Small Press Expo (or SPX) nonprofit created in 1994 to promote artists and publishers who produce independent comics. It’s mission is to “To provide a forum to showcase new and emerging talent in the fields of comics, graphic novels and political cartooning”. In the spirit of this mission, the Comics Beat has conducted a series of interview with some of the phenomenal cartoonists in attendance at this year’s Small Press Expo. We hope that these interviews will improve our understanding of these creators voices, techniques, interests and influences.
In this eighth SPX 2017 interview series, we talked with Charles Forsman. Charles is a cartoonist based in Adams, MA. He’s the creator of Revenger, The End of the Fucking World (TEOTFW), and Slasher. His comics often try to reinvent, or do something different with his art. His career has evolved over the last decade and I’ve had the chance to catch up with Charles to discuss some the recurring themes in his work, mini-comics and the television adaption of The End of the Fucking World.
Philippe Leblanc: For those readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Charles Forsman: Sure. I graduated from The Center for Cartoon Studies almost ten years ago. Since then I’ve been making mini comics/zines and I used to run a small publishing thing called Oily Comics. Some of my comics include, The End of the Fucking World, Revenger, I Am Not Okay with This and most currently Slasher.
PL: You’ve been exploring themes of alienation with TEOTFW and Celebrated Summer and themes of implicit and repressed violence in Revenger. I’ve been enjoying your current project Slasher, a tale of sex, violence, dark impulses and alienation soothed by online interaction, which in many ways, connects these thematic dots. What brings you back to those themes so often?
CF: Hmm. that’s a big and good question. I think a lot of it comes from the frustration of the teenage years. Certainly my early work drew a lot from that time in my life. I think it’s just me working out that feeling of not feeling comfortable in my own skin and having to grow up a bit too fast and feeling like everything is a sham. As for the violent, sexual stuff, I think it’s just the kind of stuff I’ve been interested in lately. People can be monsters. I just can’t get away from that.
PL: Your current projects are published by different publishers, TEOTFW is published by Fantagraphics, Revenger by Bergen Street Press and Slasher by Floating World Comics. I’m wondering if Oily comics, your own small press comics publishing outlet is taking a step back in favor of those other projects. Are you planning on revisiting the mini-comics format in the future?
CF: I still do mini comics. My latest was I Am Not Okay With This. It might be less visible because it’s only available through my Patreon. If you pledge $3 a month to it I send out a mini comic. Oily as a publisher has all but gone away. I loved publishing other people and doing all the production by hand but I burnt myself pretty quickly on it. I made the choice that I needed to slow that down if I wanted to be a cartoonist.
PL: You mentioned in an interview over at the Comics Bulletin that “Revenger is sort of like my own school that I’m putting myself through.” I’m wondering what are the things you’ve learned from Revenger as a particular project?
CF: I think I proved to myself that I can jump off a cliff that a few years ago I wouldn’t have even looked at. I kind of found this comfortable way of cartooning but wanted to make a 180. So doing a pure action comic that drew on inspiration from comics that I read as a kid and stuff that I used to write off as garbage what that decision. It’s not for me to really say how successful it was. I don’t think I’ve won that particular battle but like all roads it took me somewhere new and I’m still enjoying the experience of going somewhere different.
PL: How do you feel about the development of TEOTFW as a television show? Is this something you’d like to see for some of your other work?
CF: It’s great. I never really thought it would get this far. Not in a million years. My partner Melissa Mendes and I were able to watch most of the show recently and we laughed and cried through the whole thing. I think they did an amazing job and added some stuff to my story that I wished I had thought up. I’m really happy that it’s a quality piece of work.
As for my other works getting adapted. I’m into it. But I’m not holding my breathe. Getting a comic optioned is like buying a lottery ticket. One should not plan on being a millionaire after buying a powerball ticket at the gas station. But I would be lying if I didn’t think seeing Revenger made into a TV show or movie would rule.
PL: Do you have any new comics or material you’re bringing to SPX? If so, can you tell us a little bit more about them?
CF: Yes I will have a mini comic called Revenger Blood Fragile. I did it for my patreon but over printed it so I could have some for SPX and maybe entice folks to check out my Patreon. Also Slasher #4 will be at the Floating World/Press Gang and I Am Not Okay With This will be at the Fantagraphics table. I may also bring some original art with me. SPX isn’t a big art selling show but I might have some. If you don’t see it out on the table just ask. I’ll be at the Bergen Street Press table for most of the show.
PL: What do you want readers to take with them once they’ve finished reading your comics?
CF: Oh, I don’t think that’s up to me. If they take something, whatever it is, that’s for them. That’s their thing they get to have. Everyone brings something with them when they read a story. That’s a fun and interesting part.
Charles will be at SPX this weekend at table W79 with his latest comics. He’s looking forward to talking you!
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.