The term alternative comics implies opposition: an alternative to something. Its meaning depends on the ever-shifting context in which the opposition is staged. While comparisons to other oppositional forms (say, indie music or film) are helpful, the term is rooted in comics’ distinctive culture, where it performs work not quite analogous to that accomplished by, for example, “alternative rock.” In truth, defining alternative comics has always been a matter of position-taking within comics culture rather than any single aesthetic formation or genre. Broadly, alternative comics overturn familiar commercial formulas—beyond that, defining them is tough.

This essay may be found on page 15 of the printed volume.

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