SHUT IN THEATER: 9 comics for your first itch.io binge

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Itch.io, to the uninitiated, is a mysterious place. It’s indie, you can find comics, video games, tabletop RPGs, and all sorts of experimental creations among its listings. Maybe you’ve heard about it – maybe you’ve heard about its reputation for porn comics (yes, there are many) and assumed itch was a one-trick pony, or maybe you’ve never heard of it, and now your first impression of it is porn (whoops… unless?).

Regardless, today we break those notions. Once you get the hang of it, finding and reading new comics on itch.io will easily take over many an afternoon, it won’t break the bank, and any money you do spend goes directly into the hands of the author.

These nine comics only scratch the surface of what’s available. It’s a broad representation of how inclusive the platform is in terms of genre and creator identity, meant to provide a groundwork for further reading. In its vast and ever-expanding pages, itch.io offers fantasy, sci-fi and the like, of course, but also provides a cross section of fandom and criticism, essays and explorations of ideas through faces familiar and new.

So, dip your toes in with these 9 comics; then go wild.


1. 199 Year Slumber

199 year slumber

Author: Adrienne Bazir
Cost: $3.00 CAD
Link: https://insertdisc5.itch.io/199-year-slumber
For anyone sick of the chosen one narrative.

199 Year Slumber is about saviors, heroism, and what happens next. It’s a look into a fantasy world where the little people got tired of waiting for the big guy with a sword to save the day. The story follows a villager and a recently reawakened hero. They’re not only fun to read in their juxtaposition with one another, they also stand in as representations of the power of the people, and the power of the one. Even though it was published in 2017, 199 Year Slumber’s 56 black and white pages are as relevant now as they were then.

Bazir also has a sizable catalogue of comics on her itch.io page including Blood from a Stone, a gripping love story with a dash of mythology, and AAAAA, a comic about the personal conflict between a player, a video game character, and a princess they’re in love with.

 

2. Zenith

zenithAuthor: Iasmin Omar Ata
Cost: Name your price
Link: https://deltahead.itch.io/zenith
For an Islamic take on fantasy and post-apocalypse.

Zenith is a story about being mixed-race that combines classic folklore and historic sciences. In a post-apocalyptic Islamic future setting, we follow one lone human struggling to fit in with a community of jackals. At 29 pages, the grayscale world of Zenith provides just enough to tell a moving story, but also creates blank spaces to think through, even after the last page. Plus, proceeds from this comic are being donated to the ACLU, ISCF, MCA(SF), and Victims of Islamaphobia attacks in 2017.

Over on their itch page, Omar Ata also has a Persona 5 fan comic called Beneath the Mask that further explores Yusuke and some of his personal struggles. Not only is it beautifully drawn, it’s also a touching story for anyone who’s played the game.

 

3. Lady of the Shard

lady of the shard
Some itch.io comics, like this one, are available to read in browser – no download needed.

Author: Gigi D.G.
Cost: Free, with option to tip
Link: https://gigidigi.itch.io/lady
Laura Dean, but make it a cosmic space saga.

It’s hard to put to words how excellent Lady of the Shard is – but here goes! What initially seems like a simple romance story balloons unexpectedly into an epic space saga, encapsulating cosmic proportions, and one adorably awkward protagonist. It explores the reasons why we serve our gods – are we indebted to them, or do we love them – and what does that mean? Visually, Lady of the Shard is just as disarming, and especially deft in its placement of detail, color and lighting. Its style may seem locked into a particular style at first, D.G. steps out of that box in big ways, to big effect.

You can find even more of D.G.’s work on her webcomic, Cucumber Quest (also available physically via First Second), and on her itch page, where you can find another of my favorites, The Idle Divination. As our own Zachary Clemente wrote in 2016: “drop literally everything you’re doing and read Lady of the Shard right now.”

4. Call of the Sentinel

call of the sentinelAuthor: Kaeti Vandorn
Cost: Name your price
Link: https://proteidaes.itch.io/call-of-the-sentinel-pfd-archive
Recommended reading for certified grumpy gills.

Call of the Sentinel is a subtle, friendly reminder, to let someone who cares about you take you on a walk. It’s a very low-key story about a shape-shifting one-eyed cat/bear named Reggie, and a soft, new friend named Emily. At first, Reggie is alone. He lives a life eerily similar to our own; he cleans, he rearranges, he putzes, until he finally musters up the energy to go on a walk. Call of the Sentinel was never finished, but its three chapters are an affecting journey through newfound friendship and a return from isolation. Vandorn’s art is pristine and best described, as she does, as pastoral fantasy.

 

5. It’s discourse, Archie

it's discourse, archie
itch.io has a near-endless supply of fan comics.

Author: E. Jackson
Cost: Name your price
Link: https://eshiel.itch.io/discourse
Remember when Jughead was ace?

 It’s Discourse, Archie is a short, but thorough look at asexuality through the eyes of Archie fan-favorite, Jughead Jones. It’s not a deep dive, it’s not a soapbox. It’s just Archie comics with a Jughead who’s allowed to talk about his asexuality without any editorial or corporate oversight. Jackson’s writing and art are equally seamless, to the point that this comic genuinely feels like an insert in between chapters of Riverdale or Archie. Jackson has a few other comics in the world of Archie, including It’s Performance, Archie, and IM WEIRD (Riverdale Jughead Zine).

 

6. Cyber Companion Cemetery

cyber companion cemeteryAuthor: Shallow Lagoon
Cost: Name your price
Link: https://shallow-lagoon.itch.io/cyber-companion-cemetery
Ode on a Grecian Urn for Tamagotchi kids and Neopet owners.

Cyber Companion Cemetery is a collection of about ten short eulogies of now-deceased bit-buddies, followed by an image of their likeness. Succinct and witty, each obituary hides some sort of joke, hidden in between lists of likes, dislikes, hobbies, favorite food, and cause of death. For whatever price you choose, you can download these 22 pages of cyber silliness and sentiment, and lament a bit over all the cyber critters you once knew. Find more from Shallow Lagoon on itch, including games, books, and art packs.

 

7. MONOCULTURE

monocultureAuthor: Titas Antanas Vilkaitis
Cost: Name your price
Link: https://swords.itch.io/monoculture
For those who shrug at the mention of the MCU.

MONOCULTURE examines its title concept using the idea of a ’slime body.’ Tonally, it feels like 1984 in its lowkey description of – well a slime body taking over the world. One person shields themselves against the overwhelming and seemingly contagious gloop, resisting its urge to unify for as long as they can. But in doing so, they find it difficult to communicate with their old friends, and even strangers, now overtaken by the oozy overlord. It’s a story anyone who’s found themselves not quite as into the latest Big Thing will be able to relate to, and anyone who’s feared the impending House of Mouse takeover will find themselves nodding vigorously to. Vilkaitis’ If I was a cyborg, I wouldn’t have any problems also comes recommended for all the procrastinators out there, and you can find a few more of his comics here.

 

8. Imprint

imprintAuthor: Ashley McCammon
Cost: Name your price
Link: https://draculing.itch.io/imprint
For the demonic horror fans.

Imprint will make your skin crawl. It’s the story of a young girl who meets a new friend that she calls a second shadow. Over 16 color pages, McCammon highlights a few moments from that relationship that are certain to leave you contemplative, and likely to spur an immediate reread, thanks to McCammon’s sinister monster design and evocative narrative. Imprint’s colors and inks are thoroughly textured in a way that makes every scene just a little disquieting. Without saying too much, the comic’s last few panels have an especially disconcerting transition. For more from McCammon, you can check out her webcomic, Obelisk.

 

9. The White City

the white city
itch.io is home to plenty of essay comics just like this one.

Author: Ashanti Fortson
Cost: Name your price
Link: https://afortson.itch.io/the-white-city
For anyone who gets excited about essays, criticism, and Lord of the Rings.

The White City is a black and white comic/illustrated essay laying out the relationship between architecture and racism in Lord of the Rings. Fortson published this in 2019, just a few months before the recent orc discourse on Twitter – and it’s hard to understate how effortlessly decisive it is. They draw explicitly clear lines between the imagery of The Lord of the Rings books and films, calling on the real-life elements that inspired the fiction to explain its exclusionary implications.


Some quick tips on itch.io comics before you get into further reading: the site was originally a video game platform, so upon first heading to the homepage that’s exactly what you’ll see. But, if you mouse over to browse, you’ll see what you want: a ‘comics’ section. That should default you to the current most popular comics. From there, you can search by tag (usually sorted by genre) or do what I do, and scroll through the popular section until a cover catches your eye, then follow along itch’s suggested links along the bottom until I’ve found a handful of good comics.

The post SHUT IN THEATER: 9 comics for your first itch.io binge appeared first on The Beat.

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