"I try my best to not hold anyone's hand. Anytime I feel like I am beginning to explain the plot or characters too much my stomach churns."
Charles Forsman is the creator of not only one of MTV Geek's best comic series of 2012, "The End of the F***ing World" (a.k.a. "TEOTFW") but also the driving force behind one of the most exciting micro-publishers in comics with his Oily Comics. "TEOTFW" is a "Badlands-esque" story of love on the run featuring a sociopath named James and his "in too deep" companion Alyssa. "TEOTFW" brings immense narrative and emotional depth with little information, which serves as a testament to the power of simplicity. Forsman has the ability to communicate more in a single panel of "TEOTFW" than most comics can in dozens of issues.
"TEOTFW" has garnered numerous (much deserved) accolades from multiple sites and publications, including Fantagraphics, who will publish the mini-comics series as a 128 page black and white graphic novel this August. They'll also be putting out an original graphic novella called "Celebrated Summer" in the Fall. I had to opportunity to chat with Forsman via email about "TEOTFW," the origin of Oily Comics, and what changes might be coming following publishing with Fantagraphics.
MTV Geek: What is "The End of the F***ing World"?
Charles Forsman: The End of the F***ing World is my series of monthly mini-comics that I publish under my little imprint called Oily Comics. The basic setup is a teenage couple run away from home. One is sociopathic and ends up doing some bad things. The other is tough on the outside but more thoughtful and vulnerable on the inside.
MTV Geek: Who is James?
CF: James is the sociopath. James is 16 and has a lot of trouble fitting in as far as regular human emotion and feeling goes. He kind of has to learn how to imitate emotion. But it isn't all bad. There is hope for his feelings. James has a tendency for violence as well.
MTV Geek: The pacing of your storytelling is very deliberate and there's a sparseness to your work that creates a feeling of uneasiness (for me at least). What's your approach when creating "TEOTFW"? Are you going for an intentional feeling?
CF: I'm hard-pressed to say that anything I do in my comics is intentional. But that is a stupid thing to say. When I started this story, I wanted to set up some rules to keep this project fun for me and light on internal and external expectations. So I wanted to be able to draw it fast and each issue only has 8 pages of story. In doing this I had to adopt a faster way of drawing. I do love sparse cartooning. Like Schulz which I think comes through in mine a bit. I've heard people descibe this stuff as "Peanuts" all grown-up and violent. And I can see that giving an uneasy feeling. As far as the pacing...I try my best to not hold anyone's hand. Anytime I feel like I am beginning to explain the plot or characters too much my stomach churns. I like stories that let the characters speak for themselves and don't give you all the information. Humans are smart and they tend to put the pieces together well. It is definitely something I am interested in. I have done a few other stories where I mix up the pieces of a story so that as you read it, you are jumping around in time, and maybe you already know the ending before it ends. Stuff like that.
MTV Geek: What is Oily Comics?
CF: Oily is a micro-publisher that I started last year to print "TEOTFW" and a few others in the same format. 12 pages, black and white, small. People reacted strongly to the work I have been publishing and I have expanded the number of cartoonists I publish People like, Max de Radigués, Melissa Mendes, James Hindle, Ben Urkowitz, Jessica Campbell, Aaron Cockle, Michael DeForge, Zach Worton, Dane Martin, Andy Burkholder, Alex Kim, Scott Longo, Sam Gaskin, and a bunch of others. I print 5 books per month. And I do offer subscriptions every 3 months. The subscriptions have worked out great and I hope that I have exposed some comics-readers to some new cartoonists. That is the main goal. I also love the idea of regularly-released comic books.
MTV Geek: What prompted you to start it?
CF: JI've always been self-publishing my comics and once I started "TEOTFW" with inspiration from my friend Max who did his comic "Moose" in the same way, I fell in love with the format and what it could do. So that made me begin to ask cartoonists I love to make something in the format. and it has worked out really well. I think because it isn't a super-demanding format. And I always let them know that it should be fun. I don't want this to feel like work for them.
MTV Geek: What's the appeal of running an operation like Oily?
CF: Well, I get to sort of curate the kind of comics I love. I always wanted to write about comics and I have written little things here and there but I am not confident in my writing. So I sort of see Oily as my statement on comics. This is the stuff I am interested in, these are the cartoonists that I love and excite me. And the other thing it has brought me which I didn't really expect was a bit of financial freedom. I sort of treat it as my day-job. It helps me pay the bills and the cartoonists.
MTV Geek: What are the challenges?
CF: Well, I have got myself on this monthly schedule to print, market, sell, and ship 5 comics a month. And I do it myself with some help from Melissa Mendes and an intern here and there. But it is basically all on me. It can be a challenge but I love it. It gives me some structure in my life.
MTV Geek: Tell us about the some of the artists that Oily is publishing.
CF: The list of people I publish is getting bigger and bigger. I wish I could talk about them all. Some are my friends, some I just know from being in comics, some are idols of mine. I'll give a quick run-through of a few.
Melissa Mendes does a comic called "Lou" about a tomboy and her family. She has an older brother who is into heavy metal and is becoming a bigger part of the story. Melissa has an uncanny knack at portraying kids and their lives. I honestly get jealous and am amazed at every issue that comes in. There are 10 issues out so far.
Max de Radigués is the patron saint of Oily. He is a Belgian cartoonist who also runs his own co-op publishing house in Belgium. Max has been a very influential figure in my life both in business and cartooning. He does a comic called "Moose" which just finished up. It's a great story about teens and bullying. "Moose" is being collected in France by Lewis Trondheim's Shampooing imprint. Max is looking for a publisher in north america to print it in english. So any interested publishers reading this should get on the phone.
Andy Burkholder is one of the more experimental cartoonists I publish. His comics are challenging and and a joy to read. He has such control over his line. He is doing a trilogy. "Background" and "Foreground" are out now and "Middleground" is forthcoming.
I wish I could talk about everyone I publish but there are only so many hours in the day.
MTV Geek: How did you get involved with them?
CF: I just asked them. I know a lot of these people just from comics. Going to conventions, the internet, Tumblr. a few had come to me with ideas but mostly I ask them.
MTV Geek: Do you think there's a common thread that runs through everything Oily publishes?
CF: Hmmm. Some people have made observations about this subject but I try not to think about this stuff. I think I like a wide-variety of comics. If there is any through-line it is me. The 3 original Oily titles; "TEOTFW," "Moose," and "Lou," all deal with kids and teenagers. But I think as I publish more stuff, the teen-theme may thin out a bit.
MTV Geek: There's a charm to reading the printed "TEOTFW" mini-comics - especially with your letters pages in the back. What made you choose the format for that and the rest of Oily's books.
CF: The spark was Max de-Radigués' "Moose." He handed me "Moose" #1 about 2 years ago and I just was amazed at how much he fit into this little book. And it stuck with me. I grew up reading serialized comics and I loved them. But in recent years the people who do my type of comics seemed to go to larger formats as the way to go. And that was the norm when I started making my own comics. All my peers were thinking about graphic novels for the most part. So it never really occurred to me to serialize a story. So anyway, I kind of just fell into serializing "TEOTFW" and I discovered that I love it! And people really loved it. I could see a reaction from readers that they liked getting this comic every month.
And yes, letters pages are great. It is something I miss in comics. I know that we have the internet and its infinite connections to the cartoonists we love but there is something intimate about a message in the back of a comic that I am nostalgic for. So I love that opportunity to have letters or plug other comics I like or just talk about what I am thinking and what is in the future for myself and Oily.
MTV Geek: What can we expect from "TEOTFW" Fantagraphics collection?
CF: I'm working on finishing up the book right now. I'm trying to keep the collection as similar in spirit to the comics. The book will be about an inch bigger so it'll still be pretty small. There aren't any major changes to the comic. I didn't want the folks who followed along with the comics to feel like they had to buy the collection. Plus, I see it as a record of how I built this story. To me that is important. The act of making these chapters every month. I did make some fixes and changes to some of the art and test but it is pretty much the same. It'll be interesting to see how it reads all together in a book.
WMTV Geek: Will Oily keep going on as usual despite publishing with Fantagraphics?
CF: Oh yeah. I sort of make yearly commitments to Oily. I can see myself getting sick of the current model I have after a while. I might change formats or try new things with Oily down the line. But I like how it is at the moment. It's the best part-time job a guy could have.
MTV Geek: What's next?
CF: 2013 is all about continuing Oily, the Fantagraphics release of "TEOTFW" in the Summer, and another book called "Celebrated Summer" that Fantagraphics is also putting out in the Fall. I have an idea for another issue of my "Snake Oil" series. I don't want to jinx it by talking about it. Umm and I would like to start a new Oily series since TEOTFW's last issue is released in February. I might give myself a break before I jump into something else, or I might not. And I will be doing a bunch of conventions. I'll be at TCAF and I have been invited as a guest to CAKE. I want to that show last year and it was a well-organized affair. It was my first time in Chicago. I loved it. I highly recommend that show for any mid-westerners who are interested in these types of comics.
MTV Geek: Thanks, Charles!
Head over to the Oily Comics shop to pick up "TEOTFW" and more great titles HERE!