Where is a good place to start when looking for alternative comics artists?

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Answered by: Tyler, An Expert in the Artists Category
As with any serious art form, writers and artists working in the comics medium encompass a widely diverse set of themes, styles, and techniques. And as with all great art, there are countless entry points into the medium. The more obscure work of Alan Moore, perhaps the industry's most renowned writer, could provide a good stepping stone between comics' mainstream and the work of alternative and independent writers and artists.

Moore's A Small Killing is an example of the comics medium being used to tell a story with both serious themes and great depth. Argentine artist Oscar Zarate's deeply sensitive artwork gives the book both the look and feel of a painted masterpiece. Together, the words and images provide a remarkable story that couldn't be told in any other medium.

Two of the most important harbors for alternative comics artists in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century have been the American publishing company Fantagraphics Books, and its Canadian counterpart, Drawn and Quarterly. Both companies place a focus on the publishing of alternative comics and exposure for their predominantly independent artists and writers.

Works such as Joe Sacco's Palestine or Charles Burns' Black Hole, both published by Fantagraphics, are two exceptional examples of comics with bleak and intensely emotional material that is often as disturbing as it is thought-provoking. Burns' shorter works (e.g. El Borba, Big Baby) have the dual merit of bit-sized portions and intense imagery, at times shockingly grotesque, and thus would be a quick, memorable introduction to the form. Sub-Life, a series by Vietnamese-American creator John Pham, utilizes design techniques and a sort of collage storytelling format to present an oddly beautiful mating of the fantastic and the inane.

"Palookaville," an irregularly published series by Canadian cartoonist Seth (the nom-de-plume of one Gregory Gallant), reads like a Salinger-esque, sentimental ode to times gone by. Seth's cartoony, blue-toned drawings provide the sort of perfect cohesiveness between form and subject essential to a great work of art. Recent years have seen the publication of certain stories pulled from Seth's private sketchbooks which prove to be as impressively moving as any of his more thoroughly polished books. WImbledon Green and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists seem almost to best represent Seth's talent, by merit of their very bareness and roughhewn quality.

Something to keep in mind, when diving into the enormously diverse work of today's greatest alternative comics artists, is that these stories do not represent the one-dimensional, simple world of your average funny-page cartoon. The inherent difficulty of reading and understanding many of these great books can be both frustrating and rewarding, as with any great novel, symphony, or other work of art. One of the most widely acclaimed graphic novels of recent years, for instance, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, by native Chicagoan Chris Ware, is at times somewhat yawn-inducing and seemingly incoherent. It is also a deeply human representation of life's pathos: sometimes sad and sometimes downright beautiful, its pages are filled with love and pain and the terrible banality of existence.

Ultimately, the specific door you take into the medium isn't all that important. Find a local comic shop or public library, and step right in. That's all it takes.

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