Molly and Poo has been numbered the sixteenth Strangers in Paradise trade paperback, but many readers do not see it as a significant part of the story, and the official SiP site places it separate from the chronological listing of titles. Issue #14 of the second series gave readers serious pause. In place of the familiar comic-book tale of Katchoo, Francine, and David, Terry Moore served up a twisted prose story decorated with original drawings and Victorian/Edwardian clip art. The issue offered no explanation for what it might be doing in Strangers in Paradise, though we later learn that the eponymous Molly (contemporary version) once dated Francine’s brother. Years later, Moore completed the story with a fragmented comic and a second decorated prose work. The former briefly features SiP regulars and the latter includes a few pages of comics.

Title: Molly & Poo (#14 of the second series, #46 and 49 of the third series)
Author: Terry Moore.
ISBN: 1-892597-32-2

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Premise:

A disturbed young woman named Molly Lane writes a story, possibly fictional, possibly inspired by a real-life Edwardian namesake. Bizarre sex games, twisted psychology, and foul murder all play a part—as does Jack the Ripper, because every comic set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries seems to involve Jack the Ripper.

Moore offers a solution to that mystery and to a more mundane one of his own: how could Francine and Katchoo have known each other since the seventh grade when they first met as high school seniors?

High Points

The psychology that underlies this story has a mind-warping plausibility. No matter how far-fetched the narrative twists became, I found myself drawn in.

I would have preferred more of the contemporary Molly Lane’s life. However, the scenes which depict her passage from disturbed teen to rejected writer to brutal killer demonstrate Moore’s skill at using the comic-book medium. Interesting though the Edwardian story was, the modern Molly proved a more compelling character.

Low Point

Terry Moore obviously depises Fox-style tabloid news, and I don’t blame him. However, in Molly & Poo, as in some other issues, his satire has been taken to a degree that fits uncomfortably with the story he’s telling. Of course, one must exaggerate this sort of coverage for us to know it is being satirized, and not merely represented.

The Scores

Originality: 6/6. This is nothing if not original. I’m left wondering if Moore was facing some serious deadline issues when he produced #14.

Artwork: 4/6. It’s hard to assess the artwork. Much of Molly & Poo consists of clip art and prose. The original Moore work which does appear features his deceptively simple, remarkably expressive drawings.

Story: 4/6. As it nears its conclusion, the story twists like a serpent swallowing its tail. The Edwardian Molly’s claim in the final issue doesn’t quite jibe with what we’ve seen before; Poo’s theory as to Jack’s identity makes more sense. However, the final twist better reflects the contemporary Molly’s mind. We’re deliberately left uncertain as to how much of the story the present-day Molly invented and, of course, Moore fabricated all of it. Molly and Poo works as a neo-postmodern metafictional commentary.

Characterization: 5/6. Much of this is fascinating, especially in its portrayal of some truly disturbed minds. The growth of the contemporary Molly, in issue two, has a power in the things at which it hints. Gaps in the story shortchange characterization in some instances.

Emotional response: 5/6

Flow 4/6 The first and last issues feature fairly good flow. The middle volume takes a fascinating, but fragmented look at a middle-class murderer.

Overall: 4/6

In total, Molly and Poo receives a score of 32/42.

Note

Q: Okay, okay! You’ve been rambling about continuity and Moore’s efforts at reconciling errors since you started reviewing Strangers in Paradise. I don’t read the series. How the heck can Moore justify early statements that the girls met in seventh grade when High School! indicates they met and befriended each other five years later?

A: Their brief appearance in Molly & Poo shows a young, presumably seventh-grade Francine interacting with her brother and a teenaged Molly Lane. A mysterious blonde girl, apparently Katina, slaps Francine’s butt while passing. The conversation makes it clear that the girls have never spoken directly (Francine yells after “that blonde girl”) and they don’t know each other’s names, but Katina has some odd, distant infatuation with Francine.

We have to fill in the rest. The Choovanskis have moved. At some point—- say, when she is in grade seven—- Katina briefly attends the same school as Francine. The girls have their first, passing encounters, but don’t actually meet each other. Soon after, Katina moves again.

Years later, the Choovanskis take the house under the powerlines. Francine and Katchoo meet, as depicted in issues #13 of the third series. Katchoo leaves town in #15, and the pair catch up nearly a decade later, shortly before issue #1 of the first series. At some point, they realize they knew each other back in grade seven, and thereafter occasionally joke about being friends since seventh grade.