We Are Become Pals is a new book by Joey Comeau and Jess Fink. It’s the story of two awesome teenage girls, Jane and Helen, and their friendship and exploits. Much of it was published on Tumblr, and is now printed in this handsome hardcover edition. There are new epilogue chapters, as well as two new “Reading Corner” chapters.
We recently asked Joey and Jess a few questions about the book, their friendship, and what makes teenagers so fun to write.
TopatoCo: How did you two come to work together on this project?
Joey Comeau: I approached Jess at TCAF with the idea of working together on a book about friendship! I had been wanting to do something about a friendship for a long time, about that exciting feeling of being young and meeting someone who was just perfect, who was your best friend almost as soon as you met. Jess’ work on We Can Fix It, and other comics I’d seen of hers were so full of that same same being-young energy and good-naturedness. I was really nervous about asking her if she wanted to collaborate.
Jess Fink: I have been a fan of Joey’s writing for a long time, so basically there was no way I could say no when he asked me. You hear that Joey?? I could not refuse! I had to drop all of my life plans!! It was like being under some kind of spell where you have to work with a writer you really like and everything they write makes you feel really good, it’s messed up!
TC: Both of you have work that involves teenagers, whether your own young self or fictionalized troublemakers. Can you talk a little about what makes adolescence such a fertile ground for stories? How easy or difficult is it to get into the mindset of a teenager?
JF:I think you’ve got a lot of nervous energy when you are a teen. You feel like you are still a kid and you’re just starting to work out how to interact with people. Every interaction is like a little social experiment. You take chances and try things older people wouldn’t and when you run into people that get you easily, without trying, it feels amazing. So many stories I have from being a teen just come from not knowing any better and being willing to make a fool of yourself to figure it out.
JC: Haha, it’s true. There was this point, in the first few weeks of university, where I decided “fuck it” and literally went around asking cool looking people, “will you be my friend?” I made at least one long-lasting and wonderful friend that week, and there’s no way I would have the guts to do it now. I am more afraid of people and the world now. It’s stupid, and I miss being better.
JF: Joey, will you be my friend??
JC: Jess, of course! Yes, yes! I thought you would never ask!
TC: Joey, what influenced your decision to make the protagonists teenage girls? Do you find teenage girls more interesting or easier to write than boys?
JC: The idea was always two girls who were best friends. I’m not sure why it was two girls and not two boys. I think I was tired of reading about and watching boy friendships. “Bromances” are funny, and I love buddy cop movies. I always wanted a buddy cop movie where the cops were women. It seemed stupid that there weren’t any. So, maybe that was part of it?
JF: Yeah, more often than not boys are shown riding their bikes around town and going on kid adventures. I’ve read books and seen so many movies about boyhood best friends goofing around this way and usually the girls are shown as the “other”, the ones who nag the boys or stay indoors doing sensible things. But it’s not the way things really are, the truth is these are things KIDS do, not just boys. I know from experience!
TC: Jess, were there unique challenges in illustrating this story? The drawings capture a lot of energy and humor, like your comics. How different was it to illustrate one static image per chapter, rather than full comics pages?
JF: The book was very fun to illustrate, basically I just tried to pick moments from each chapter that felt important to me. A lot of moments with Jane and Helen felt eerily similar to moments I had with my best friends, so I tried to design the characters with what I and my best friends looked like back in the day. I wore ties all the time and knee high shorts, we were scruffy kids! We went all over town. The only difference is I don’t know how to ride a bike like Jane and Helen so I would usually be running behind my friends on bikes begging them to slow down.
TC: One thing I loved about Jane and Helen’s story is that they seem to become best friends almost immediately. When you’re young you can do that, you can meet a friend and it’s like falling in love, suddenly they’re everything. Did either of you have experiences like that in your youth?
JF: Totally! I feel very close to Jane and Helen. There are so many things about their relationship and lives that I see myself in, the book feels very personal even though it’s not specific to me. Thats what I love about it, because almost everyone has felt this way! There is something about being a teen and discovering all of the things you love for the first time and then feeling so alone, like there’s no one you can share it with. Then suddenly this one person comes along and they get all of your jokes! And they love the things you love! It feels like you never had a real conversation before you met this person. You spend all of your time together and it’s amazing. My best friend and I from high school swore an oath that if one of us died before the other we had to dance on the other’s grave, like REALLY dance and get into it. We drew up a contract and signed it! It was very official.
JC: I did, for sure. I met my best friend from high school in almost the exact way that Jane and Helen meet, in a Fox Mulder costume at a high school dance. And then of course, you’re skipping school to go to the library and look at books about alien abductions, and you’re wandering the city in the middle of the night trading conspiracy theories and passwords for company voice mail systems that you spent three hours breaking into by trying every password possible.
TC: Do you think of yourself as a Jane or a Helen?
JF: This is a tough question!! I looked a lot like Jane but I felt a lot like Helen too, can I say BOTH??
JC: Haha, my answer is also BOTH. Lame, but true!
Let the record show that both Jess and Joey are cheaters who can’t answer a simple binary question.
If you still want to support them, We Are Become Pals is available for sale here.