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A Profile of Christopher "C.F." Forgues
posted October 30, 2003
 

"I saw C.F.'s one-man band/noise thing here in New Orleans a couple months back, and that was some crazy fucking bullshit. Guy's got all these pedals and switches and knobs strapped all over his body and in his mouth, and he's screaming and gyrating like a stuck pig, spewing out horrendous screeching throbbing noise. Fun scene." -- Josh Simmons

The cartoonist Chris Forgues, also known as "C.F." with and without the periods and capitalization, will soon leap to the forefront of small press consciousness by virtue of providing the cover to the fifth issue of the current best anthology for young comics talent, Kramer's Ergot. It will be a well-deserved coming out party. Forgue's comic for Kramer's fourth issue, "Rare Power," which featured a framework of child-like drawings surrounding an accomplished cartoonist's artistic meltdown, was with Souther Salazar's "Please Don't Give Up" the most striking of the interior work that filled that well-reviewed volume. If a reader were to pick up on any one cartoonist working at a furious and considered and accomplished pace right below the radar of most comics fans, Forgues might be the best choice -- his comics exude the ease of someone just now putting all the pieces together to make for consistent great work, with a vast reservoir of craft skill in reserve ready to flood forward when the last bit of tinkering is done. "His work hits me inside and trying to break down into the how and why feels almost impossible," says his editor and fellow young cartoonist Sammy Harkham. "I don't really know why his work is so effective. I really don't."

Contrasting sharply with many of his flashier contemporaries, Forgues' primary skill lies in overlooked nuances of comics storytelling, in particular pacing. In "Travelling Through the..." a fantasy story at the heart of 2003's fine solo offering Low Tide #6, Forgues gave certain scenes added emotional resonance by extending them to the point of monotony. This lets the reader recall the impact of past experiences as they catch up and overwhelm the static present. Although Forgues has spent the last couple of years doing comics with simplified drawings, unlike many who work this way his underlying draftsmanship is solid. This means Forgues' characters move in an authentic fashion, and the oddities in figure-making have a considered effect similar to the grotesqueries of Chester Brown's off-kilter character designs. One may mark the cartoonist's development as a writer through the life of Low Tide, which started out in 1996 with a hosted 'zine feel. As the writing sharpens, the individual comics hit harder, an effect felt throughout his body of work. "Air Funeral From Castle Dungeon," a one-page flip-over comic completed in November 2003, ends with a slightly surreal give and take spooky enough to linger in memory for the words alone.

Fellow cartoonists have described Chris Forgues as "a nice guy," an "art-school dreamboat," and as a "tall, scrappy, fucked-up looking dude." A musical peer of the bands in and around the Fort Thunder arts collective, he is a co-founder and current standard-bearer of Paper Radio, ran the post-Spit-and-a-Half minis catalog for a time under that name, and has been an anchor of the (technically unrelated to Paper Radio) Paper Rodeo free newspaper anthology. When cartoonist Ariel Bordeaux notes that her fellow Providence-area resident has a "classic comic book sense" that many of his friends and running partners lack, she hits on the single most compelling issue facing the artist's continuing development -- whether it loiters in the general neighborhood initially scouted out by artists like Mat Brinkman and Leif Goldberg or if this is one more set of influences and ideas for Chris Forgues to bring to bear in the course of his full artistic flowering.

(You can contact Chris Forgues through the Paper Radio address, PO Box 913, Providence RI 02901. You can find his work in Kramer's Ergot #4, which was published through Avodah Books and is at this point only available through a few comic shops and the publisher's web site, the forthcoming Kramer's Ergot #5, and issues of Paper Rodeo, PO Box 321, Providence, RI, 02901. He also had a story in Expo 2001, available through better comic book stores and marsimport.com.)

Originally published in The Comics Journal #256