The Oily Way: A Publishing Process Interview With Chuck Forsman

Dumpling King: You've worked with Alex Kim fairly closely in the past, but he's not yet very widely known. What do you find most interesting about his storytelling?

Alex Kim was in my class at CCS. He is a very interesting cartoonist. He has a double life of architecture. He is also one of the most humble people I know, so I am salivating at the thought of talking about him in this forum. Anyway, Alex draws in this very peculiar but totally formed style. I sat next to him the entirety of our second year while he drew his book Wall City, and I just marveled at his organization and methodical way of working.

When he showed me the first issue of Dumpling King I was really happy. A lot of his work tends to be visual and poetic. He did a story for Sundays 4, and it is basically like 40 pages of a painting of fish that keeps moving and changing. It’s amazing. So I was pretty surprised to see Dumpling King. He has a fairly large cast of characters and relationships set up in the first issue. I’ve never seen him tackle such a set-up. Can’t wait to see more of this. Alex, give me issue 2!

My Sincerest Apologies
: This is a very funny zine. How did you find out about her sense of humor, and did you push her to contribute?

I interned for Drawn & Quarterly in 2007 and that is the first time I met Jessica. We would talk at conventions now and then. And then Melissa did the same internship a few years later and they pretty much became besties. And that is when I began to realize that she was really funny. And that realization solidified by watching her Facebook account. I was talking to her about that humor zine I wanted to do and at some point she mentioned some zine that she was making to sell as an e-book or something. Well, I jumped on that when I started thinking about publishing other people, and I am glad I did. It is definitely a stand-out publication for Oily. It’s very funny and not really a comic. Jessica is also a very accomplished painter. I mean, I don’t really know anything about painting, but I love her stuff. I think I had to do a little urging though. She was nervous about her brush drawings but I loved them and I think I asked her to do more than she had originally done.

Elizabeth of Canada
: Did you approach Michael to do this, or was it the other way around? This feels like a fully formed idea just waiting for the right format, and I imagine the fact that you'd handle the details of mailing it had to appeal to him.

I approached him. Michael and I have been friendly for a while, and he was an early supporter of TEOTFW. I don’t claim any insight into how he does his stuff. I imagine that he had the idea and maybe my invite gave him an excuse to execute it. And fully-formed is a great way to describe it. I think that is my favorite thing about his comics. He always drops you into these worlds that are so convincing and there is just enough minutiae to build a picture of it in your mind.

Gagger: Dane Martin's another classmate of yours, if I'm correct, and has not been widely seen. Did he have an idea for the series, or did you push him a bit?

Dane is a good friend. We were in the same class. Dane may seem not widely seen, but he has a pretty large following. It’s probably due to the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of actual printed material. But online, is another story. He has a lot of followers of this work and he posts something new almost daily on this Tumblr. Dane has a knack for creating these sort of lyrical comics. It’s like watching someone trying to express great pain but only using the most beautiful and antiquated language. I asked Dane to do something and he worked on the first issue for a long time from what he told me. He puts a lot of thought into his work.

Real Rap: I had never heard of Benjamin Urkowitz, and this title feels a bit more lighthearted than the other comics you publish, yet still falls into that singular artist paradigm. Was this someone you know beforehand?

Benjamin is someone that I found through Dane Martin. And like Dane, he just seemed to be generating a lot of pages and pushing them online. I don’t know much about him, having only met him one time. I think he is a student at SVA, and I get the impression he is pretty young. Which really surprised me because he seems to have such a fully-formed way of drawing that is pretty unique. I can see his influences, but you can tell he is having a lot of fun. He is building his language.

Close Your Eyes When You Let Go: This was one of the more conventional Oily series, in terms of the naturalistic art and straightforward storyline. It does fit into that family aesthetic, however, and deals with lurking demons. Why did you choose to publish it?

I’ve known James Hindle for probably 4 or 5 years. He has done a bunch of comics on his own and for my friends at One Percent Press. I asked James to do something because he is a really solid cartoonist. I feel like whatever he produced would be a good fit and a beautiful comic. All his work is very personal and introspective. I think he creates stories in a  similar way that I do. Or at least how I think I do. I feel like we are speaking the same language. James has a wealth of other comics that should be checked out. He is someone that I am surprised isn’t being published by a larger publisher.

Flayed Corpse: This is another singular artist; am I correct in guessing that he reached out to you? It seems like he had a very brief, powerful statement to make and he pounded it home.

Hmmm. Nope. I think I asked him to do something. I had sent Josh a nerdy email about a year and a half ago when I had heard he moved to Connecticut. I was living in Providence at the time and had a notion that we should be best friends. We exchanged a few emails but nothing came of it. And then out of the blue, he got in contact with me inviting me to watch a horror movie that he made. I couldn’t go, but I managed to invite him to do a comic for Oily. I think it was perfect timing too. I think he had an idea ready to go, because he very quickly delivered the artwork a few days after he agreed to it. It’s a perfect little mini comic. I love Josh’s comics. His comics make me genuinely uncomfortable. That is a rare gift.

Background: This is one of the weirder Oily comics, and that's saying something. Was this a case of an artist looking for a home with a publisher who shared a similar aesthetic sense?

Andy is another of guy I associate with Dane Martin. I believe they lived together at one point in Chicago, and Dane would periodically talk about him to me in emails. I started to notice his work online in various places. I met him in the flesh at CAKE last summer and we traded comics. And a few weeks later he emailed me this complete story that he thought would work as an Oily. I agreed, so I printed it. I connect to Andy’s challenging work.

How would you describe Burkholder's work?

I’m not entirely sure. Let’s see if I can make sense of it. I think most would say that Andy’s work can be a bit challenging to read. And I would agree. I’m a somewhat lazy reader. If I am reading a comic that is asking too much of me as a reader, then I tend to check out. Not that I don’t appreciate the noisier aspect of comics. But I tend not to spend a lot of time thinking about them. But with Andy, I feel like he is walking this interesting line between noise and clarity. It’s hard for me to describe, but I really love what he is doing.

Word and Voice: Were you at CCS when Cockle was there--I know he was there for just one year. These comics are a bit different than his work in Annotated; was this something you encouraged?

Our classes did overlap by a year, but I never really got to know Aaron that well while he was there. Just as an acquaintance. But I did get the sense that he was very smart and knew what he was doing.

Word & Voice is all Aaron. I have given no editorial input that I can remember other than the page count and size. I love Aaron’s work. He is another cartoonist, like Burkholder, who I find is challenging me but on a level I can take on. Word & Voice so far always reminds me of The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. The city he depicts looks like a decaying LA to me. I’m in the dark on where this story is going, just like everybody else. I am excited to see where Aaron is taking us. He is a very thoughtful artist and has this sucker planned out. That is about all I know.