on as well as presenting current day and historically systemic to human nature.  They used nature to explore mankind’s propensity for destructive behaviors, the downfall in our society’s reliance and trust in capitalistic measures, the danger of man’s hubris, and the inner treachery of consumption and manifest destiny to weave painfully true narratives.  Vault though, hasn’t just poured hours into new shiny trinkets for our shelves.  They stayed true to their intentions and the projects they’d already published.  Submerged typified that by bringing a terrifying story of personal truth by way of a figurative and literal hurricane uncovering what sits below the surface.  There was also the announcement that Failsafe was acquired by NETFLIX.  The title that introduced Vault to the majority of comic fans, Heathen, has been optioned for a movie.  It’s fair to say that what Damian stated is beyond true.  Vault is a steward for the creative process.  This summer we were treated with the return of that awe inspiring introduction to the new voice in comic publishing as Heathen returned to shelves (and is bringing along a new artist).  I needed to find out just a little more in regards to this book and its return.

> Heathen returned this summer.  This was the title that, publicly, started it all. What led to this being the title to launch with?

In a word, love. Everyone on our team loved Heathen from the moment we encountered it. We couldn’t imagine running a company that said “no” to a book like that. So, we said, “yes.”

> What was the importance in, and how important was it, getting back to Heathen?

Heathen is a beautiful story that deserves an ending; there was nothing we wouldn’t do to see it finished. Aydis climbs mountains, comes through fire, and battles gods on her quest. The least we could do was navigate a few delays to continue her story.

> How did Ashley A Woods come into the fold to pick up the artwork for Heathen?

Natasha developed a medical condition that made it basically impossible for her to handle line art for a comic series. So, we found an artist who shared our love for the book and brought her in to work with Natasha to help see the series through. Ashley happens to be an old friend of our Director of PR & Sales, and so we were lucky to be able to work with her.

> The timing of the announcement doesn’t appear to be coincidental.  Heathen is a landmark book and instantly supplied the bedrock on which Vault has rapidly built a stellar framework as a publisher.  Everything that has come out of the ‘House of Vault’ (titles, announcements, projects, etc) appears to be well planned out and purposeful.  With that, is there a hand in hand approach to pushing the endeavor as a whole while maintaining the individual personalities of the properties?

Yes. But I’m afraid we have to keep some secrets.

> With the film/tv productions in the works, you’ve partnered with industry names for projects, thre are original graphic novels coming, etc.  How big of a basket does Vault envision carrying?  Is there a specific idea or goal or is it open to become whatever it becomes? 

Again, I’ll have to be a big cryptic. We have big plans, but they’ll have to be revealed in their own good time.

With so much happening so fast there have been plenty of doors opened and opportunities presented to the Vault team and creators involved.  One of the aspects of being a fan (specifically of theirs) that I truly do look forward to is the continued growth and what doors and opportunities are presented for me as a reader.  The latest wave of titles offer some clues while playing true to the heart of what Vault is trying to accomplish.  Damien mentioned finding sub-genres that are underrepresented and the proper creative team to fit those projects.  The titles in this newest batch back up his comments.  Queen of Bad Dreams addresses the battle we face when we ‘wake up’ from the confines placed upon us.  She Said Destroy delivers a sibling rivalry full of magic and fantasy.  The cost of getting what we wish for and what we have to give up to get it is explored in Test (Issue 1 review).  What horrors may come and the ones we breath life to are lay within the pages of Resonant (Issue 1 review).  A fantastical tale of original mythology awaits us in Sera & The Royal Stars.  These new titles are reaching into the sci-fi and fantasy genres and bringing forth new modes and mechanisms to tell their stories.  Who we identify ourselves as on EVERY level of existence has seen a rapid evolution the last decade.  We’ve long known, or at least had pretty good idea of how we are shaped.  The acceptance and transcendence of ones’ self has never been at the level of mainstream consciousness as it is today.  These new books find creative measures in using these newly opened doors to extract sincerity and beauty in the stories they are telling.  It isn’t just about filling the weekly pull list.

> In the closing months of 2018 the YA/MG imprint MYRIAD was announced.  This is a rapidly growing part of the comic/graphic novel (and overall reading) sector.  The importance of this audience is paramount.  For Vault, as a publisher, what is the guiding thought in this launch and how does it tie to the inclusion/diversity approach?

If I could get the world to believe just one thing about comics, it would be this: Comics are just books. If you like books, you have no reason not to read comics too. We want to participate in, and contribute to comics publishing’s efforts to grow up a whole new audience for the books we make. And once again, we think there’s an open niche in the market for a different kind of story then is currently being published by our soon-to-be competitors.

There’s more to Vault than just their main line of comic titles.  As 2018 closed out they mad the announcement of their MYRIAD imprint.  The line of books will be produced for the YA/MIDDLE GRADE readers out there (first Myriad titles announced).  In the announcement of the first titles branding and design guru Tim Daniel stated “Young readers want to make their own heroes—so our heroes must be equally reflective of all of us, representing who we are broadly and as individuals.”  Much like the genre choices and approach taken with their main comic line, Vault is purposefully curating options for ALL readers.  The team is taking the challenge of engaging and captivating the new age of young readers head on.  The announced launch titles will approach the readership with stories of finding ones’ self, facing emotional and spiritual understanding, and shared experiences that ties us all together.  Furthering that thought Vault announced a way for the intended readers to get involved in literally bringing one of these new titles to life. The Bonding Promotion (submissions accepted through mid September) invites us all to create our own ‘slug’ and be as creative as we can.  Anyone that creates and submits is in contention to have their slug incorporated into the actual series!  

The efforts go even further with the Bound: Comics and Community Initiative.  According to Damien Wassel “Vault celebrates and applauds comic shops who work to foster deep ties with their community, through events that engage fans, promote literacy and inclusion, and support local businesses.”  This is at the heart of the initiative.  In efforts to foster the entirety of the comic community the publisher has ear marked upwards of $25,000 in retail value of product for comic shops that engage in these community efforts and activities.  It is clear that Vault is aiming to strengthen and broaden the entirety of comics.  That effort and genuine belief of promoting every aspect of the community goes beyond the creators and business outlets involved. Behind it all, ultimately, are fans of comics.  People that share the wonder, imagination, and love of creativity.  Inclusion of other fans and engagement all the way up and down the community ladder opens all possible doors for everyone.  That might just be the key to it all.  The folks behind Vault, are just that … folks like you and me.      

> Clearly your approach to inclusion isn’t resigned to the properties that you publish.  Vault has been open and engaging since day one.  You provide free firsts for download, allow creators to engage and promote their books individually, and actively encourage independent outlets regardless of size (such as myself).  What do you see and hope for in this relationship outside of the obvious business/consumer aspect?   

Good storytelling requires connection with your audience. We think being good at the storytelling business requires just the same thing. So, our hope is that by reaching out to our audience, they’ll take our hand and follow us down some crazy narrative roads.

> You’re in control of the radio for Vault HQ, so ______ is dominating the playlist.

We’re getting a lot of Bjork, Kate Bush, and The Knife.

> You lose a bet and have to buy lunch for the office, what’s for lunch?

We all agree that tacos are the best food. It might be a condition of employment at Vault that you share that article of faith.

Good news for me here.  This South Texan already meets what just may be the ultimate pre-req to working at Vault.  Tacos are simply, the best.  This knowledge and insight that the Vault team is in agreement across the board on this cements the fact that the folks behind Vault are also simply, the best.  So hey guys, maybe save me a spot for when my duty is over?  While that may be some fun being had there (but really though it’s true), the hardest pat of making a splash like Vault has right out of the gate is keeping it up.  Not resting on their already impressive laurels, Vault has announced the NIGHTFALL imprint with The Plot as the first title in the seasonal line.  Going forward each year there will be select titles released between September and December that will fall under the imprint.  Announced titles The Mall and The Necromancer’s Map will bring back creators and expand on stories in the Vault stable respectively.  Relics of Youth will blend yesterday’s mysteries with today’s emerging generation.  

But it isn’t just about tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. Vault genuinely appreciates and cares for the creative forces that paved the way for their efforts. It started out as a special way of saying thank you. As their titles began selling out of their original print runs, they instituted the ‘Vault Vintage’ line of covers for the second print runs. Now it is a common practice and the ‘B’ covers (and subsequent retailer incentive covers) are adorned with homage to classic images and creators from up and down the comic book time line. Gold, silver, bronze, copper, and modern age classics have been and will continue to have tributes paid.

I could continue.  I could write line after line about how Vault has assaulted the comic book industry with positivity in every possible way.  There’s more to tell sure, and at some point in the future I’ll probably write more on Vault Comics.  For now though you need to go and explore them for yourself.  Just as they have dug into both the figurative and literal creative minds of the creators whose stories they cultivate, we as fans need to do the same with their projects.  It is a rewarding experience to do so.  Beyond the enjoyment and fulfillment in consuming the stories within the pages, you’ll find an unprecedented community of sharing, inclusion, and involvement.  Vault titles aren’t just making you think, but making you think in different ways.  The folks behind Vault aren’t just promoting their products, but promoting the creative endeavor shared by the teams that tell the stories. 

Over the last three years Vault has done, with enthusiasm what has made imprints of the past achieve ground breaking status.  They’ve challenged themselves to be bigger, broader, and better.  Because of this we are getting creative teams, stories, and an experience that is all three and so much more.

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