In Paradise, volume 1
to remember when I actually became aware of what we've all
come to know as "the Small Press." It's a stretch
really: I started reading Wizard somewhere in late
'90s, and while it was mostly a very large, and very colorful,
advertisement for the Big 2 back then (and pretty much nowadays
too, I stopped reading it but they did throw Dark Horse and
Image a bone here and there), it would spotlight some of the
lesser known companies once in a while. And I remember that
every Christmas, Wizard magazine would send out free
Christmas gift tags with comic book characters on them. One
that Wizard always had featured Katchoo and Francine
from Strangers In Paradise.
look at that long segue into a review. How do I do it folks?
The obvious answer is freebasing.
SIP was probably the first "Small Press"
title I ever became aware of, though no comic book store I
knew of carried it so reading it was never an option. So,
it was backlogged. I finally managed to grab a copy recently,
and now you get to share the experience, fellow fanpeople.
unfamiliar with Terry Moore's life-long work, Strangers
In Paradise is the story of life long friends Katchoo
and Francine as they navigate the roads of life, love and
has intimacy problems while Katchoo has the age-old plot device
of unrequited love
. for Francine.
the way, they meet up with David (who has something of a crush
on Katchoo, "love triangle" barely covers this trio),
and they ditch Francie's boyfriend Freddie, who is a demanding
both writes and illustrates the series (and we all know how
I love writer-artists) and publishes under his own label,
Abstract Studios, Inc.
has a writing style that seems at ease in any situation. He
can write an incredibly intimate yet ultimately uncomfortable
scene between Katchoo and Francine and have no problem switching
to outright humor or over-the-top violence. I've noticed something
interesting in the way he's set up his main characters: David,
Francine, and Katchoo are all fully realized individuals who
emote well, while everyone else is more or less a cliché
character played for comic relief.
further elaborates on this in his artwork, as he makes caricatures
of some of the background characters (the over-muscled-testosterone-laden
cop, the butch lesbian named "Debbie", the creepy
Peeping Tom neighbor, etc.) while he keeps his main three
characters grounded in a visual reality. All three always
maintain human features and rarely slip into a cartoon-like
visage. It's an interesting story-telling device that is the
singular ability of the writer-artist in the comic book medium.
also paces the book extremely well, and it's a good thing
considering the quick introduction we have to the characters,
amid several flashbacks and even a dream sequence. Moore gives
the reader time to get to know Francine and Katchoo just enough
to not reveal any secrets, but keep us reading and able to
empathize with both of them. And when I say "secrets"
I mean it: Katchoo has a shady past that is lurking just beneath
the surface, which raises lots of questions that inevitably
lead to more stories (ah, foreshadowing, if only more people
I'm not sure if my knowledge that there are more volumes and
more stories to read has clouded my judgment, but I'm looking
forward to grabbing a copy of the second volume, I Dream
will cost more than the first (which will only set you back
$8.95). I am now a fan, as I'm always glad to find a series
that has a) "Diversity"- which basically means that
hey, there are more than a bunch of white heterosexuals in
the world, and it's nice to see that comic book creators recognize
it (Moore came first, but Judd Winick has been catching a
lot of crap lately for his "My Brother's Keeper"
story arc on Green Lantern, and accusations that he
has a "gay agenda" in comics) and b) "Solid
Writing"- which is...solid
writing. Oh no, I've
lost my wit!
week faithful readers (all three of you).
always, the opinions expressed by Mr. Sparling are not necessarily
those of the editorial staff at Fanboy Planet. Especially
that assumption that he had a wit to lose. -- Editor