How do you read an indie comic? In my view, if you approach an independent creator’s work the same way you approach a mainstream comic, you’re going to miss what’s extraordinary about it.
Mad Doctors, by Matt Blairstone, has all the hallmarks of an indie comic and yet subverts the expectations implied by such a presentation. The art is whimsical, stylized with larger-than-life character designs like something from back in the golden age. The page layouts and overall compositions possess a rough sensibility, complete with small pagination imperfections. Holding the print edition of the book in my hands, it has the overall the aesthetic of one of those morose, hand-crafted comic zines.
But Mad Doctors isn’t one of those lyrical autobiographies about a depressed illustrator; it’s a weird tale. Very weird. It imagines a world were evil geniuses, in the vain of Dr. Doom, rule the planet and hatch machinations to undermine each other's mad science empires. It’s dark sci fi; by the second issue I began to suspect that the cartoony style is intended to soften the blow of its bleak setting. Yet, for every scene of dystopian political intrigue, there might be a battle between a t-rex and a muscle bound cyclops or else some ironically banal office repartee. Whenever you think you have Mad Doctors pegged, it shows a different side of itself.