Actress Beth Behrs, most recognized as Caroline on the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls and for her crazy pipes, is shifting from tales of women breaking out of Brooklyn diners to teens struggling in dystopian California. Co-written by The Book of Mormon actor Matt Doyle and illustrated by Sid Kotian, Dents posits a future where global warming and a virus warp the earth into ruins. A vaccination for the virus develops, but produces twins with special powers when administered to pregnant women. The ominous “Ministry” outlaws this new population, with the comic following Eleanor, a 14-year-old who expresses her dismay with this unsettling status quo in explosive ways.
The first three chapters of Dents released last Friday, with subsequent entries set to debut every Friday via LINE Webtoons. Thus far, the tale unspools a heady mix of worldbuilding, environmental sensitivity and teen angst set amongst the wreckage of San Francisco. Paste emailed with Behr to discover her transition from acting to comics and her plans for this ambitious new series.
Paste: What was your introduction to the comic book medium? Your mom was a first grade teacher; parents in the ‘80s tended to be incredibly pro- or anti-comic. Did she have a guiding hand at all?
Beth Behrs: Haha, my mom is not a comic book fan as far as I know! I was introduced to comics by my partner, Matt Doyle. He’s been a comic fan since childhood, but it’s only in the past few years that I’ve become a fan myself. I read Y: The Last Man, Saga, Stumptown, etc. and was immediately hooked.
Paste: Before segueing to film and TV, you were active in theater. When crafting Dents’ narrative alongside Matt, are there any tools from that era you use to relay “acting” to artist Sid Kotian? Do you rehearse the dialogue at all?
Behrs: It’s a challenge to keep dialogue concise enough for the storytelling, but still honest and natural. It’s an area where approaching it as an actor has been extremely helpful. We absolutely say the dialogue out loud to see if it works and feels right. Sid has managed to understand our writing so clearly. It’s like we’re working with the perfect Director of Photography who completely understands our vision.
Dents Cover Art by Sid Kotian
Paste: This series pays homage to the Bay Area where you and Matt grew up. How does that era/location lend itself to the story? Was California’s current water crisis a factor?
Behrs: We deal with familiar Northern Californian landmarks pretty heavily throughout the story. It is the setting of most of the journey in these first 26 chapters. The reader will find themselves in a sunken redwood forest, alongside a deteriorated Route 1 and in a camp located above a sunken Bolinas. It’s been fun recreating our childhood in this apocalyptic setting.
Paste: How much do you share in common with Eleanor, the mutant with latent powers who makes a pretty explosive debut in the first chapter?
Behrs: I WISH I had the strength and inner guts to take a stand—no matter what—the way Eleanor does. I share her compassion and her deeply intricate emotional life to an extent. She’s an “old soul” and wise beyond her years. I’ve definitely been told I am an old soul, especially when I was Eleanor’s age.
Dents Interior Art by Sid Kotian
Paste: You and Matt cite the X-Men and its social activism as an inspiration behind Dents. That series has tackled an array of sociological conflicts through its history: Civil Rights, homophobia, etc. Are there any current issues you’re looking to address through your series?
Behrs: Identity, acceptance, equality. There’s a great deal of hatred and fear of what’s “different” in our country right now and we address this as a driving part of our story in Dents. We also address global warming and climate change, another issue Matt and I feel very strongly about. I am very connected to the outdoors. Being in nature is like church for me. And it’s very important to me that Dents helps to continue and further the dialogue towards what steps we can take to combat global warming. The powers the Dents possess connect them to the earth, and the world we’ve created in Dents is a direct result of a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by global warming.