The Comics Alternative

Remember in college that one class you always wanted to sign up for, but could never get up early enough to beat the crowd? Everybody loved the professor. The subject matter was fresh and invigorating. That’s pretty much the vibe at The Comics Alternative website, where you’ll find a multiverse worth of podcasts, essays and interviews on the subject of comics.

The tagline for the dynamic duo of Derek Royal and Andy Kunka at is “Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics.” As that motto suggests, the fine doctors have built a brand around their ability to analyze comics from both an approachable and academic perspective. And ZAP! BOOM! BAM – they have the credentials! Derek and Andy both earned their PhDs at Purdue in traditional literary studies, which they have applied to their shared love of comic books.

The Comics Alternative was created in 2012 when Derek realized that while there were hundreds of popular podcasts covering the Big Two (DC, Marvel) and other superhero tales, nobody was looking out for the smaller presses and indie publishers telling other types of stories in comics: crime noirs, psychological memoirs, family sagas, quirky sci-fi tales.

Derek Royal, one half of The Comics Alternative, recording a podcast at Collect Comics in Plano

One successful podcast program would probably be enough for the average pair of scholars, but Derek and Andy are truly prolific professors. On top of their duties at the University of Texas at Dallas, School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (Derek) and the University of South Carolina at Sumter (Andy), where they both teach classes in traditional literature, film and of course, comics, they have somehow managed the time to evolve the website and the original podcast into a network of individual podcasts that apply the same approachable/analytical perspective to webcomics, manga, comics for younger readers and, beginning this summer, a new monthly series on bands dessinées (or European comics).

Derek and Andy even do a monthly on-location broadcast from Collected Comics at Parker and Independence in Plano, where they welcome fans of the show to drop by for a chat about the weekly topic. Andy Skypes in from South Carolina so there’s plenty of room at the table.

The Comics Alternative excels at combining a fanboy love of the comic medium with a professorial knowledge of what factors go into making a superior story. All of that being said, it’s also important to point out that Derek and Andy don’t beat folks over the head with the academic point of view. In fact, listening to their podcasts feels more like hanging out with a couple of friends who are super excited about a book they have just read.

Derek shared his recent favorite graphic novels and comic books with us

If you’re not the podcast type, The Comics Alternative website features essays, interviews and reviews of graphic novels (like “The New Deadwardians” by Abnett and Culbard and “The Complete Silencers” by Fred Van Lente and Steve Ellis) by nearly two dozen of Derek and Andy’s friends and comic book scholars. The end result is a comprehensive checklist of some of the coolest books in comics that you might not have found otherwise.

If you’re looking to talk shop about exciting stories not necessarily found on Barnes & Noble’s bookshelves, by independent publishers like Conundrum, AdHouse, Alternative Comics, Floating World, Rotland and SelfMadeHero, then The Comics Alternative is your kind of joint. Hop on over to the website and treat yourself to a master class in the study of comics.

The Comics Alternative Website >
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