Dating is hard, and sometimes the perfect mate can come from the most unlikely of places. After being consistently let down by the dating scene, 28-year-old Nora found the best boyfriend she could ask for while hiking through the Los Angeles hills, but it’s not a conventional romance. Nora’s new man is a 500-pound American black bear, and their love is the subject of a new graphic novel debuting next year from Oni Press: My Boyfriend Is A Bear. Written by Pamela Ribon with art by Cat Farris, MBIAB is a light-hearted, very cute romantic comedy about the ups and downs of dating someone that may not by typical boyfriend material, but has a big heart.
“I was a few months into dating a man when I realized I was dating a bear,” says Ribon. “He was messy and a little louder than I was accustomed to, having been living alone in my apartment for some time. He’d hear the rustle of a potato chip bag in my pantry and come running. Soon I was hiding food from him, as a candy bar or box of cookies wouldn’t survive a night. I mean, it went deeper than food. He would take his suit jacket off to smoke a cigarette and hang that jacket on a tree branch. Who does that? He was part Huckleberry Finn, part American Black Bear.”
“The opening pages of MBIAB are from this epiphany,” says Ribon. “I had bought an It’s-It, turned around to get a plate and knife, and turned back seconds later to discover he’d already torn the box open with his bare/bear hand and was already three bites into the giant treat. We were a semi-long distance relationship that always had an element of ‘This might have to end in a week or so’ because of his job. I started thinking about it in terms of him going into hibernation, and well, here go you.”
Ribon has had a fruitful career as a writer in Hollywood, serving as a co-writer for animated films like Moana, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and the upcoming Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. (She also served as a narration consultant for Disney’s Bears documentary, which ties directly into her latest comics project.) She’s recently ventured into comics with her Boom! Studios roller derby series Slam! and an issue of Oni’s Rick & Morty, and MBIAB is her first graphic novel. “I love how comics can shift from big moments to small,” says Ribon. “There’s a wonderful intimacy with the reader that allows for sweetness, surprise, and depth of honesty at an immediate, visceral level. The whole world can stop on a dime to rip your heart out.”
Cat Farris’ clean, expressive style is full of character, and the exclusive excerpt below highlights how much emotion she brings to this off-kilter relationship. “I love how Cat captures the humor and truth to this romance without it turning quirky or weird,” says Ribon. “Bear and Nora’s relationship feels real and relatable even at its most impossible moments. Her pages without all my words getting in the way are some of my favorites.”
“I’m hoping that my art helps the reader experience the story the way that I did when I read this script,” says Farris. “Every time I turned a page on this script I was like ‘Oh my god, this story is so sweet and cute and funny!’ I really tried to amplify those qualities with my art. [Pamela’s] really made it feel like we’re a creative team and we’re telling this story together. I know this is a story she’s had kicking around for a while. A lot longer than I’ve been attached to the project. But Pamela has really trusted me to use my visual storytelling skills to help bring Bear and Nora to life, and it means a lot to me!”
“The comics market right now has a lot of very dark, serious stories,” says Farris. “I’m really excited to help put a story out there that is silly and sweet. Something that hopefully makes people smile. It’s not everyday you get to sell people a book about a girl dating a literal bear, and I hope folks are as charmed by this story as I have been while working on it.” Readers can get a taste of MBIAB’s charms with the excerpt below, and if they like what they see, they can pick up the graphic novel when it goes on sale in April of next year.