Molly Brooks spoke about science, her creative process, and the joy of writing and illustrating resourceful girl characters who wind up in some major kerfuffles.
Your titular characters get a little bit in over their heads as a result of a rather unorthodox scientific experiment. Were you interested in science as a kid?
I was definitely interested in science but more in the way Tallulah is than Sanity. Sanity likes the iterative hard work of it and using her knowledge to make things happen. For Tallulah, science is extremely cool and impressive but also a little mysterious, almost magical. I can’t manage the plausibility of true, hard sci-fi, but I can at least try to share the sense of wonder I had reading magazine articles about space, cloning, and solar power as a kid.
Do you tend to conceive of your characters first or is your work initially more concept driven?
Usually I like starting with a scenario and then populating it with characters. A few years ago, my friend Andrea Tsurumi and I made a collaborative science-fiction teen-girl-detectives zine for SPX. My story was about two friends who wander off into an asteroid field and find a robot-haunted shipwreck. By the time the zine was printed and stapled, the friends were pretty much the same characters that show up in the graphic novel. Now I’m just having fun coming up with ridiculous situations for them to get caught in.
How do you gauge whether a joke will hit the spot for readers?
When I’m going through drafts, I do my best to read with an outside eye and to be really aggressive about getting rid of lines and beats that don’t seem to be working. But I can never be sure whether a joke is actually funny until someone else reads it. That’s one of the great things about having an editor!
There haven’t always been girl characters like Sanity and Tallulah. Are you seeing more smart, female protagonists in sci-fi and comics these days?
I am! Looking back, I read a lot of great middle grade and YA books with female protagonists, but what I really loved was the out-there genre stuff with dragons and robots and time travel, and most of that centered around boys. I ended up reading a lot of magical girls manga and adult sci-fi/fantasy because there were more female characters to be found there. I’m glad that girls growing up these days have so many options for seeing themselves having adventures.