Snake Oil 01 by Chuck Forsman

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Snake Oil 01
by Chuck Forsman

It’s an esoteric comic from one of the Center for Cartoon Studies’ finest, so you know it’s good.

Chuck Forsman’s Snake Oil 01 jumps between its character’s personal stories while it continues to progress forward in time to tell a multi-faceted story. Like the TV show Lost, in a way, but for now, more linear. Each comic in the book functions under its own separate title, an effective way to hop between stories that are in-progress all over the place. It’s somewhat less conventional than the typical “junk on a single page” method exercised by the Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Blankets, and the whole Baby-Sitter’s Club graphic novel series, among others. Instead of setting a new tone with a whole page of art and a turn, he does it in title panels, quick and dirty.

The main story in Snake Oil 01 is about guy named Tim, who has just been taken by some pipe-smoking magical evil bald guy and his two buffalo goons. In what can be interpreted as Tim’s drug-induced delusional state, he is seemingly transported to a desolate land where his only companion is a naked, noseless child.

Meanwhile, on earth, only one man is concerned with Tim’s welfare: his work buddy Bob. This, of course, will mean big trouble for Bob.

Mystery! Intrigue! And (dare I repeat myself?) buffalo goons! It’s too weird to imagine the comic’s ending, so I guess you could say the story gripped my by the shirt collar and said, “Listen up and handle it! So the one guy does this! Then the other guys do this! And this thing happens, and it seems weird, but it’s awesome!” But, you know, not literally. In any case, I was relieved to learn from Forsman’s website that he is in the process of writing Snake Oil 02. I get the feeling that this is one series that will pay off for its readers.

There’s something odd and artful to the construction of this mini that is overdone and confusing. First of all, the guts are printed on a textured, fibrous, linen-blended paper. Think: resume paper. Plus the cover art is silkscreened onto a kind of construction paper. That’s a lot of soft texture going on, so the whole time I’m reading Forsman’s comic, I’m thinking ‘This feels like a roll of toilet paper.’

The paper selection seemed totally arbitrary and my conclusion is that not enough thought went into the book’s design. The endpapers are plain, traditional black ink on white copier paper, and even those don’t seem to fit. In my dreams, a few simple changes could have improved things. Like printing the guts on unassuming canary yellow sheets of normal paper and simply printing the endpaper pattern to the backside of the colorful, construction paper cover. Once you take into consideration that the main story’s artwork is very utilitarian, you’ll maybe think (like I do) that the paper choice was merely trying to compensate for something. A lack of time, most likely, that Forsman wishes he could have put into enriching his panels.

It’s a $5 comic and it’s available for purchase at Atomic Books in Baltimore. However, if you buy through Forsman’s website, you can pick between two different covers. Purchasers will get to read the super special bonus comic at the end of Snake Oil 01 that I didn’t talk about (but really liked) and they’ll even have full access to the super secret bonus cover image that is only viewable when you pull the book fully open. Around here we don’t give away all the cow’s milk for free.

-Sarah Morean