It’s the End of the Effing World
Cartoonist’s teenage dystopia explodes in popularity
While in no way autobiographical, Chuck Forsman says “The End of the F***ing World”reflects his psychological state in his younger days.
Photos by Megan Haley
When the television show “The End of the F***ing World” debuted on British television in October, it was greeted with unanimous rave reviews. Less known amidst the acclaim is the show’s Berkshire origins: It is based on a comic book created by Adams-based cartoonist Charles “Chuck” Forsman.
Forsman’s 2013 graphic novel follows troubled teenagers James and Alyssa, who, escaping their dysfunctional families, hit the road on a dangerous journey of self-discovery, tainted by self-destruction.
Forsman originally released the story as a series of mini-comics before it was published as a complete novel by Fantagraphics Books, and it was in this form that film director and producer Jonathan Entwhistle happened upon it. Entwhistle contacted Forsman, who followed up with copies of the remaining issues. Entwhistle was excited enough to propose developing it, eventually creating the series for Channel Four with an American release by February on Netflix.
Forsman said that in this early part of the process, he just let things unfold as they did. He didn’t have a desire to micro-manage the adaptation, which stars Alex Lawther, from “Goodbye, Christopher Robin” and “Black Mirror,” and Jessica Barden, from “Penny Dreadful” and “The Lobster.”
“I was very happy with the book I had made,” Forsman says. “I could see myself losing gears trying to get something made, a TV or a movie, getting involved being a writer. I don’t know if I would make the same decision now, but then I just wasn’t into it and thought if this happens, I trust Jonathan.”
Forsman visited the production in England twice—once during filming and once during post-production—where he met everyone involved, including all the actors. Writer Charlie Covell followed the original story much more closely than he expected, fleshing out the character relationships and motivations, and expanding some secondary-character roles. Her script also provided some delightful surprises for Forsman, like the addition of two detective characters.
“As soon as I saw them, I wrote Charlie and told her that I’m a little jealous I didn’t come up with these characters,” says Forsman. “They were my favorite part.”
From Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Forsman ended up in New England when he attended the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. That’s how he met his girlfriend, fellow cartoonist and Berkshire native Melissa Mendes.
Forsman began “The End of the F***ing World” in 2011 when he moved to Hancock with Mendes, having nothing more in his head than the characters and a basic set-up. It took a couple of issues to get to know them and their world. The drawing style and layouts were stripped down to indulge in story and character development.
“Even though Chuck is drawing in a somewhat old-fashioned, cartoony style, ‘The End of the F***ing World’ is still a richly naturalistic work,” says Eric Reynolds, Forsman’s editor at Fantagraphics. “All his stories are all strongly character-driven narratives, so it’s no surprise at all to me that his work could lend itself to film or television adaptation.”
Forsman’s stories often portray troubled kids in dark situations. He recalls the death of his father when he was 11 and the changes in his life that followed, including a long struggle with depression that resulted in acute alienation and an abrupt end to high school.
“I always felt robbed because I didn’t get to experience more innocent, blissful teenage years,” says Forsman. “All these feelings I have about that time, why it comes into my work is that I’m probably just trying to make sense of it and be okay with it.”
His upcoming book, “I’m Not Okay With This,” has a December 5 release date. He’s adding elements of science fiction and superheroes to his deadpan realism as he examines how poverty and anxiety damage a young person. It’s these elements that can sometimes build an intense connection with members of his audience.
“Every few months, I’ll get an email out of the blue. They stumbled upon it, and you can tell that they heavily connected with it. And that’s pretty gratifying.”