Cats and Identity Crises: A Review of Finding Molly
Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting
Justine Prado (Writer), Jenn St-Onge (Artist), Carey Pietsch (Colorist), Joyana McDiarmid (Letterer)
If you are a poor, unfortunate soul who follows Melissa Brinks and myself on Twitter, you’ve noticed a trend in our chats. As Melissa put it best: “Roughly 80% of our conversations are about cats. 20% are about food. Sometimes they overlap.” There’s a bunch of you out there who also have that pesky parasite that turns you into a cat-lover, so when Emet Comics, a publisher dedicated to empowering women in comics, sent us the cat comic of our dreams, we snatched it up! Finding Molly: An Adventure in Cat-Sitting follows artist-turned-catsitter Molly Sanchez-Talebi as she struggles to build her post art school life. Emet is currently Kickstarting a hardcover collection of the comic, and we chatted about why you should back it!
Melissa: Alenka, let’s get right to the most important question: which cat in Finding Molly is the cutest?
Alenka: I’m gonna call it a tie between Chai (the ginger kitten who should have been named Pumpkin Spice) and and Miss Sassafras Junebug, the cat that snuck her way into Molly’s car.
Melissa: I’m a sucker for Pumpkin Spice’s smooshy little sad face! She looks so much like my own tiny sad-faced girl. Miss Sassafras Junebug is also excellent. A million points to Jenn St-Onge for drawing so many cats that look unique; it would be easy for animals to get a little same-faced when the story is ostensibly about humans, but the fact that we can pick the one we think is cutest and have differing answers is pretty cool!
Alenka: Finding Molly is very cute, but the colors are what really stood out for me! There are so many gorgeous little details, like the texture of the wooden floors in Molly’s parents’ house, or the patterns of the rock and stone steps leading up to the hippie couple’s home. A lot of love was put into the designs of the houses especially; they feel like their own unique characters, and they say so much about the people who live in them. I also enjoyed the running gag of folks saying, “Sorry for the mess!” in very clean houses. One thing did bother me — does everyone in California wear shorts so tiny that the pockets hang out? Is that a thing? What stood out to you in terms of art?
Melissa: I have no deep thoughts on the shorts phenomenon, but I do have to say that the fashion in this comic really stands out. Every character has their own unique style, which is especially apparent when Molly tries to be somebody other than who she is–she acts like somebody she’d like to be, and her clothing choice reflects that. In other scenes she’s cute but fashionable in a way that feels realistic, like she’s wearing clothes most of my friends have in their closets. The facial expressions are great too; the art supports what’s happening in the story in such a way that you can skim the pages without reading them to get a sense of what’s going on. There’s a real sense of personality from each character in terms of what they wear, how they stand, and what their faces do, which helps me keep them straight even though I have a terrible time with names and faces, even in art.
Alenka: Finding Molly feels very much like an all-ages comic updated for the 19-24 age group; it was brightly colored, cute, and energetic – Molly leaps from one twentysomething crisis to the next – but also included some dick jokes. They attack familiar finding-yourself themes in a lighthearted way that I found relatable and endearing. I’m 26, and a couple years ago I was definitely comparing myself to my peers and fretting about success. Now that I’m in a place where I realize how much time I have and how much I’m going to continue to change, I’m not so worried, but Molly’s concerns felt pretty relevant and fresh. Were you able to connect with the drama?
Melissa: Absolutely. I’m a bit older–I’ll be 28 this year–but I still feel like I don’t really know who I am or what I’m doing. It’s very much a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of thing. If I make headway, if I do something I’m proud of, inevitably I will compare myself to someone else and find myself coming up short. While I might be a bit out of that 19-24 age group, I think it’s common to feel a little lost and confused for most of your life, or at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself until it sticks.
Alenka: There is a big elephant in the room for me: about mid-way through the comic Molly has a who-am-I-I’m-not-cool-but-everyone-else-is-cool crisis and has a heart-to-heart with her dad. During their conversation, he says that when he fell in love with Molly’s mother, “it wasn’t because she was like all the other girls. It was because she wasn’t.” Molly perks up at this idea, and I understand that LA is a very image-focused place, so being a curvy, mixed race Latina/South Asian girl likely comes with a lot of body image and beauty-related pressure, but I hate this rhetoric. Girls are great! Encouraging us to not want to be like each other, to be “girls next door” or whatever trope you think fits us because we’re not classically pretty, is divisive and gross. I was really bummed that this was a turning point in that particular story arc. What were your thoughts about Molly’s identity crisis?
Melissa: I definitely noticed the “not like other girls” line as well and had this internal nooooo scream as I read it. I get the sentiment that this scene is going for–Molly’s route to success does not have to be the same as everybody else, nor does she have to fit a particular mold to be happy. But by phrasing it as “not like other girls,” Finding Molly instead positions Molly as a special snowflake, which she already is without the baggage that term implies! In stories like this, we want to identify with the heroine, but instead the story tells us that she’s not like other girls and, by extension, that feels like it’s saying she’s not like us, either. It’s an odd choice for such a relatable story, and one that didn’t serve it well. She can be her own unique self without having to “not be like other girls,” especially when that’s contradictory to all the other girls we’ve seen in the comic; they’re all different from one another, and Molly is too!
Overall, there was a lot about Molly’s identity crisis that I liked, like balancing her artistic aspirations with her practical need to, you know, eat and have a place to live and so on. While I am a sucker for romance, I’m not a huge fan of the ‘I have a boyfriend and everything is okay now’ ending, mostly because it has this unintended consequence of tying together success and relationships in a way that isn’t flattering to either Molly or Mateo. Why do they only get together at Molly’s show? I know the tension has been there forever, but I would have liked to see Molly, with her newfound confidence, make more of a move on him rather than the ambiguous hand-holding.
I think my problem is that I want Molly to find herself (it’s right there in the title!) independent of her relationship with Mateo. I liked Mateo and was definitely rooting for those two lovebirds, but I think moving the climax of the story back a bit and letting the falling action fall a little slower would have gone a long way toward making it feel less like Mateo was suddenly interested in her now that she was having her first show, which seems both out of character and contrary to what the book was trying to accomplish. By putting all that so close together, we end up with a version of their relationship that feels more like, “Well, I don’t have Lorona, so you’ll have to do!” than, “I’ve been waiting for you to be ready and I’m so happy that you’re in a place where we can be together,” you know? Did you get any of that from the ending?
Alenka: I wrote Lorona off as an obvious plot device to keep Molly from getting with Mateo too soon or make her feel like she missed her chance, and that in itself is problematic. As you mentioned, the other women in the comic are unique and well-realized; there’s even an implication that other “cool girls” Molly sees around and envies are whole humans with flaws that she will eventually befriend. That Lorona is just a caricature of a rude hipster really conflicts with that viewpoint.
Melissa: One of the things I found interesting was that I definitely expected “Molly” to be a cat that needed finding, based on the title. That clearly wasn’t it at all, and I’m glad that it shaped up how it did. Did the comic match your expectations for it, or did it veer off in a different direction?
Alenka: Haha oh my gosh that didn’t cross my mind, but I have definitely seen Finding Nemo, so I don’t why it didn’t occur to me! The piece of the description that stuck out to me was “cat sitting adventures,” so by the time I actually read the comic that’s really all I had in my head. It definitely lived up to the cat sitting hype; cats were watched, caused trouble, and were adorable! I often feel that California-based stories have this element of glamour and ridiculousness that makes them feel like sheer fantasy — coughTheLWordcough — but Finding Molly was pretty relatable, even if I live in a place that experiences winter and I didn’t attain critical success a year out from college.
Melissa: Overall, I found Molly’s journey to be one I could identify with, even through the parts that rubbed me the wrong way. It’s a sweet story, though some parts did drag — I found some of the relationship drama a bit tedious, and I’d have liked to see Lorona in particular be a more round character. How did Mateo end up with her? What did he see in her? We don’t get much of that as readers, and it makes me question her function–was she just there to set Molly up as so much better? I have met pretentious people who drive me up a wall, so they definitely exist, but I would have liked to see her serve a role other than as an opposition to Molly’s interest in Mateo. What do you think? How did you feel about the comic as a whole?
Alenka: I agree 100% that I would have liked to see Lorona more fleshed out. Her obnoxiousness was her number one characteristic, and she could have been obnoxious but also interesting. Mateo is a pretty serious artist, maybe we could have seen work by Lorona that revealed she was also pretty serious about artistry. Give me lots of annoying but three-dimensional characters, I’ll eat ‘em up!
Overall, Finding Molly’s pros definitely outweigh its cons. It’s a sweet, feel-good read that’s not so emotional that it’ll hit you right in the gut, but familiar enough that you’ll understand Molly’s actions, even if they make you cringe. (We all do cringeworthy things in our early twenties!) The art is gorgeous; Jenn St-Onge gives us wonderful, unique characters – human and cat alike – with a variety of silhouettes, and Carey Pietsch brings it all to life; I already gushed about how I love the houses, but it’s worth mentioning again! Joyana McDiarmid’s lettering rounds out the adorable atmosphere of the book; even the barf noises are cute. It’s a very cohesive comic that is worth picking up, especially for all you early twentysomethings getting pelted with articles hating on millennials.