Whether it is short films, animation, artists, or publishers, I am always appreciative of works by independent creators. This includes the comic book industry that seems to be more and more overtaken by a small amount of publishing companies that only have room for one set of opinions, be it social or political.
I have no problem with an author or publisher having a personal leaning in either direction, as that is our privilege as free-thinking beings. Yet I do have a problem with only one opinion being so prevalent. It chokes out any voice from the other side.
This is just one of the many reasons why to me independent comics are so important. They seem to give a forum that lets individual creators take on the original stories, characters and themes they want to pursue, without having to adhere to the “one big narrative” of the company.
One of these I was recently told about is Arkhaven Comics, an independent group of publisher and creators who offer some free online content via Arktoons, as well as different levels of subscription services, eBooks, comics, fiction (and even social and political commentary from authors many mainstream publishers wouldn’t touch). Arkhaven was formed in 2020 as an offshoot of the Finnish fantasy, sci-fi and military publishing company Castalia House, and established its online Arktoons content in April of this year.
I decided to take a quick peek at its Arktoons offerings and found three titles in particular that caught my eye in terms of subject, genre and creator, and that I think are worth checking out.
Go Monster Go! (Arkhaven Comics)
Written by “The Legend” Chuck Dixon, the former DC writer and creator of Bane, comes a weird, supernatural retro race series set not far from Route 66 in the desert of “Caliente Springs.” In this series, a group of circa 1962 drag racers find themselves haunted by a “Ghost Car,” a 1954 Chevrolet with evil intentions.
What caught my eye here was not only Dixon’s involvement (I’ve been a Batman fan as long as I can remember), but the super nifty illustrations by Tim Lattie. They make me recall my days of borrowing my older brother’s copies of CarTOONS and CycleTOONS magazines so I could cut right to the “How to Draw” segments. If you’re into that goofy, nostalgic hot rod culture look, this is a cool, high-speed story.
Chicago Typewriter (Dark Legion)
This debut graphic novel by Brandon Fiadino has been around since 2018, but I hadn’t read it until this year. It had me at the title alone, as I love noir and mobster style tales. Set in 1920s Prohibition-era Chicago, the story brings the territory wars of the criminal underworld into the realm of the supernatural. Protagonist Emilio Enzo comes across an antique typewriter ribbon in an oddities shop, aptly named Poe’s. Once he feeds it into his typewriter, it begins to communicate with him in the dark of night.
This is a rollicking original story that takes noir and pulp style mobster tales into another realm. I even like the play on the title giving the term “Chicago Typewriter” a more literal meaning. A Chicago Typewriter is the nickname for the Thompson submachine gun (aka Tommy Gun) for these who might not know.
This gave me vibes of not only classic noir stories, but the gritty dark demon battlers like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and John Constantine stories, but with it’s own unique, dark storyline.
From flying classic cars to talking gargoyles to a collection of ghouls and gangsters, this one is by far my favorite offering on the site. I would like to see this one get tapped for a live-action film.
The first two issues are up on Arktoons, but I definitely need to pick this one up in hardcopy, just to have.
Clockwork Dancer (Rislandia)
Here’s one I recommend for younger readers (tweens and above).
A sweet and intriguing little Victorian-era steampunk read by Jon Del Arroz, with a bit of Pygmalion and Frankenstein tossed in. Dr. Alistair Campbell, who has worked in the Queen’s service in the past, is discovered to have made an “abomination;” a sentient clockwork automaton. He soon finds himself on the run from Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as well as another automaton creator who wants the “clockwork dancer” for his own.
Having only read the first two issues currently available on Arktoons, I don’t know where this is headed, but for now I feel this one is a safe read for young adults; that isn’t too gritty, yet doesn’t “talk down” to them.
We could lament about the growing interference of one-sided political agendas in mainstream comics today, and justifiably so, but it is refreshing to see more independent comic publishers and creators out there just trying bring new and original content to readers.
Judging by the three titles I looked at, I would highly recommend Arkhaven Comics as something to check out and support.