Cat Farris is a Portland-based illustrator and cartoonist. Her work includes Emily And The Strangers, The Last Diplomat, and the upcoming graphic novel My Boyfriend Is A Bear with writer Pamela Ribon from Oni Press. The title is set to release April 18.
Tim: So pro-beastiality?
Cat: Oh man. I don't know. I think no. Absolutely not. Sorry, Pamela [Ribon, writer] is in my head going, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!" I think I'm inclined to agree with her.
Tim: What attracts you to a story about human-bear love?
Cat: When I read the script, Charlie [Chu, editor] sent it me and he's like, "Cat, I've got a script for you. I think you're going to love it. Give it a read and let me know what you think." I got maybe 20 pages into the script and I put it down. I wrote Charlie immediately like, "I have to draw this fricking script." It's the most adorable, hilarious thing I've ever read. As I was reading page by page, I was going panel by panel imagining how I was going to be drawing this book. To Charlie I was like, "If anyone else draws this book, I'm going to find them, hunt them down, and kill them. Then draw this book myself."
Tim: What's the key in bringing a story about human-bear love to life?
Cat: I think it's really important to look beyond what the book is about on the surface, like a bear and a girl. Kind of dig into what the book is about underneath. It's about complicated relationships, finding out who you are for yourself, loving someone in the face of sometimes incredible faults, and opposition from people that care about you. It's trying to dig into the deeper parts and bring that out with the artwork so that when people read it they're not like, "Gross, it's a girl and a bear." They're like, "Aw man. This is a charming, touching story with emotions I can relate to myself." Regardless of the fact that it's a bear and no one in real life is ever going to date a bear. I hope.
Tim: Your art is very fun and cute. Was that a conscious move? Realistic art would change the tone of the story.
Cat: Absolutely. There's a reason they hired me to draw this book and it was because this was the tone they were going for. I think this was one of the only ways a book like this could exist without getting really negative press and coming off the wrong way. I definitely tried to keep it cute, light, and sweet. Just focus on the joyful romance, rather than anything graphic and weird.
Tim: My Boyfriend Is A Bear is a pretty straight-forward title. Neither you or Pamela Ribon wanted to beary the lede here, did you?
Cat: I don't know. I came onto this project long after it had been decided so I have no idea. When I got this, it was already My Boyfriend Is A Bear, so I'm not really sure what kind of process she went through with Charlie for that. But I like bearying the lede. That's good. Very nice. Bear puns welcome here.
Tim: You touched on it, but do you think this kind of love could exist in real life?
Cat: I mean, I'm not going to say no because I'm a firm believer that I do not know everything and I'm willing to have my mind blown. If somebody wants to, that would be dangerous and I do not recommend it. Please do not sue me. But if there's anyone out there dating a bear and making it work, I want to hear about it.