Going to Print with Jade Armstrong


Just a little over three weeks until Jade Armstrong’s Food School is published and available in stores everywhere!

In Food School, Olive post-secondary education isn’t what they’d planned. Instead of college, they spend five days a week, eight hours a day at a full-time outpatient program for eating disorder recovery where they learn, talk, and cry about eating disorders as part of a survivor support group.

Intensely committed to recovery, Olive confronts the secretive, self-destructive, and sometimes tragically comedic nature of their illness, while struggling with the complexities of modern mental health care. With support and perspective from their roommate, a fellow patient, and their partner, Olive learns to open up about their abusive relationship with food and exercise–and finds ways to cope with the reality of living in a society that actively encourages disordered eating.

Find out more in this Q&A with Jade Armstrong.


1. Food School has had an interesting publishing history. It started out in a digital version. Can you explain the background?

Food School was originally released as part of the 2022 Short- Box Comics Fair. The SBCF is a digital marketplace that takes place annually every October, run entirely by one person(!). There are no physical books, only PDFs, and all participating artists debut one entirely new comic. All the comics are creator-owned and all rights reserved by the artists! It’s a very cool fair, dare I say my favourite, to both be a part of and buy comics in. Food School debuted there as a digital PDF. I also self riso-printed a physical version with much help from my collective for TCAF 2023. Turns out, perfect bound printing books with a 20-year old printer, a guillotine and a tube of glue is many, many hours of work. Christine Wong really helped me out a lot with that.

2. The book is obviously inspired by manga. You have called Food School josei but not manga. Can you explain / define?

Oh yeah, well, josei is my absolute favourite genre of comic. “Josei manga” literally means “womens comics,” and refers to manga marketed to an audience of adult women. I’m deeply inspired by the work of mangaka like Okazaki Kyoko, Anno Moyoco, and Yazawa Ai. I dare say PINK by Okazaki Kyoko is my favourite comic of all time. I used the term “josei” for the promotion of the book for SBCF 2022, as a lot of the audience for SCBF are familiar with manga, and those who are familiar with the genre could tell how much I pull from it. So fans of the same thing could find something similar, I guess. I didn’t want to call it a manga as that term is more used to describe comics coming out of Japan specifically.

As manga becomes more and more popular all over the world, josei has kind of become a genre on its own. For example, Black Josei Press based in the US is an amazing publisher that focuses on comics work by and for people of colour from marginalized genders and sexualities. I would like to see more western comic works that are “josei” !

3. You also create YA/middle grade graphic novels for big publishing houses. Scout is Not a Band Kid has been very successful. Food School is not YA. What is the difference between working for these two different markets? Is one more personal?

I’d say both books are equally personal, as they came from very vulnerable places for me. However, Food School was the first big comic I finished after drawing Scout, and I definitely did things a lot differently, haha. Scout is beautifully full colour, really tight drawings, marketable to a middle grade “general North American” audience and Food School is not that at all. Very rough drawings, black and white halftone, silly stuff like the main character talks only in lowercase and uses acronyms. And the content is quite specific, like, unapologetically Canadian, and I even referenced the anime Evangelion at one point, haha.

4. You are part of a cartooning collective called Hello Boyfriend. Can you describe how that works? Do you find HBF gives you a supportive community to try out your comics before releasing them to the world?

Hello Boyfriend is made up of my friends and fellow cartoonists, we all met in art school many moons ago. We read and edit each other’s works, table together, co-work together, put out anthologies, share opportunities and whatnot. Lately, we got access to a riso and have been printing and assembling our own books together! We are also friends so we hang out together and do other non-comics stuff. I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of HBF. For Food School specifically, Victor and Christine did the bulk of the editing for it, and a lot of emotional support when I was struggling writing/drawing it.

5. Who do you hope is the audience for Food School?

Back to the josei thing, the book was written for adults of marginalized genders, but of course I hope that anyone can enjoy it. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve got the book for loved ones in their life who are struggling with eating disorders, and that makes me happy to hear. I hope it helps somewhat, especially as eating disorders are on the rise in Canada.

6. What is one of your favourite foods?

At the moment, I’m really into chocolatines.



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