Netflix series 'The End of the F***ing World' has roots in the Berkshires

Adams cartoonist Charles Forsman penned original comic that inspired hit show

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When the hit Netflix series "The End of the F***ing World" returns to screens Tuesday for a second season, many viewers can be excused for not knowing that the show began life as a comic book. Even fewer probably know that the comic was conceived and created in Adams by cartoonist Charles Forsman.

"At the New York Comic Con a lot of people would see the book on the table and they're like, wait, this is like the show?" Forsman said. "You can see it in their eyes. They're trying to compute it and understand it. They're probably thinking I ripped off the show."

Forsman, originally from Pennsylvania, came to New England to attend the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt., where he met his partner, Hancock native and fellow cartoonist Melissa Mendes and moved to the Berkshires with her. "The End of the F***ing World," Forsman's story about a teenaged Bonnie and Clyde escaping from their dysfunctional and damaging families, began life as a self-published mini-comic, later published in collected book form by Fantagraphics Books, and its journey to Netflix is as unlikely as it is inspiring.

Producer Jonathan Entwhistle originally picked up a few issues of the mini-comic on a whim in a London comic book store and was intrigued enough by them to contact Forsman to find if he planned on finishing the series. Forsman did, and Entwhistle followed along, proposing first a short film for YouTube release. Five years of development later and the project became a series for the U.K.'s Channel 4, with a Netflix release in America and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards nomination for Best Drama Series. Forsman attended that ceremony with the cast and crew following set visits where friendships were forged.

For the second season, though, Forsman wasn't able to get over to England, though he was invited. As a result, he knows far fewer particulars about what's going to air, but he's not too worried about that.

"It's kind of cool to get to experience it with everyone else," Forsman said. "The last time I had seen almost the whole thing, like a rough cut of it. I was like vibrating and holding onto it because I knew it was awesome, but I had months before it actually came out."

And he has confidence in the team making the series, particularly writer Charlie Covell, who added elements for the first series that Forsman said he wishes he had come up with.

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"When the 'End of the F***ing World' happened originally, I was of the mind, and I still am, that I didn't want them to be worried about being faithful to my book," he said. "In my experience of watching movies that are adapted from a book or a comic book, they're always more interesting to me when they're not worried about making an exact replica. It's a different thing. A TV show's not a comic book in that there are different things they can do and there are certain things they can't do. So, I prefer having the writers put their own stuff into it."

Forsman will have the chance to see his work adapted again with the upcoming Netflix series "I Am Not Okay With This," from his graphic novel of the same name. It's another dysfunctional teen story, this time with superpowers in the mix, produced by the Stranger Things team in collaboration with Jonathan Entwhistle directing and playwright Christy Hall. Star of "It," Sophia Lillis, will play the lead.

"I got to visit the set, hang out a little bit," Forsman said. "It's being made in America this time, so it's more Hollywood, it's a bigger production."

As for Forsman's comic book creations, he's been concentrating on creating work for his Patreon supporters, which he sees as an incubator for his stories, a way to serialize them and get feedback from a select audience. His current project is Automa, which he describes as his version of "Terminator 2." It's his first foray into anything resembling science fiction.

The success of "The End of the F***ing World" has given Forsman the opportunity to explore creatively. He said that the book went from the publisher not wanting to do a second print run to changing their minds and selling out of the second printing in one weekend. And while that one is his runaway hit, his other books have felt some effect from it. That's allowed him to play around with styles and genres and create a variety of different types of stories that have helped expand his audience and build his confidence as a storyteller.

Forsman said that one of the most gratifying effects of the experience has been to offer him a chance to help widen the perceptions of young comic fans in the same way his were widened as a teenager.

"People still see Marvel movies and that's comic books," he said. "There's still that line there. It's cool when teenagers pick up my books, and it's like nothing they've seen before. I know the feelings I had when I discovered like Dan Clowes and Peter Bagge comics as a teenager. It opened up my mind to what comics were and what they could be."

For more information about Charles Forsman, visit charlesforsman.com.


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