When the world is in your way, even having just one friend you can trust to have your back often makes all the difference. That’s definitely the case for unlikely best friends Jo and Rus, the eponymous heroes of cartoonist Audra Winslow‘s debut middle grade graphic novel. Today, The Beat can exclusively announce this new OGN from BOOM! Studios’ KaBOOM! imprint for young readers, and trust us: you won’t want to miss it.

At first, Jo and Rus don’t realize how much they have in common – she’s a middle schooler who’s constantly bullied and he’s a high schooler in a rock band. But when a mysterious one-eyed cat brings the two of them together, they quickly learn they’re both outcasts trying to figure out what they really want from life in a world where the odds are stacked against them. It’s only by becoming friends they discover who they are, who they want to be and what it takes for every one of us to find our own happiness!

Winslow, whose comics including Gator Shinin’ and Tilly and the Tiger can be found at funkyalligator.com, has a super distinctive art style and a keen eye for unique stories.

“This is one of those beautiful graphic novels that drips with sincerity and lives in the quiet, seemingly routine moments of growing up,” said BOOM! Studios VP of Editorial and Creative Strategy Bryce Carlson in a statement. “Jo & Rus explores the pains of loneliness and highlights how an unexpected friendship can change your life. Audra is an incredible cartoonist who is going to steal everyone’s heart. Her debut graphic novel is filled with lovable outcasts, mischief, adventures, and cats. So many cats. What’s not to love?”

Also in a statement, Winslow revealed the impetus for telling this particular tale: Jo & Rus is a story for anyone that is seeking a friend. I wrote this story loosely based on personal experiences and feelings, that I not only had as a preteen, but as an adult too. This story is for the lonely doing their best.”

With graphic novels for kids and young readers steadily taking over the book market, it’s thrilling to see creators like Winslow given the chance to shine. BOOM! Studios has released a number of original graphic novels aimed at young readers in recent years, and the publisher has a swath of new releases upcoming; this trend suggests that 2020 is going to be a very, very good year for comics.

Jo & Rus is slated to hit shelves in September 2020 at local comic shops, bookstores, and at the BOOM! Studios webstore. Digital copies can also be purchased from content providers including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and Madefire. For more information, visit boom-studios.com.

Jo & Rus