Heroes Con Highlight: Chuck Forsman and Automa 1 and 2

HeroesCon is one of our favorite shows, and we wanted to highlight some of the terrific comics creators that will be there.  You can find all of our HeroesCon coverage here.

What's Heroes, you ask? Well, James Kaplan was along earlier to tell you about one of the best comic shows around!

Chuck will be at Heroes Con, where he may have a few of these on hand to sell, I'm not sure. He'll definitely have Revenger and maybe even some End of the Fucking World and I Am Not Okay with This. Chuck's a multi-talented guy we've covered often over the years, and for our Con spotlight I picked out one of his new projects, Automa...

Written and Illustrated by Charles Forsman
Self-Published via Patreon

A man who speaks with his fists picks up an orphan from the hospital for mysterious reasons while another figure tries to stop him in the first two issues of a new series from the author of Revenger and The End of the Fucking World.

A project from Chuck's Patreon that I'm lucky enough to be able to pick up at one of my local comic book shops, this series is more of a return to Forsman's roots of serial comics by mail, which is where I first encountered him, back when Oily was still an active publisher. That means that instead of seeing where the story is headed, we have to piece things together. Which is why I don't have a lot to say above about the plot, because right now, there's still a lot to be revealed.

What we know is that the main character (referred to repeatedly as "old man") believes that the orphan, named Tommy, has a larger purpose. We also know that the man has unnatural abilities, and given his mysterious opponent refers to him as an old model, there's a good chance he isn't exactly human. Beyond that, it's hard to know, and that's part of the fun, though I assume Forsman will start cluing readers in soon to avoid stringing things out too far.

Tommy is an independent-minded kid, but he's way out of his depth. He tries to attack his benefactor and fails miserably He tries to run off, only to be chased back by a gang of punks. Tommy isn't going to save much of anything at this rate, which is a familiar trope that I'm curious to see how Chuck handles.

Then there's the world itself. The "old man" boxes for money, cracks safes, and lives so sparsely it's noticeable. There's a darkness and a starkness to the backgrounds, which make the setting vague, but presumably an America that is more or less like the one we live in. That doesn't mean there isn't detailed work--there's a wonderful drawing of an old warehouse with meticulous windows, some of which are knocked out, for example--but neither is there anything we don't need to see to understand the story. Chuck doesn't need to show us the scenery along a road, but he will show you a plethora of crushed beer cans so you can understand the "old man" better.

The style overall here is different from Forsman's other work, at least to my eyes, with the closest being Revenger. But while that did more to evoke a Marvel-DC house style, this feels like a step further into Frank Miller's use of black ink to create contrasts, focus on specific items, and sense of repetition that I really like but am not used to seeing from him. There's also some amazing close-ups of character's eyes. You can see their intensity burning a hole through the reader as you gaze into them. It's unsettling, and that's perfect for a story like this. (It's also printed on yellow paper, but my phone scans didn't really capture that very well, sorry.)

It's really early into Automa, but I like what I've read so far. I think it's cool that this is basically Patreon and select retailers only, too. If you wait for a trade, it may not happen and you may not get to see this side of Chuck's work, which builds on his bleak characters and continues to level up on art. There's a chance the story may not finish--sometimes Chuck decides things aren't working--but even still, I'm along for the ride and if you like gritty comics, Chuck's other creations, and seeing someone experiment with style, definitely see if your local store carries it, or just subscribe directly from Forsman.