I have long felt that any good online discussion of a comic book series requires at least two active participants... not just two people posting, but two actually reading along... one to provide "play-by-play" and the other "color commentary." Tracy and I have considered leading a "husband and wife" discussion for some time, but we never could get the timing right. I first alluded to it in 2008 (I remember specifically), but I didn't announce the series. At the time it would have been Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, but that topic has now expanded to all the titles in the SIP-verse. With 3 issues in volume one, 13 in two and 90 in three (volume three comprising eight parts itself), Strangers in Paradise would be ambitious enough, but we also hope to cover...

Echo - 30 issues

Rachel Rising - 42 issues

Motor Girl - 10 issues

Strangers in Paradise XXV - 10 issues

Five Years - 10 issues

Ever - 1 issue

Serial - 10 issues

We are approaching this with no set structure or timeframe involved. An issue at a time? A volume/series at a time? An issue a day? A volume/series/part a week? We don't know. All we know right now is that we plan to start with SIP v1 (the original three-issue limited series) sometime this weekend. the more people who participate the better the discussion is, so we invite as many of you to participate as possible, whether you read along with us or not. 

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The only Terry Moore I've ever read:

Off-topic, but I found this while I was looking for the other thing:

I have a few of the early trades. It was a series I really liked initially, but I lost interest when it started straying into secret agent territory. Had Moore kept it as a slice of life sort of thing, I probably would have stayed with it. 

A few months ago I was in Pittsburgh doing the background acting thing and stopped in at a comics shop* and dug into the cheap back issues bin** and found an issue of SIP Kids. It's kind of like a Muppet Babies version of Strangers in Paradise, with all the characters as elementary school pupils about 6 years or so old.

It was odd, seeing all these angsty characters from Strangers in Paradise proper as angsty kids, like the angsty kids in Peanuts. Indeed, Terry Moore rendered the stories in a faux Charles Schulz style.

Will that series also be under discussion?

* How could I visit another city and not stop in at a comics shop?

** How could I visit another comics shop and not dig into the cheap back issues bin?

Randy Jackson said:

I have a few of the early trades. It was a series I really liked initially, but I lost interest when it started straying into secret agent territory. Had Moore kept it as a slice of life sort of thing, I probably would have stayed with it. 

That's my story, exactly. I have two trades that collect the earliest stories, and the whole unrequited romance between Francine and Katchoo was endlessly fascinating to me. Less fascinating was the unrequited romance between David and Katchoo, but it was still worth reading. Even less so was Francine's cheating boyfriend, who had a bad case of "I don't want her but I don't want anybody else to be with her," but, hey, some people just can't break away from a partner or an ex who is no good for them, so I kept reading that, too.

But the eeeeEEEEVilll government conspiracy stuff? 

I am looking forward to reading it again with two decades of more experience and awareness of the world. 

"The only Terry Moore I've ever read"

There are 14 issues of Paradise, Too! Terry Moore is really a frustrated cartoonist. Paradise, Too! documents all of his rejected comic strip submissions (14 issues worth!) with copious comments. We we're planning to discuss this series, but the back pages of the collection of SIP v1 presents a sampling and I was planning to mention it then. (I don't know how much else I'll have to say about it, so this may have to do.)

"It was a series I really liked initially, but I lost interest when it started straying into secret agent territory."

That was the point at which I started to lose the thread of the story on a month-to-month basis, and I've never re-read it since. I'm looking forward to doing so in a sizable chunks. 

"I... found an issue of SIP Kids."

SIP Kids was a four-issue limited series from 2014.

"It was odd, seeing all these angsty characters from Strangers in Paradise proper as angsty kids, like the angsty kids in Peanuts. Indeed, Terry Moore rendered the stories in a faux Charles Schulz style."

Charles Schulz was a HUGE influence on Terry Moore's work. Moore was one of 40 artists who contibuted work to kaboom!'s 2015 book PEANUTS: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz.

"Will that series also be under discussion?"

If there's an interest in it, you bet! 

"I have a few of the early trades."

"I have two trades that collect the earliest stories"

Drag 'em out... you're invited!

This is one of those series I thought would be right up my alley. I worked a convention with Terry Moore and his wife at a convention for the Hero Initiative, and bought the first trade there. It just didn't do anything for me.

But I do want to end on a positive note. At that con, they were both soooo nice. One of the other volunteers was going to take them to dinner on Saturday night. His wife even asked me if I was going. I told her I wasn't invited, and she said, "Well, you are now!" Unfortunately, I had already made plans so I wasn't able to attend. There are just great!

"They were both soooo nice."

They are. We've met Terry twice, Robin once, and once he sent me a postcard. I'll tell all those stories in due time.

"...and bought the first trade"

Do you mean the very first trade of the first three-issue series? SIP gets a lot better than that. 

As I've written elsewhere, I really enjoyed it... until the plots started playing like proto-QAnon and Moore's once-seamless continuity started making Silver Age DC seem like a coherent epic. It's too bad because, when SiP works, it really works.

I hung onto some of the trades and a few issues, which can be assembled into the "JD" edit of the story.

Oddly enough, I started with the High School! trade, which seems to have been a way of taking the story back to its origins, literally, after it wandered into secret agent/super-conspiracy territory. It's really quite good.

Randy Jackson said:

I have a few of the early trades. It was a series I really liked initially, but I lost interest when it started straying into secret agent territory. Had Moore kept it as a slice of life sort of thing, I probably would have stayed with it. 

SIP VOLUME ONE:

"My life is scribbling and scratching and half finished pages at dawn. If anything, I've learned you can't always go home... you can't always be warm inside. That without love, we're never more than strangers in paradise!"

Back in the '90s I had a roommate named Randal. Randal is the biggest Legion of Super-Heroes fan I know, and he also introduced me to Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, and Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, which is what I'm here to talk about today. The series was pretty new at the time, and he loaned me the first three or four issues of volume two, and I was hooked. I don't know if he had volume one or had even read it; it was some time before I acquired the first trade and read it myself.

Skip ahead a few years to 2001. Tracy and I had flown to Texas from Missouri for a long weekend of house-hunting. We were pressed for time because we had only three days to find a house, and we had a party to attend Friday night. As it turned out, we put a contract on our first house together on Saturday morning, then the rest of the weekend was our own. At that time, the Comics Buyer's Guide was running a regular featured called "Retailer Reviews" in which six retailers from across the country were supplied with the same set of comics to review.

Whenever I travelled to one of those cities, I made it a point to stop in that shop and meet the owner. One of the shops on the list was Titan Comics in Dallas, TX, so we decided to stop in Saturday afternoon. Quite by chance, Terry Moore was there that day doing a signing (but no sketches). Coincidentally, we had a hardcover copy of Strangers in Paradise, Volume Three, Part One for Tracy to read on the plane. When he heard our story he didn't draw a sketch per se, but he did draw two stick figures standing in front of a house (with a magic marker) and wrote a personal message.

That was the first time we met Terry Moore, and that little doodle remains one of my favorites we have ever received from an artist. But the topic for today is Volume One.

SUMMARY: Katchoo (Katina Choovanski) and Francine (Peters) met in high school. The story opens the night of the big school play, 10 years ago. [The fictitious play Strangers in Paradise (quoted above) is a take-off on Lost Horizons.] Flashforward to the present. Katchoo and Francine are 26 years old and are roommates. Francine suffers from low self esteem and had bounced from one bad relationship to the next. Katchoo is clearly in love with Francine, but she doesn't know it. Currently Francine has been going with Freddie Femur for a year, but they haven't had sex yet because she's afraid that if they do he will dump her. 

Things come to a head on the morning of their one year dating anniversary. They have an argument and Freddie storms off, breaking their date for that night. Katchoo makes a pass a Francine, but she pulls away. The next day, Katchoo meets David (Qin) in an art museum and allows him to buy her a cup of coffee. (Katchoo is an artist.) They strike up a friendship. Meanwhile, Francine surprises Freddie in his office but catches him in a tryst with a co-worker. 

The next day, Freddie meets Francine in the park to break up with her. She has a melt-down and strips off all her clothes. David is visiting Katchoo at home while she paints, when Francine, still naked, crashes her car in the driveway. and is knocked unconscious. David carries her inside and watches over her while Katchoo goes to have revenge on Freddie. I'll leave that to your imagination, but Freddie ends up pressing charges. Katchoo is arrested by Detective Mike Walsh (who will play a larger role in the story later on). With the assistance of Freddy's former secretary, Francine breaks into his office and blackmails him into dropping the charges against Katchoo.

COMMENTARY: In one way, Strangers in Paradise is the story of two best friends: Katchoo and Francine; in another, it's the story of three: Katchoo, Francine and David. Freddie Femur remains part of this inner circle, and we'll meet yet another in volume two. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes (especially concerning David, as we will learn much later), but I'm reluctant to get ahead of the story as it's being told. The art is much more cartoony in volume one than it would become, and the humor is much more broad, bordering on the burlesque. It's a good introduction to the main characters.

TRIVIA: Yesterday I referred to Terry Moore as a "failed cartoonist" but I don't think those cartoon samples were "rejected" by anyone but himself. The characters of SIP sprang from his comic strips.

  • Katchoo was originally a wood nymph in one of his strips from the '80s.
  • The first scene he wrote for SIP was of Francine stripping in the park; the rest of the story was built around it.
  • The title of the series comes from a Tony Bennett song.
  • SIP was the first comic book Terry ever drew and the first Antarctic press ever published.
  • He completely redrew the first issue just prior to publication.
  • the first issue sold 2300 copies. 

As Jeff said, I was reading SIP for the first time in 2001. This will be the second time through for me although I've read the later Terry Moore comics as they were released. 

SIP VOLUME ONE:

I am much more uncomfortable with the violence against men and women this time through. Although it was disturbing during the first reading, I was busy absorbing the characters and their personalities. They are all familiar to me now and I can see their flaws* more clearly. 

They are scarred, desperate, immature, and unable to see their own value.

*I don't necessarily mean this negatively. Scars are usually not the fault of the person who wears them. Immaturity can be overcome with time and experience. Mostly, these characteristics are what give depth and progress the story. 

I have to agree with Tracy about the violence. I know Moore was exaggerating things but I wasn't the slightest bit surprised when Katchoo was arrested and probably deservedly so.

I wasn't a fan of the cop molesting Kat hoo, namely because I didn't think it added anything to the story and felt a bit cliché. 

We are given the impression that Francine gas absolutely terrible taste in men, so her relationship with Freddy was no surprise. 

David seems nice--perhaps too nice. It makes me wonder what he's hiding (I haven't read these comics in a very long time, so I don't remember everything that happens). 

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