This summer, Oni Press invites you to join a raucous summer party at the beach… if you dare!

On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, Oni is releasing issue #1 of Toxic Summer from the creative talents of cartoonist Derek Charm, following best buddies Ben and Leo as they head out for a planned summer of lifeguarding and meeting guys in Port Dorian. Unfortunately for the pair, toxic waste has polluted the beach, leading to mysterious, horrifying consequences for Port Dorian’s residents. Will Ben and Leo survive the summer? Check out Toxic Summer for a scary summer story packed hilarity and horror!

I spoke with Mr. Charm recently about the idea behind Toxic Summer, the comic’s visual sensibilities, mixing beach parties and science fiction, and how inspiration can come from anywhere… even Baywatch Nights.




FreakSugar: For folks reading this, what can you tell us about the conceit of Toxic Summer?

Derek Charm: It’s about two best friends named Ben and Leo who have come up with an intricate plan to spend the summer working at lifeguards in a beach party town where they will meet hot boys and be as popular as they’ve always thought they should be. Their plans are immediately crushed when they arrive in town and find everything is closed due to a toxic spill. And the mysteries start building from there.

FS: The first issue jumps right into us meeting our teen protagonists. What can you tell us about Leo and Ben?

DC: Leo is very much an extreme personality, a loud, abrasive leader type and the propulsion that kicks off the story. Ben is much more laid back and down for anything. I really wanted to make sure their personalities were defined right away in the first couple pages so we could dive straight into the story.




FS: The book is filled with fun characters, but as a former teen and a current teacher, I know kids like Leo and Ben. Have you drawn on personal experiences when crafting the book?

DC: For sure, Ben and Leo specifically are slightly exaggerated versions of a couple friends of mine, and the whole concept of the everything-goes-wrong vacation was inspired by vacations I’ve been on, taken to their most extreme.

FS: Every panel and design pull the reader in. I feel like a broken record, but the book is just fun to look at. How did you decide on the style of Toxic Summer?

DC: Thank you! I’ve done lots of work in comics and in animation where the goal is to match an existing style as closely as possible, and that’s a fun challenge and it’s satisfying to know what something’s supposed to look like and achieve that. But here I felt free to use my own style, my own color sensibilities, and sort of tell the story the way I see it. That said, there are some major artistic influences I’ve mentioned before, such as the original MAD Magazine artists, Archie artist Harry Lucey, and a lot from the world of animation.




FS: The comic instantly reminded me of beach movies from the 1960s and the 1970s, but also having a creepy Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe. What was your inspiration for the story?

DC: Awesome, those are for sure influences. The whole reason this is set on a beach at all was my love for those ’60s Beach Party movies, and the surfing episode of Batman ‘66. I wanted to mix that kind of thing with more of a horror/sci-fi element.

FS: What is your favorite science fiction and/or horror film? Do we see any influences in this book?

DC: That’s a tough question! You mentioned Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is such an incredible movie (I’m specifically thinking the ’70s one) and that’s definitely an influence. I was also thinking along the lines of Weird Science, Jaws, Mars Attacks, there’s some Scooby Doo. There was a spooky Baywatch spinoff called Baywatch Nights about monsters on the beach that I think I’m one of about two people who actually remembers, and that is for sure imprinted on this.



FS: What are you reading right now?

DC: Not a ton because I’ve been so busy with this and other projects! I do make sure to keep up with Ryan North’s current run on Fantastic Four, though. It’s sort of a Twilight Zone/Star Trek take on them and it’s so cool. Not just saying this because he’s my friend!

FS: Do you have any other projects coming down the pike you want to discuss?

DC: This is the last major comics project for a while. I’m primarily working on an animated series which I can’t say too much about, but it’s so great, really excited for the world to see. Hopefully some new comics projects can percolate over that time too!

FS: If you had one last pitch for Toxic Summer, what would it be?

DC: It came out of wanting to do something funny and silly, with a horror/sci-fi angle. It’s two idiot best friends having the worst summer imaginable and dodging toxic spills, cooler teens, and mutant monsters along the way.

Toxic Summer #1 debuts Wednesday, May 1, 2024, from Oni Press.

From the official press release:

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 #1by Barry Gifford, Chris Condon, Brian Level, Alexandre Tefenkgi, Artyom Topilin & more in March

  • AKỌGUN, BRUTALIZER OF GODS #1by Murewa Ayodele & Dotun Akande in April