Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thirty Days of CCS Day 8: Chuck Forsman

Chuck Forsman is following up his recent, celebrated work with a couple of series that may be even more interesting. His ongoing Oily series, Teen Creeps, is a sort of spiritual follow-up to The End Of The Fucking World. Issue two features a pair of girls who are best friends, with one who's obviously more sexually active and confident than her friend. Forsman is all about depicting tiny moments, like how the less sexually-active girl nurses something approaching a crush on her friend, who is oblivious to this. Forsman doesn't belabor this too much, preferring to spend time on the pair actually doing things: messing with a convenience store clerk who has a prosthetic leg, or getting in a fight with a girl whose ex-boyfriend came on to the more sexually-active girl. While there's plenty of talking in this comic, Forsman has a way of wrapping that up into moments of truth, the sort of moments that get talked about for years afterward but are simply a part of a day's experiences at that age. His character design is as beautifully eccentric as ever, and he gets at the ways in which teens can look awkward and ugly in a fascinating way. The flat head, bangs and long nose of the less-confident friend are as fascinating to look at as her more conventionally-attractive friend. This is a good series, though one that's on the conventional side.

Also from Oily is a longer-form series called Luv Sucker. This series takes Forsman a little bit out of his recent comfort zone in that he's back to playing around with the sort of fantasy tropes he used to do more often in his Snake Oil series. The first two issues follow Tasha, a disaffected teen who's dumped by her vain boyfriend and is accosted by a bunch of boys who claim to be vampires. It's no accident that one of them, who had been pursuing her for weeks, gave her a stack of Michael DeForge comics to read. The boys want to make her a vampire as well, and DeForge's comics are of course all about transformation. What's most interesting about this comic is that Forsman basically junks his usual storytelling style by using Tasha's tumblr account as a sort of narrative structure. Her comments on her favorite band ("Daddy's Girls"), her comments on her own appearance, and the selfies she takes make her decisions complicated. The "vampires" bite her neck in an uncomfortable scene that removes all of the romance associated with vampirism and reveals it as a group of geeks forcing themselves on a girl.

At the same time, there was no actual sex, as Tasha starts to learn that she has a great deal of power over the boys. Being a vampire in part is about exerting one's influence over others, and she starts to buy into this idea to a degree. It frees her up to be more aggressive and transgressive, like sneaking over to her ex-boyfriend's house and masturbating outside his window. There's a two-page spread of another blood-sucking creature taking hold--a tick--and while it's never discussed, it may well lead to Tasha losing weight. She starts to like the idea of cutting and licking her own blood as a form of self-empowerment, but she's still herself in important ways, like preventing the nerds from sacrificing a cat. Forsman packs a lot of reactions to trauma into these two issues, and it's all done without actually naming them as such. The use of red as the comic's sole color is fitting, as it's applied in such a way that there are some highly counter-intuitive or surprising splashes of color as well as more conventional uses of red with regard to blood. Both of these new series are very much about representing the views and experiences of girls, which makes for quite a departure from his earlier work. Luv Sucker in particular has the potential to be his best comic to date.

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