Not so mainstream but not really "indies" recommendations -
Okay, this post has taken a bit longer for me to figure out because I could just as easily list off a bunch of random comics I've read lately but I really wanted to pick comics that actually meant something to me or have influenced the way I approach my own comics. These picks aren't perfect, and they're not the most obscure indies titles I could probably have picked, but I'm not going to pick books just because no one has heard of them. Sometimes books are popular because they're actually good, or at least fun and pretty which is actually something I feel like there isn't enough out there in the comic world.
Hellblazer - Okay, was not even sure how the heck to put this in here but whatever, Hellblazer. Bloody hell I love this series throughout the years and how the character of Constantine has evolved. It plays with literature, it plays with the notion of good and evil and damnation and humanity and fate and picking out my favorite stories would be hard because there are just so many good ones to choose from. It should be no real surprise why I'm drawn to this series.
I suggest reading whatever you can get ahold of, but one of the benefits to the way the Hellblazer stories are told is they are often very neatly written into digestible story arcs. Considering I have no idea how long I plan to make City of Cards and I generally like the idea of a near open-ended universe this is a really great place to get influences. I recommend checking out the Family Man arc because of this solidity.
Sky Doll - It's French. It's so very, very beautifully French. But hey, it's now available in English so you have no excuse not to enjoy this beauty! But really, It's a French science fiction story about a "doll" (read: android sex toy) that "escapes" from her factory and goes on a journey of self-discovery. It's quirky, colorful, and the artists have backgrounds in animation which is really clear in the fluidity in the gestures and facial expressions of the characters. Marvel is releasing the series and unfortunately this means it's being cramped into their standard TPB size books which doesn't do the series justice. Still, it's worth a look.
It is by no means the most philosophically deep story about robots discovering their true self ever presented, but Noa is a likable character. Reviewers keep talking about the adult themes in this book, I just say it's French. So very, very French. I'm in love with the designs, the cities, the science fiction elements and for me, that's what the appeal is. It's pretty and as I develop my own science fiction universe, I want to look to examples of doing it right.
We3 - Alright, this is almost a cheap shot here but honestly picking these books has been really tough. Why We3, then? Well, number one I'm fascinated by human robotics experiments and cyborgs. Second, I'm really interested in the manipulation of readers' emotions through content. I told you this was a cheap shot, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. How many times have you seen those ads on TV with the sad shelter animals and just felt an overwhelming urge to rescue one of them?
Animals are vulnerable, and we as humans have the capacity to decide life and death and quality of life so easily when it comes to these creatures. We identify with these animals because so many of us are pet lovers, animal lovers, we get it. Sometimes you have to push the reader over the edge before you can really smack them with the greater realization. That's why I like We3 and that's why I like books that give you a really good, complex emotional punch to the gut because if it's done well we think about it well beyond the closing of the book. It's also eerily plausible, and the best science-fiction has that frightening grain of truth.