Molly Beans – From silly to story

Two years ago, after a decade long extended breather from the medium, I decided to begin drawing a direct to web political parody comic strip called Civil Servant Smith. After only a few months, it  was put on indefinite hiatus in late January/Early February.  Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of in the comic was this page, in which I depicted what I thought at the time would be exaggeratedly improbable behavior for a politician on social media.  Needless to say, just over a year later reality caught up with me, passed me, and lapped me several times.  So there’s that.  But all in all I realized I should probably simplify things a bit, and present a premise that was a bit more relatable than an irredeemably despicable politician, which, later on, became the lowest of low hanging fruit. 

So I started over with Molly Beans, with the goal of it being a simple slice of life comic primarily consisting of one shot office gags.  It didn’t take long before character and continuity started to take over, however hard I tried to keep things simple.  It wasn’t until then, though, that I really began to enjoy producing the strip.  I believed I had accidentally given myself a chance to do a little bit more than I initially planned, which was mainly to put a software engineer in silly situations.

While I continued to include gags and humor as best I could, my new goal was to represent a person whose qualities and virtues are prevalent in the types of people I admire most.  Let me add to that and say that while the main character is clearly a romanticized ideal, I believe her qualities exist in far greater quantities than most cynics would like to believe.  Call me an idealist, but in the aggregate, I don’t think we could have kept things together as long as we have if people like her were not quietly carrying things along, designing and building the things we use every day but have long since stopped noticing.

She is conscientious, dedicated, and devoted to her productive work.  She is eager to learn, and is open to new information and correction.  Each day, she strives to actualize the full potential of her reasoning mind, whether she succeeds or not.

Since the beginning of her adult life, she recognized a need in society and worked tirelessly to be able to fill it, casting even her educational future aside once she saw it as an impediment to, rather than a tool towards, that end.  She is not an engineer to prove a point or to assuage her ego; she is an engineer because she realized that it’s a valuable service people need, that it’s a service she enjoys performing, and that it’s a service she happens to be highly competent at.  This combination allows her to find her own individual happiness by improving the quality of life for others.  It’s a perpetual win-win situation, and is the basis for the ideal way in which a free society functions; because people like her make the most of every day, the rest of us continue to prosper and enjoy all the benefits of the modern world.

Then there is her motivation, her energy.  To Molly, her productive work is the source of her energy, not a drain upon it; she does not show up to work only to go through the motions until quitting time.  She is literally addicted to the moment a task is accomplished or a problem is solved, however big or small.

Over the course  of two hundred comics, I’ve had a chance to really explore what makes the young engineer tick, from depicting how she deals with immense failure and its consequences, her enthusiasm for practical creativity, and thus, life, and her determination to master any challenge, even if it is only a board game.  One of the biggest things, though, was the introduction of her romantic interest in Chuck Harris, the quietly stoic and ferociously competent sysadmin.

Who we are attracted to tells us almost everything we need to know about our own self image.  She sees tirelessly hardworking Chuck as the living embodiment of her own values, and, seeing as that she knows herself well enough, it was only natural that she found herself falling in love with him.  In so doing, she shows more explicitly who she is, both to herself and to anyone watching.  Chuck himself, though more hesitant to acknowledge it openly for reasons that will soon be explained, sees the very same things in her, and makes it clear that, sometimes, just knowing that someone like Molly exists is enough to get him through the day.

All in all, I’m glad I began to run a bit shy on ideas for one shot tech related gags.  I’m pleased with the result.

Thanks for reading.

You might want to check out the other thing I’ve done, Adobe Kroger, Knight Errant.  It tells a slightly different story about a slightly different kind of protagonist.  Here’s the trailer.