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Chuck Forsman is shaking things up.
The small press cartoonist (and proprietor of Oily Comics), who won acclaim for his dual teen angst sagas The End of the Fucking World (aka TEOTFW) and Celebrated Summer, has moved away both from the previous slice-of-life subject matter and his simplified art style with his latest ongoing series Revenger. Dripping with tension and more than a little violence, this no-holds-barred action comic stars an Equalizer-esque young woman who attempts to help people in need, often with her fists or other weapons, in a post-apocalyptic America.
Curious over this new direction in style and content, I contacted Forsman.
Robot 6: In the coda to the comic you talk about Revenger taking about a year to produce and going through a lot of stops and starts. Can you walk me through the process and why it proved to be difficult for you?
Chuck Forsman: Well, I was going through a period of self-reflection and doubt. 2013 ended with my second book that year being released by Fantagraphics. I had also started a small little publishing company, Oily Comics. Basically, I had achieved many of the goals that I had been working towards for while. I’m sure there was a certain amount of, “now what?” going on in my head. But I think the majority was I think I was bored with the mode I was working in. And Revenger became the symbol of something new and different for me. It was a challenge. One that I gave up on a bunch of times but for many reasons I kept pulling it back out and giving it another shot.
Creators | “This is really a government of the cartoon, for the cartoon and by the cartoon,” Malaysian cartoonist Zunar said in an interview following the police raid on his Kuala Lumpur office. Zunar was in London at the time of the raid but expects to be summoned to the police station on his return to face charges under the Printing Presses Act, Sedition Act and Penal Code. “Why are the police involved in this?” he said. “If it is true I have defamed certain people, why not filed a civil suit? The government condemned Charlie Hebdo’s attacker but now they are ‘attacking’ me.” He also sent out some photos of the raid. [Malaysian Digest]
Freedom of Speech | Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia, called the raid Zunar’s office “shocking and outrageous” and demanded the government to return the confiscated books and drop all charges against him. [The Malaysian Insider]
Retailing | Image Comics took seven of the Top 20 spots on Nielsen BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in May, with multiple volumes of Saga and The Walking Dead once again appearing, joined by the first collection of Sex Criminals. Kodansha Comics took six spots, with the most recent volume of Attack on Titan at the top of the chart, followed by the first volume. Four more volumes were scattered around the list. Legendary’s Godzilla movie tie-in, Godzilla: Awakening, placed at No. 3. [ICv2]
Legal | The Japanese legislature has moved forward with a bill that would criminalize possession of child pornography, which is expected to pass the Diet before it recesses on June 22. The new law would ban photos and videos made using real children but excludes manga and anime. [The Japan Times]
“Is Noah Van Sciver the finest cartoonist of his generation?”
That’s the question I posed a few months ago on this very blog. Anyone who’s been following his work, whether via his one-man, self-published anthology Blammo, various minicomics like The Death of Elijah Lovejoy or his critically acclaimed graphic novel about Abraham Lincoln The Hypo would likely be asking something similar. While there is plenty of competition among Van Sciver’s peers for the “finest cartoonist” title, over the past few years he’s consistently made a case for wearing that crown by methodically building a body of work that was engaging, funny, featured sharply detailed characters and encompassed a variety of genres.
Now AdHouse has published Youth Is Wasted, a collection of short stories taken from Blammo, and various other anthologies. It’s a good introduction to Van Sciver’s world for newcomers, as well as a reminder to Hypo readers that he’s not some one-hit wonder.
In honor of the book’s release, I recently chatted with Van Sciver about the new book, as well as his new mini from Oily Comics, The Lizard Laughed.
Manga | In a two-part interview, ICv2 talks at length to veteran Dark Horse manga editor Carl Horn about how the manga market has evolved since 1987, which manga do and do not do well, and what the future may hold. The good news is the market seems to be recovering after several years of declining sales; the hard evidence is that Dark Horse is sending more royalties back to the Japanese licensors. And the new reality is that while the market may be smaller, almost everyone knows what manga is now: “You can’t simply put a manga on the market and expect it to sell because it is manga (that was one of the nice things about the boom because you could take a chance on more marginal titles), but on the other hand you don’t have to do as much explaining about what manga is anymore.” In addition, ICv2 lists the top 25 manga and the top 10 shoujo and shonen properties from the last quarter of 2013. [ICv2]
Earlier this year, the small publisher Oily Comics suspended its subscription service. But it’s back, with Publisher Charles Forsman (creator of TEOTFW) tweeting Sunday that Oily is offering a new spring bundle that will be out in March. It’s available for pre-order now, and the full bundle is limited to 200 copies.
I checked in with Forsman to see what the story is with Oily and get some details on the new bundle.
Brigid Alverson: What’s going on with Oily Comics? Are you changing your business plan? How is this different from the way you were doing things before?
Charles Forsman: I stopped the subscriptions at the end of last year. I was feeling a bit burnt out at the time. It was a combination of my mental state and I was beginning to feel like I was just going through the motions with the monthly comics. So I put it on hold so I could crawl into my hole and get through my winter depression and decide what Oily would look like in the future. So, I am trying this bundle idea. I think I was inspired a bit by the humble bundle service. They do a pay-what-you-want bundle of video games. I thought it could work for Oily so I’m giving it a shot. Plus it satisfies a goal that the subscriptions had which is the simple idea of getting someone for Oily because they like a certain artist. But they will also be exposed to cartoonists they have not read before. I would love to do a pay-what-you-want but that just doesn’t work for physical comics so well.
Conventions | The inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con, which sold 50,000 tickets in advance of the Sept. 5-7 event and reportedly drew an additional 20,000 attendees, has rekindled discussion about a new mega-hotel in downtown Salt Lake City Utah. The proposed $350 million project, which would have been funded in part with tax dollars, was narrowly defeated by the state legislature in March. [Fox 13 News]
Creators | Art Spiegelman talks about his life and work, touching on writing vs. art, how Maus came into being, and his lack of depth perception: “I don’t really see stereo, so it’s not good for getting in and out of cars, but when I draw something, it looks real.” [NPR]
One of the biggest indie comics events of the year, Small Press Expo (aka SPX), will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in North Bethesda, Maryland.
It’s a must-attend show for me, and this year will be no different. Well, it will be a little different, as my 11-year-old daughter will be coming along for what will be her first-ever comics convention. She will have copies of her own comic, Indefinable, for sale, so if you see us wandering the aisles, say hello.
Traversing the aisles of SPX with a pre-teen might prove to be a bit of a challenge, but I’m going to try to cram as much age-appropriate comics fun in the weekend as possible. Here’s some things I’m looking forward to/hoping to buy.
Five comics I’m planning on buying:
1. Wild Man: Island of Memory by T. Edward Bak. I’m a big fan of Bak’s Service Industry and really enjoyed the story he was serializing in Mome, about explorer and scientist Georg Steller. Wild Man: Island of Memory collects and reworks that material, the first part of what will be a projected four-volume series. Based on what I’ve read so far, I feel expect that this will be one of the more talked-about books at SPX this year.
2. Frontier #2 by Hellen Jo. Jo has been relatively quiet comics-wise since she released Jim and Jan a few years back. Now, via Ryan Sands’ relatively new publishing venture, Youth in Decline, she’s got what’s sure to be a swell mini collecting various paintings, pencils and other artwork.
3. Monster. It just wouldn’t be SPX if Hidden Fortress Press didn’t have a new volume of this usually reliable anthology. This year looks to be especially good, with 200 pages of comics by such noteworthy names as Marc Bell, Mat Brinkman, Jordan Crane, Michael DeForge, Edie Fake and Leif Goldberg. That’s a pretty killer list of talent – when was the last time we saw a new Brinkman comic, anyway?
4. Gold Pollen and Other Stories by Seiichi Hayashi. It’s nice to see more and more classic manga from people that aren’t Osamu Tezuka coming to Western shores. This is a collection of short stories from the author of Red Colored Elegy, a book I was a bit flummoxed by initially but that has slowly won me over more in ensuing years. The Picturebox site still labels it as “coming soon,” but it’s listed as a debut book on the SPX site. Basically, if it’s there, I’m buying a copy.
5. Love Stories by Mat Tait. New Zealand will be duly represented at the show by Tait, who will have this collection of stories available for sale. I’ve heard good things about Tait’s work and am excited to delve into it.
Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]
Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]
The annual Small Press Expo, better known as SPX, will arrive at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Saturday and Sunday. This particular SPX promises to be excellent — mayhap the bestest SPX evar — so allow me to run through some of the goings-on if you happen to be in that area this weekend.