Interview | Charles Forsman on the Oily Comics Spring Bundle

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.

What will I get for my $20 — can you give a bit of detail about the contents of the bundle?

Of course. The meat of the bundle is a new comic by Noah Van Sciver called The Lizard Laughed. It is 28 pages and will have two-color cover and once color interiors. I don't want to share too much yet because I want to show it off in its printed form. There will also be comics by Aaron Cockle, Jeff Lok, myself and hopefully a few more that I don't want to promise just yet. I'll be making more announcements in the next few weeks leading up March 17.

There will be risograph prints by Nick Drnaso and Antoine Cosse. Jessica Campbell is working on a special print for the bundle and I wrangled Alex Schubert into designing the envelope that will hold the comics and prints.

The announcement says "limited to 200 pieces." Does that mean just the prints and envelope? Will the comics be available in other formats, say individually?

Yes, the comics will be available individually at some point but the prints will be exclusive to the bundle. I think that would be doing a disservice to the comics if they were limited to the package.

The announcement also says that you are doing a pre-sale to ensure that the artists are paid. Why is it important to you to pay them up front?

So I don't feel like a jerk. There isn't much money in this thing but I try my best to pay the cartoonists what I can. The pre-sale really is helping me with printing expenses and so I can gauge the demand. I've not done a bundle like this. For all I know, I'll only sell 10 of them. Having some of the money upfront just helps me act with more confidence. You know, so I won't be freaking out when it comes time to order paper and all that.

Here's kind of a broad question: In this age of easy access to digital media, why are you focusing on print comics? A lot of people say it's not financially feasible any more, so what do you think you are doing differently?

Haha. Well, this is quite a pickle. You are right. The margins in this little area of comics suck. I can only really afford to do it because I have control over the process. I own the printer and do all the labor myself. At least I think that is why I can make it work. As for digital ... over the last year I have totally gotten on board with reading comics digitally. Especially on a tablet. It makes sense to me and I can see why it has seen such a large growth the last few years. But, I don't think that generally the audience that reads Oily comics are necessarily looking to read them digitally. There are exceptions and of course this will change with time but from what I have learned with my small dalliances into making my comics available digitally is that the audience is small. I want to push into that though. I think it will continue to change but I think for the most part the people buying digitally are buying Spider-Man. Which makes total sense. All the mainstream stuff will be there first and then we'll come in and find a pocket. I'm going to continue to experiment with my own comics in different formats in the future but for now, Oily will remain a curmudgeon.

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