One of my favorite things about comics is the opportunity they provide for creators and readers to share and compare personal experiences. Granted, this is true of most media, but we’re focusing on comics here. Comics, along with other forms of artistic expression, allow people to articulate common experiences that others can relate to. They can also allow people to express their unique life experiences to people who don’t share them, allowing the reader to gain greater understanding of an author from a different background or worldview. Today I’m talking about a comic that I find does both those things for me: Molebashed.
I’ll note here that, though there is some continuity to Molebashed and some comics do follow others in forming storylines, this is not a narrative-driven comic and you don’t have to worry about spoilers or following it all from the very beginning in order to understand what’s going on. Feel free to jump in anywhere and read as much from different parts of the archive as you like.
Molebashed is an autobio, gag-a-day comic that shows us little scenes from the life of its author, Wes Molebash. The focus, particularly, is on his place in his family, as a father to his son, Parker, and a husband to his wife, Kari. Fatherhood especially takes center place in Molebashed, as the comic opens with Kari going into labor and, though not every installment deals directly with parenthood, that subject takes up the overwhelming majority of the run so far.
The way the author portrays his family sometimes feels quaint, in a way, like a relic from a less cynical time period. Very few families in contemporary popular media are as well-adjusted as the Molebashes appear from this representation. There are lots of reasons for that trend, but one can be attributed to lazy writing. As we all know, conflict drives stories, and in a dysfunctional family, conflict is all over the place, obvious and easy to insert into any given situation. Some people might even assume that a happy family full of people who love each other will contain no conflict at all. Those people, however, are not looking hard enough. Humans do not live lives free of conflict, regardless of how many things they do ‘right’ or what kind of cultural scripts they follow.
Often, Molebashed hits upon those little life experiences that tend to pass unnoticed and unremarked-upon, such that every individual who experiences it neglects to realize that there are other people experiencing the exact same thing. So far, many of those experiences that make it into this comic have to do with caring for babies, which is sensible given the subject matter. I’m not a parent, myself, but now that my siblings all have kids and I’ve spent time with my niece and my nephews as they grow up, I find that I relate to many of the jokes and stories that people tell about babies and young children. Before my first nephew was born, I could read those kinds of anecdotes and appreciate them. Now, I appreciate them in a slightly different way. It’s the difference between laughing at something that is amusing in an absurd way, and laughing at something because it’s amusingly familiar.
For those who are not parents and do not have any young children in your life, there are actually some installments of Molebashed that hit on common experiences that you don’t need to be around kids in order to relate to. For instance, take the following example of a comic distributed through the Internet, complaining about how these days media is distributed through the Internet.
|Seriously though I feel this one pretty strongly.|
The parts of Molebashed that I appreciate the most, though, are the ones I don’t directly relate to. At present I don’t have kids, and I may never have kids. I’m not married, and may never be. I’m not a religious or spiritually-oriented person. In other words, I’m a pretty different person from Wes Molebash, whose wife, son, and Christian faith are all clearly important to how he defines himself. And what makes him a notable cartoonist, to my mind, is the way he can articulate those aspects of himself in a manner that makes sense to me, someone with a pretty different personal history and identity than his.
Almost anyone can appeal to other people from their own and similar communities, can create artwork that sets those who come from your same world nodding their heads. It takes a great deal of insight, and a tremendous amount of skill in the act of communication, to reach out to someone from a totally disparate worldview and make them nod in agreement. And this is what Molebashed does to me… it shows me scenes and thoughts from a life I’ve never even considered to myself, and makes them seem perfectly sensible and accessible.
Now, I don’t like to describe comics in terms of negatives, because I find it far more useful and interesting to describe the traits a comic possesses than the ones it doesn’t possess. However, if someone described Molebashed to me there are a few assumptions I might make about it that would discourage me from checking it out, so I’ll list a couple of qualities that one might expect this sweet slice-of-life comic about a man and his family to have that it, thankfully, does not.
Molebashed doesn’t feel preachy or self-righteous. Though the author represents himself as the kind of person who genuinely tries to be a good person to the best of his ability, he doesn’t come off as if that makes him better than anybody else. There’s no arrogance, or any assumption that people who live their lives in different ways are doing something wrong.
Neither does Molebashed never get cloying or overly sappy. It’s sweet and optimistic, but not in a way that feels false or exaggerated. Rather, the whole comic rings of sincerity… this feels like an accurate representation of the author’s worldview, and that worldview is that life is pretty great, family is awesome, and being around loved ones is a fantastic way to spend one’s time.
Perhaps the reason Molebashed is great at presenting unfamiliar experiences to me in a way I can accept is that the author himself displays an open-minded willingness to accept unfamiliar experiences that might be presented to him. This goes along with that ‘life is pretty great’ viewpoint that I read in his work… there are a lot of diverse interests and experiences in life, and every one of them is deeply important to somebody.
A note on navigation: You have to click the buttons below the comic to move to earlier or later installments. Clicking the comic image itself just takes you to a page that displays the comic image, and only the comic image, with no navigation available aside from your browser’s Back button.
I love this comic not just because it’s sincere and optimistic and sweet, but because it brings a sense of self-awareness to those qualities. Molebashed represents life as a wonderful thing, and family as rewarding and fulfilling, but there’s an understanding of the negatives that come with life, as well. What’s more, there’s an understanding of the negative qualities present in the author himself. In fact, part of what stops Molebashed from feeling preachy is the way that it will lightheartedly poke fun at the author for getting into a preachy mode sometimes. The people represented in the comic feel humbler and more relatable because of the times they are represented as feeling self-righteous and better than those around them. Those are extremely human qualities… almost everyone has moments like that, and pointing them out and acknowledging them makes them seem far less significant, and certainly less harmful, than they would if they went unrecognized.
This isn’t just a comic that represents some of the best parts of being alive…. it’s a comic that does so while acknowledging and examining its own biases, and is all the better for it.
Molebashed is written and drawn by Wes Molebash, and it updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Parents will likely find a lot to love about it, but I think people like me who are not parents, including that subset of us who are dead set against ever becoming parents, will find a lot to love in it as well. This is really a comic about what it’s like to be a human… and since there is no one general human story that encompasses all our many stories and backgrounds and opinions, the way to reach that general story is through many smaller, specific stories. Molebashed happens to be the story of one man in particular, and he happens to be a father… and for that reason, Molebashed is about what it’s like to be a father. If you’re at all interested in people, consider giving it a read.