Smartphone users swipe left or right more than 1 billion times a day on the Tinder app, while every week, more than 1 million people install the OkCupid app on their personal devices. And those are just two of the popular dating apps singles can use to find their soulmate!
Maybe they’re just looking for love in all the wrong places. Maybe they just need to take a hike in the woods, find a bear and, rather than play dead, introduce themselves.
OK, while AiPT! doesn’t really endorse this likely lethal approach to dating, it certainly works for Nora, the central character in the upcoming Oni Press graphic novel “My Boyfriend is a Bear.” Written by Disney Animation StoryTrust member Pamela Ribon (Moana, Smurfs: The Lost Village) and illustrated by Cat Farris (Emily and the Strangers), this is a classic story of bear meets girl.To learn more about the illustrated romantic comedy, which will hit bookshelves in April 2018, AiPT! spoke to Ribon and Farris.
AiPT!: Can you tell me a bit about Nora as a character? Clearly, she’s very open-minded.
Pamela Ribon: Nora is coming out of that time in life when we’re so accustomed to doing what people say we should do—we’ve been very focused on following the advice of parents, teachers, mentors, bosses, romantic partners, best friends—that we’ve stopped trusting our own inner voices. Nora’s journey with the bear is a quarter-life coming-of-age story about learning to recognize the difference between love and control.
Cat Farris: I like Nora. She’s a girl who knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to look past a tiny problem like differing species get in the way of embracing a partner who makes her truly happy!
AiPT!: And what about the bear—does he have a name?
Farris: Ha! I have no idea. I kind of like him as just “Bear.” But clearly he’s open-minded as well, and willing to get out of his comfort zone. He changes a lot about his daily life to make sure his relationship with Nora can work, and you can tell he cares deeply for her.
Ribon: I can only assume he does, but I’m not fluent in ursine.
AiPT!: In the age of dating apps, finding the right partner can be exhausting. Feeling constantly let down is a very relatable problem. How much did personal dating experience or real-life stories play into this concept and Nora’s decision to date outside her species?
Ribon: One day I called my friends and said, “Okay, fine. I’m ready to date. Send me anyone you think is the right fit. I am open to anything.” Two nights later, I was sitting across from the man who would inspire this book.
Farris: When I read this script, I did feel a bit of a kinship with Nora. I’ve had my share of lame dating experiences in the past, which led to finally finding an amazing partner in an unexpected place. The best relationship advice I ever got was to date outside of your usual type. I think Nora takes that one step further by dating outside of her usual species as well.
AiPT!: Pamela, you’ve been a member of the Disney StoryTrust since 2013. How did you break in, and what made you want to enter the comic world?
Ribon: The simplest answer to both of those questions is, “They asked me.” I’m a big believer in seeing what happens when you walk through an open door. [Note: open door rule does not apply to the vans of strangers.]AiPT!: How does collaborating on a comic differ from working with the Disney StoryTrust? Are there any similarities?
Ribon: Here’s what’s the same: a lot of notes, changes happen constantly, you have to stay true to yourself and focused–but man, do you have to keep it fun, because this process takes way longer than you’d think. Most importantly: be a good person. This world is small, everybody knows everybody, and there’s no reason to make this experience suck. Don’t be a dick.
AiPT!: Cat, who are some of your artistic heroes?
Farris: My Helioscope studiomates, Leila Del Duca (Shutter, Afar) and Colleen Coover (Bandette, Small Favors). I also love Tyler Crook (Harrow County). His watercolors are god-tier to me! Outside of comics, Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch), and 19th-century painter Edouard Manet (it’s a long story, but I’ve always felt a kinship with his professional progression!).
AiPT!: And what did you try to convey through your art in this story? What was important to get across?
Farris: Well, for one, this book has a subject matter that could change tone significantly depending on how the art was handled. I made it my job from the start to make sure this book comes across as fun, cute, and sweet. We’d really like for people to suspend their disbelief and give this charming love story the chance it deserves.AiPT!: To me, this does look like a very fun, charming story about unconventional love—but it’s comics, and someone is sure to lose their mind at the sight of a woman dating a bear. What’s your response to this reader?
Farris: I know it’s kind of weird, but I hope anyone who’s skeptical will “bear” with us.
Ribon: I am Groot.
AiPT!: Pamela, does My Boyfriend is a Bear have the potential to be the next Disney film?
Ribon: Well, it would definitely need a language pass. But a story about finding and fighting for true love despite all odds? Put a (modern, empowered) princess in there and we’re done, people!
AiPT!: What else are you two working on right now (either together or apart)?
Farris: I’m actually still finishing art for this book! I’m currently taking care of all the colors. I’m also planning out some projects I can’t talk about yet, that will hopefully come together about the time I’m done working on Bear! I’m also looking forward to getting back to my webcomic, which I had to put on hiatus so I could focus on this book more fully. It’s called The Last Diplomat and it’s a bit like Lord of The Rings meets Digimon.
Ribon: I’ve been having an absolute blast writing SLAM! for BOOM! Studios—it’s a fast-paced friendship comic slightly based my years skating for the LA Derby Dolls. I’m also extremely hard at work co-writing Wreck-It-Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet. That movie comes out November 2018.
My Boyfriend is a Bear will be released in comic stores, bookstores and on ComiXology in April 2018.