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The Wednesday Waffle - Issue One: Stepping out.

We all know what we like, but there's a lot to be said for stepping out of your comfort zone.

We all know what we like. We very easily identify ourselves as "More into Marvel than DC", or, "I'm into indie comics", or "I'm not really into Superheroes". And that's fine. For the record, I tend to think of myself as a DC guy, but in truth the only DC books I've been utterly loyal to over the years have been Batman and Detective Comics. Indeed, now I think about it, the bulk of comics I actually take home with me are from independents like Aftershock, Black Mask, Vault, and of course Image.

Of course, I'm privileged these days. I own a comic store, a position that comes with many headaches and a limited number of perks - but the best of those is I get to read everything and I'll be honest, it's been a genuine surprise.

I thought my experience of the medium was pretty broad. I've been reading indie publishers and self published comes for years. I wrote a column on a comics website for more than a decade and met all kinds of comics creators in the process, and so I reckoned I had a pretty firm handle on what was out there.

Turns out I had no idea.

Let's start with Image. I'm old enough to remember their early days, when their output was essentially 100% Superheroes and they seemed to be trying to create a new Marvel style universe. In the nineties they were the kings of the gimmick cover and the endless variant. I'll be honest - I wasn't a fan.

But then, at some point in the late nineties or early two thousands something changed. Image has always been different from the "big two" because everything it publishes is creator owned - it doesn't own the characters or the stories, the people creating the books do. Attracted by this, a whole raft of very creative people started publishing their work through Image and the results have been spectacular.

The Weatherman #5

Just taking a look at what's hitting the rack on the day this blog post drops gives some indication of their depth - thirteen titles are due in and not one of then involves a superhero. Instead there's the slick, suspenseful horror of Gideon Falls, fast paced Scifi with incredibly high stakes in The Weatherman, the gritty crime drama of Crude and so much more. If I were to try to list and explain the whole of their output we'd be here all day, and that's just one week of releases from one publisher. (And that's before we mention the epic SciFi/Fantasy sweep of Saga, which will most certainly be getting a post all to itself at some point.)

Image is as big as either of the "big two" these days. But perhaps emboldened by their success, or perhaps just because the market was changing other, smaller publishers have sprung up in the last couple of decades to champion an even greater diversity of storytelling.

Take Vault. They're a relatively small outfit based on Maryland and Montana which has only been in business for two years. In that time they have produced some of my very favourite comics.

Heathan #1 cover

Comics like Natasha Alterici's Heathen. A young Viking woman, cast out of her small minded clan embarks on a quest to free an imprisoned Valkyrie. From there the saga expands to take in all manner of gods, monsters, talking horses and some epic adventure.

This is a comic that I might not have picked up were it not my habit to read every #1 that comes through the shop - but I was hooked from the very first page.

For a start, the artwork is bea