A Q&A with Molly Brooks
Can you believe that #GGC19 is barely two days away? In celebration of our launch, we’re rolling out our final Q&As. From the Women of NASA, to a sneak preview of our 2019 merch, we’ve still got some really exciting content to share with all of you.
Molly Brooks is one of our Featured Contributors and an absolute brilliant illustrator. Her comics are heartfelt and diverse—advocating more representation on the page and behind the pen. Her debut graphic novel, Sanity & Tallulah (October 2018) is a funny and smart story about best friends who must find their furry, adorable, and totally illegal science experiment. Chock-full of imaginative biology, tech, and engineering references, Sanity & Tallulah encourages experimentation and problem-solving. In the sequel, Sanity & Tallulah: Field Trip (October 2019), the dynamic duo are going on a field trip—to another planet! They get sucked into an adventure of intergalactic proportions when they’re pursued by a pirate and seek the aid of an accountant, a math hermit, and a group of mysterious beekeepers.
In preparation for her appearance at #GGC19, Molly did a Q&A with me about her influences, the importance of diversity, and of course, her furry office attendants!
Of all the ways you can tell a story, why comics? What drew you to the medium?
I love the design puzzle it presents. Books like Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Will Eisner’s Comics & Sequential Art blew my mind in high school, and the mechanics of designing a panel within a page within a spread within a book, to guide the reader’s eye through a story and make sure they notice what you want them to notice, is so fun and difficult.
Date Night is relatable and heartbreaking—I felt for it, I was seeing a moment played out in my own life. Which pieces would you recommend for a new reader to familiarize themselves with your work?
A new reader would probably appreciate brevity before committing to a longer book, so Date Night (2 pages) is a good one to start with! I did it a few years ago, but I still really like it.
Other shortie-but-goodies (imo) are:
“Fiction and Real Life are Different, You Moron (An Open Letter to Myself” (7 pages), a short comic in which I desperately try to rationalize my emotions about sports, theatre, and the spectator experience.
“The Tangled Ghost” (16 pages) about two teenage girls who aren’t quite friends yet spending a night clomping around in the countryside drinking strawberry vodka and arguing about ghosts. Then (spoiler alert) they meet one.
“Post,” my MFA thesis comic, a 36 page a post-apocalyptic love story about a courier who falls in love with a beautiful lady-scientist after being hired to deliver a series of anonymous love notes to her isolated workshop.
Sanity & Tallulah is a great deal of fun! When were you first inspired to create the comic?
My super talented friend Andrea Tsurumi and I did a collaborative minicomic for SPX a few years ago. We bonded in grad school over Star Trek and buddy cop shows, so when we were trying to come up with a shared theme for our stories that fit both our interests, she suggested “science-fiction teen girl detectives,” and we were off to the races. She did a super cute short comic about two alien schoolgirls solving mysteries, and I did what became the first Sanity & Tallulah short story.
What is the most important message that you hope your readers will take away from it?
It’s important to try to solve the problems in front of you, whether or not they’re “your fault.”
What does diversity and inclusivity mean to you? Why do you think diverse representation is so important in comics?
I think it’s incredibly important to challenge at every opportunity the notion that “white able-bodied neurotypical heterosexual cis male” is the factory-settings default human, and anyone not conforming to that narrow profile is an anomaly. Campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #OwnVoices have been bringing awareness and pressure to the publishing industry (aka #publishingsowhite) in the last few years, but there’s still a very long way to go.
Stories about diverse experiences are super important, but as a visual medium, comics (along with movies and TV) provides a fantastic opportunity to include visible diversity in familiar narratives without making that diversity the focus of the story. Again, stories about diversity are great! But I think part of “normalizing” diverse narratives in media means making the presence of diverse characters normal in all narratives. I loved sci-fi and fantasy as a kid, and I remember how validating and joyful it was on the rare occasions I encountered a queer or female hero in the stories I loved.
What comics, or other media, influenced your work growing up?
Sailor Moon, Ranma 1/2, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, the Back to the Future trilogy, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Wars IV-VI
Which writers, artists, and other organizations do you support today?
I’ve been reading much less than usual the last few years, but I’m trying to get back in the swing of things, especially with current queer sci fi and fantasy. N.K. Jemisin is amazing, and anything she writes automatically goes in my TBR. I also really like authors who work within the Lovecraft mythos, reclaiming it from its xenophobic-shithead roots. eg, Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaVelle, and Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff.
In terms of comics, I love The Nib for its nonfiction and political coverage, and my friend Alison Wilgus is doing a fantastic queer time travel duology, called “Chronin.” (I can’t wait to read part two when it comes out next year!)
I also love narrative fiction and true-crime podcasts, and subscribe to Tanis, Limetown, The Adventure Zone, Passenger List, Generation Why, My Favorite Murder, The Fall Line, and True Crime Garage.
I offer open commission spots on my website to benefit a few organizations: RAICES, KIND, SPLC, NAACP-LDF, PP, and NILC.
What is one piece of advice that you were given that really stuck with you?
My MFA thesis advisor David Mazzucchelli told me that the only “correct” process is the one that ends in a finished project. So even if a step feels like a waste of time that you should be able to do without, if you can’t get to the next step of the process without it, it’s not a waste. It’s necessary. Just do it and move on. So whenever I get stuck, I let myself do the “inefficient” thing that will push me forward, like transcribing the scene into my sketchbook, or printing out the current draft and binding it into a book I can flip through and mark up.
And, I have to ask: what are your cat’s names?
Phoebe (the yellow tabby)
Scully (the calico)
Cardigan (the brown tabby)
Come meet Molly and learn more about her cats, life as a creator, and more at GeekGirlCon ’19 November 16 & 17. Passes available online now!