A toxic spill mutates what should be a relaxing summer away from home into a monstrous nightmare for a pair of recently graduated best friends in Toxic Summer, the new comic book series from writer/artist Derek Charm. Ahead of the first issue's release on May 1st from Oni Press, Daily Dead caught up with Derek in a new Q&A feature to discuss his nostalgic comic book series, including its frightfully fun tone, its early 2000s setting, and working with the amazing team at Oni Press to bring Toxic Summer to life!

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us, Derek, and congratulations on your new comic book series Toxic Summer! How and when did you initially get the idea for this series?

Derek Charm: Thank you! It was probably about 2 years ago, and I had been developing various comic pitches with writers that were taking a while to get going, so I decided to just put a pitch together on my own in between. I based the two main characters Ben and Leo on a couple friends of mine taken to their most extreme, and just imagining them in these ever worsening situations, it really came together quickly and felt “right”. The goal was always just to do something fun. Once it went from a pitch to an actual series I got really excited about incorporating all the things I loved from old horror movies to classic comics, and just making it something funny and spooky that I would be excited about working on.

Toxic Summer takes place one fateful summer in the early 2000s—a time period I have fond memories of. How much fun was it for you to revisit that nostalgic era in this new comic book series? 

Derek Charm: Totally, and originally it was set in the modern day, but it kept feeling off having to deal with cell phones and all the modern ways we could immediately shut down a mystery. I started thinking that since I was about the same age as Ben and Leo in the early 2000s, it would make more sense to just set the whole story in that period.

I love the heartfelt and humorous interactions between best friends Ben and Leo. How much time did you spend fleshing those characters out to make them the beating heart of this delightfully slimy coming-of-age story?

Derek Charm: Thank you! I mentioned they were sort of exaggerated versions of friends of mine, so I think I found their voices pretty quickly, and it was great in this first issue having the extra length to really flesh them out before adding new characters and elements into the mix. The goal was that by the time things really started getting weird, you’d know them pretty well and all the comedy and horror could come out of that.

As someone who grew up devouring Jughead double digests at garage sales and is still mourning the end of The CW’s Riverdale, I was thrilled to see Toxic Summer described as “mix one part Riverdale with one part The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Have your experiences as an artist at Archie Comics influenced your creative approach to Toxic Summer? 

Derek Charm: For sure, I wasn’t specifically thinking of my own Archie work for this one until someone pointed it out and I was like, “Oh yeah!” I was more thinking of some classic Archie vibes by artists like Dan DeCarlo and Harry Lucey at first, and especially Archie’s Madhouse, which was a sort of comedy/horror series that ran in the ’60s where the gang dealt with monsters and supernatural stuff.

Toxic Summer is brimming with humor but packs a horror-laced emotional punch as well. How important was it for you to balance frights with fun throughout Toxic Summer?

Derek Charm: From the beginning I wanted it to be spooky and funny at the same time, and I feel like as long as the humor is coming from the characters and how they react, then it doesn’t feel so jarring switching between the two. Like I was saying before, I’m grateful I had a lot of space in this first issue to really build the characters up before exposing them to the more spooky, supernatural side of things.

From Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys to R.L. Stine’s Goodnight Kiss books, I absolutely love horror stories that take place in beach towns, and Toxic Summer fully delivers on that seemingly idyllic setting. How much fun was it for you to bring the sun-soaked (and slimy) horrors of Port Dorian to life, and is Port Dorian based on any beach towns that you’ve visited in real life?

Derek Charm: Yeah for sure, I was always picturing a vague mashup of summer trips I’ve been on over the years with friends. Lots of Upstate New York beach towns where it feels like you’re the only people who’ve been there in decades, where it gets real quiet and spooky at night.

What has it been like to team up with Oni Press as you prepare to release Toxic Summer into the world? 

Derek Charm: Oni has been amazing every step of the way. My editor Bess Pallares really gets the core of what this book is supposed to be, and every question or suggestion she’s given along the way has made the book stronger.

Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from Toxic Summer?

Derek Charm: I just hope people have a good time reading it! It really came out of wanting to do something fun and silly in the horror/sci-fi genre. There’s no (intended) message or deeper meaning. Just two idiot friends trying to have the best summer ever and dodging toxic spills, cooler teens, and monsters along the way.

What advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers and artists who are just getting started?

Derek Charm: I’m not sure what direct advice I’d give, since everyone is sort of coming from a different place. I would say I am grateful to have had a career in comics doing everything from licensed cartoon books to Big Two superhero comics before trying to do my own thing because it gave a base to work from, and an understanding of what’s expected of you professionally. I really had to hold myself accountable to my own deadlines and production schedule and I’m not sure I would have been able to if I hadn’t gone through everything before.

With the 48-page first issue of Toxic Summer coming out on May 1st (Free Comic Book Day) from Oni Press, do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tease for our readers?

Derek Charm: Toxic Summer is actually my last big comics project for a while, I’m working on an animated series right now, which there should be more on soon. It’s a dream project and eats up most of my drawing time these days, but hopefully that will give new comics projects a chance to percolate. 

Thank you very much for your time, Derek!

Derek Charm: Thank you!


Press Release: PORTLAND, OR – Oni Press, the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-winning publisher of groundbreaking comics and graphic novels since 1997 is proud to present TOXIC SUMMER #1 – a fast-paced comics escapade with teeth from the mutated mind of Eisner Award-winning Cartoonist Derek Charm (Jughead, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl)! Told across three specially formatted, bi-monthly issues beginning on May 1st – on shelves for Free Comic Book Day 2024 – this monster-sized 48-page nightmare beach party will keep you up all night … If you can live long enough to tell the tale!

“Inspired by classic beach movies, gross out teen horror, Mad Magazine, and my own insane friendships, this is a story that has been cooking for some time,” said Derek Charm. “I couldn’t ask for a better home for it than Oni Press, or better collaborators than Bess Pallares and Frank Cvetkovic.”

Best friends Ben and Leo had the perfect summer planned after high school graduation. As lifeguards in the idyllic beach town of Port Dorian, they were planning for three months of hot guys, late-night bonfires, and no regrets . . . until a toxic spill of unknown properties on the beach transformed their dream summer into a waking nightmare. Now Port Dorian is flooded with panicked tourists, a local researcher is paralyzed while investigating the spill, and a horrifying pack of subhuman monstrosities is snatching beachgoers in the night.

Mix one part Riverdale with one part The Creature from the Black Lagoon and drink it down fast because this bi-monthly horror shocker comes packed with enough acidic sludge, perverted beach maniacs, and ill will to ruin anyone's first summer away from home!

“Derek expertly captures the thrilling, romantic, and sometimes horrifying twists of madcap teen summers before cell phones ruined all the mystery,” said Senior Editor Bess Pallares. “Return to the simpler but spookier time of the early ‘00s with Toxic Summer! The idyllic beach town of Port Dorian and the townsfolk who live (and clean up slime) there will become fast favorites for readers looking for a fun tale to spice up their summer. Glitter body spray optional but encouraged.”

Featuring killer covers from Derek Charm (Star Wars Adventures), Scott Forbes (Aggretsuko), Skylar Patridge (Jill and the Killers), and Eisner Award winner Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie) – plus a special “Radioactive Waste Fifth Ink” sketch variant manufactured in retina-scorching green – there’s something in the water and TOXIC SUMMER #1 is ready to take a bite in comic shops everywhere on May 1st!

TOXIC SUMMER is the next secret installment under the ONI 2024 banner – a slate of five propulsive new monthly comic series from a wide-ranging cast of award-winning creators and fast-rising stars that fully embrace the potential of the comics medium to invert, collide, and reinvent the foundational genres of horror, science fiction, crime, fantasy, and beyond:

  • CEMETERY KIDS DON’T DIE #1 by Zac Thompson & Daniel Irizarri in February
  • NIGHT PEOPLE #1 by Barry Gifford, Chris Condon, Brian Level, Alexandre Tefenkgi, Artyom Topilin & more in March
  • AKỌGUN, BRUTALIZER OF GODS #1 by Murewa Ayodele & Dotun Akande in April

About the Creator

Derek Charm is an Eisner Award-winning comic artist, illustrator, and character designer for animation. He was the artist on several monthly comic runs, including Jughead and Jughead’s Time Police for Archie Comics, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for Marvel, and Star Wars Adventures for IDW Publishing/Lucasfilm. Outside of comics he has done illustration and design work for Marc Jacobs, Pepsi, and Warner Bros. Animation.

About Oni Press

Founded in 1997, Oni Press has a 25-year history as one of the industry’s most respected and acclaimed publishers of award-winning comic books and graphic novels with titles including Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim, K. O’Neill’s Tea Dragon Society, Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt's The Sixth Gun, Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer, Ezra Clayton Daniels' Upgrade Soul, Brenna Thummler’s Sheets trilogy, and many hundreds more. In 2019, Oni Press merged with Lion Forge Comics – the Eisner Award-winning independent comic book publisher founded by Academy Award-winning producer and entrepreneur David Steward II – to create one of the largest, independent libraries of comics content anywhere in media. The Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group now exists as a publishing subsidiary of Steward’s diversified global media company, Polarity.

The Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group publishes more than 60 original and licensed graphic novels annually, in addition to an extensive list of periodical comics.






Full Art Variant (1:10) DEREK CHARM




IN STORES MAY 1st, 2024 | $6.99 | 48 pgs. | FC

FOC: 04/08/2024

IOD: 03/28/2024

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.