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.
I may have to review my reviews of the entire series, which I have not read since I posted them. As I said, when it was good, it was really good. And....
But even from the start, we had comic-book exaggerations. They were in genre, as I read it.
SIP VOLUME TWO:
If I'm going to do summaries, I may have to post an issue at a time, then tie it all together in a single commentary at the end of each volume and let Tracy catch up as she may. Early on new and important characters are introduced nearly every issue. Before I start, I should say something about the music. The first issue also features the music of the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane and Bjork, as well as an original song by Terry Moore which gives the first tpb its name: "I Dream of You." (Moore wrote most of the original music that appears in SiP before he was 25 years old.) At one point, Katchoo sits at the piano and plays the song and the handwritten sheet music is incorporated into the art. As to who wrote the song within the context of the story, that remains to be seen.
There is so much music in this series that at one point Moore published a "SiP Lyrics & Poems" special.
ISSUE #1: This is where I came in. At the time I read the first issue, I don't remember whether I was aware there had been a previous three-issue series or not. It doesn't really matter. The mini-series introduced the characters, but v2 #1 is a perfect jumping on point. Katchoo is returning home after an impromptu trip to Toronto which lasted for two-months. She is met at the airport by Francine and David, and a private detective named Digman reports her whereabout to a woman named "Mrs. Parker."
In the time Katchoo has been away, Francine has broken her arm skatebaording and has been overeating to the point her old clothes no longer fit. Katchoo is reluctant to say why she left other than to visit "a friend." A flashback shows Katchoo and "Emma" as high-priced call girls. (Speaking of summaries, I should have mentioned last time that, when the police ran Katchoo's records, it was revealed she has a record with the FBI.) Terry Moore throws more little "jokes" into the background as Will Elder.
New Character: Darcy Parker. So far we don't know much about her other than that she's rich and powerful and has Katchoo under surveillance.
The simple design of this cover makes it one of Terry Moore's most popular. (He stole the lamppost from Gerhard.) The splash page is the same scene after Katchoo has left, leaving an impression in the snow. The splash also contains an original poem.
The story itself opens with an idyllic dream sequence (that later turns to nightmare) set to Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me." Katchoo awakens and destroys her alarm clock. (She has a comic thing with alarm clocks dating back to v1.) Francine is making a "milkshake" by pouring milk and chocolate syrup directly into a gallon tub of ice cream. She's hurt that Katchoo won't tell her the reason for her trip to Canada.
Darcy Parker phones Digman from poolside. He is parked in a van across the street from Katchoo and Francine's house. Darcy has a bodyguard who picks off a hummingbird with a .45 at Darcy's instruction.
Later, David asks Katchoo to meet him at the local art gallery. While she was away, David arranged a show of Katchoo's work without her knowledge or permission. She runs outside into the park, upset. Her mood is somehow tied to her trip. She confides to David that, when she was in school, her mother was on Prozac and her father raped her when she was 15. After that, she left school and ended up a homeless alcoholic on the streets of L.A. who would do anything for money. It was Emma, a high-priced prostitute, who saved her from this life. Katchoo became a prostitute, too, and lived with Emma for two years. When Emma went home to Toronto, Katchoo returned to Texas. It was Emma, in a hspice dying of AIDS, who Katchoo went to Canada to see. Francine knows none of this and Katchoo is afraid to tell her.
New Character: Tambi (Darcy's bodyguard). She has a twin sister named Bambi.
ISSUE #3: Begins with a poem which sets the theme of the issue. Katchoo has a "Bill the Cat" alarm clock. (I forgot to mention the Elder-esque jokes last time, such as "Nappy-Time Wine" in Francine and Katchoo's fridge.) Katchoo reminisces about Emma. David arrives with breakfast and tells Katchoo that he loves her. She slaps him, then plays through a number of emotions be fore she finally reveals some more details about her past. She's not a lesbian, exactly... she just doesn't like men. She wasn't a hooker, she was a call girl with only two exclusive clients... both women.
Francine gets the news that her mother is coming for a visit. Katchoo gets the news that Emma is dying. she flies back to Toronto, but this time David and Francine follow her. Katchoo is with Emma as she dies. They recall a song they wrote together and, as the snow outside begins to fall, Emma passes away.
Moore reworked this cover a number of times from various interior angles. It wasn't until he moved outside looking in, unable to help, that he found the one that worked.
After the emotional intensity of the previous issue, Moore was going for a totally different vibe here. I think he succeeded.
This issue is mainly light-hearted, bookended by scenes of violence. Francine's mother, Marie, and her Uncle Maury fly in from Nashville for a visit. there's one joke about Maury: he's a lush. (Alcoholism is no longer funny, but I guess it was back then...?) Francine's mother is played strictly as comic relief at this point, but she becomes a fully three-dimensional character later in the series. (Her yippy little dog, Muffins, is modeled after Terry's neurotic Shih Tzu, Misha.) Francine's brother, Benjamin, is mentioned, as is his girlfriend, Molly Lane. (I can't believe how early this particular character is foreshadowed.) Aunt Libby is also mentioned.
At the beginning of the issue, Tambi beats up Digman. At the end, Mrs. Parker herself arrives on the scene.
New Characters: Marie Peters and Uncle Maury. Also Mrs. Parker's chauffeur, Veronica Bouedaue. Although she appears in only four panels and speaks only five words ("Good evening, ma'am" and "Yes, ma'am"), keep an eye on this one.
ISSUE #5: The issue begins with one of Katchoo's highly metaphorical dreams and another alarm clock sequence. the dream was so upsetting to her she calls David. Cameos this issue include Bjork (again) and Dave Sim's Elrod the albino. I think this is the first time we see a tattoo of a lily on Katchoo's left breast. In the supermarket, Francine bumps into Freddie and Casey, his fiancée. They have plans to get married in Hawaii, on the island of Maui, in a town called Hana. Coincidentally (?), this town was also in Katchoo's dream. They plan to get married naked, beneath a waterfall. (Being naked was Frddie's idea, as you might guess.) Casey is an aerobics instructor and offers to help Francine with her weight problem.
Detective Walsh reenters the story as he is called to the hospital to investigate a John Doe who has been beaten nearly to death. Walsh recognizes him as a former police officer named Wayne Digman, the same officer who attempted to molest Katchoo in her jail cell in v1. Digman's injuries show he was assaulted in the same manner Katchoo did, so she's now a suspect. (I forgot to mention before, too, that her FBI file is locked.)
New Character: Casey Bullocks. The first time I read this series I didn't pay too much attention to Casey because I thought she was just Freddie's rebound fling. While she is that, it took me a while to realize that she was around to stay. Although here she's just a caricature, she eventually becomes a fully rounded character.
I'd better stop here for the day. I don't want to get too far ahead of Tracy.
"...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.
I have the paperback size trade. It has the 3 issues of volume 1, and then issues 1-13 of volume 2.
Tracy's pretty busy right now and will catch up this weekend if not sooner.
ISSUE #6: Begins with a flashback to four years ago: Mrs. Parker receives a report of how Katina ditched her in Hawaii. Next, the Peanuts-style "SiP Kids" make their first appearance in one of Francine's dreams. (Can Francine be in love with David?) She is supposed to meet them both at the mall for lunch but, as she's leaving, the police arrive with a search warrant. The detective in charge tells Francine about Katchoo's FBI record: prostitution, drugs, embezzlement. (That's a new one.)
Mrs. Parker receives news from one of her "girls" that Katchoo is "hot"; the police are searching her apartment and Tambi is trailing her at the mall. Darcy orders Tambi to pick her up because she "worth too much money" to be picked up by the police. The underling relays the message, but she and Tambi appear to be working against their boss as the one tells Tambi that they can't let Darcy and Katchoo meet face to face.
At the mall, Katchoo confides to David that the last time she had a good night's sleep was four years ago, in Hawaii. Then she spots Tambi. She sends David ahead to the restaurant and ducks into the dressing rooms. Tambi follows and kicks the door in only to find her gone.
ISSUE #7: I forgot to mention that last issue began with the lyrics of sting's "Fragile"; this issues begins with King Crimson's "I Talk to the Wind." Detective Walsh is called to the hospital; Wayne Digman has regained consciousness. It is now the night of the same day Katchoo went missing. David and Francine are hoping to hear from her. David tells Francine that Katchoo is not gay, but that she is in love... with Francine. David begins to confide in Francine what he knows about Katchoo and Emma and himself, but we don't know exactly what he tells her.
Mrs. Parker's aide, Samantha, breaks the news that Digman survived and Katchoo escaped. Darcy takes her displeasure out on Samantha and orders that Digman be killed. Katchoo absconded with $850,000 of Parker's money. At this point, the story switches to prose: four pages of illustrated text detailing Walsh's visit with Digman in the hospital. He has been beaten by an expert; all of his most serious injuries are internal. From hair in his hand and other evidence, it has been determined that his assailant was a woman with bleach blonde brunette hair. Digman names Mrs. Parker and tells him there's a file on her on his desk at home.
Just then, a nurse built like a bodybuilder shoos Walsh out of the room. Too late, Walsh realizes that that was who put Digman in the hospital. He races back to the room but it's too late: Digman is dead and the "nurse" is gone. Katchoo is no longer a suspect at this point, but she's still in danger from Mrs. Parker. Katchoo calls home and talks to Francine. They bring each other up to speed, and Francine seems to know all about her past at this point, even that she was once called "Baby June." When Francine tells her that David told her all these things (which are true), Katchoo realizes that David must be tied in with the Parker gang because he told Francine details of Katchoo's past that she never told him. Just then, a limousine pulls up outside and David begins to move menacingly toward her.
ISSUE #8: This issue begins with the lyrics to a song written by a character we have not met yet. Speaking of which, I let something slip in a previous summary we're not supposed to know yet. I am going to proceed as if nothing happened and hope no one notices. Similarly, I'm going to stop mentioning poems and song lyrics going forward unless they have direct bearing on the story. Just assume that music plays a part in most issues.
Samantha and Tambi are holding Francine and David at gunpoint. Still on the phone, Katchoo agrees to meet them and Darcy Parker. Samantha accuses Katchoo of breaking their deal: that Katchoo and Emma would disappear and Sam wouldn't kill them. When Katchoo sued Wayne Digman for sexual assault, he gained access to her FBI files. It was Digman who ratted Katchoo out to Parker in the first place. All the while, the lyrics of "I Dream of You" are "playing" across the bottom of the page.
Meanwhile, Walsh is reading Digman's file on Mrs. Parker. Four years ago, Senator Chalmers had a seizure while having sex with two prostitutes in Parker's mansion. Afterwards, $850,000 in campaign funds were discovered missing and the two prostitutes were gone. We recognize the name "Chalmers" from last issue; he had something to do with Katchoo's escape from Mrs. Parker in Hawaii. (I don't think that scene happened four years ago, though; I think Katchoo ran away four years ago, but Parker was only just finding out about Chalmers' involvement.) Senator Chalmers was found dead about a week ago.
Katchoo arrives at the rendezvous and claims she didn't take the money. When Mrs. Parker asks her who did, Katchoo glances quickly at Samantha, but Darcy doesn't catch it. (Tambi has a lily tattoo on her arm, BTW.) Earlier in the issue, Walsh learned from the FBI file that Darcy's full name is Mrs. Qin-Parker. If that didn't clue readers in, Darcy chooses this moment to bring in her brother from the other room, David Qin. David has told his sister that Katchoo doesn't have the money and Darcy believes him. She asks again who took the money and Katchoo again looks Sam's way, but this time Darcy catches it.
Suddenly, everything falls into place for Darcy! Samantha took the money and framed Katchoo and Emma. Sam pulls a gun but Walsh is monitoring from outside. The police break in and shoot Sam (through the head), and Tambi shoots Katchoo. On the way to the hospital, Katchoo hallucinates that Emma is talking to her.
ISSUE #9: "Chewie" (Katchoo) dreams of Emma in Hawaii and wakes up in the hospital with Francine by her bedside. A few days later Walsh stops by for a visit and we learn that Katchoo was wearing a wire when she went in to meet with Darcy. It is also in this issue we learn that Tambi has a twin sister named Bambi, and it was actually Bambi who abducted Francine and killed Digman. (The part about the twin was what I let slip too early and I didn't remember when it was actually revealed.) Bambi, who was also shot in the raid, is upstairs and is to be indicted for the murder of Wayne Digman. Mrs. Parker has been under FBI investigation for eight years. there will also be an investigation into this matter, but she's rich enough she will probably walk, Walsh surmises. He also has had Katchoo's name purged from all FBI files, but Katchoo and Bamabi did use the same technique on Digman. The question hangs in the air about what really goes on in Parker's organization.
Then the story switches to illustrated text for the next five pages. Freddie is having lunch with his friend Chuck. Freddie has learned that Casey has had some "work" done: two nose jobs, her chin, her lips and breast enlargements. Chuck confides that he used to date Francine. He still has her bikini from a trip ti Cancun and, now that Freddie has broken up with her, he admits that he's still a little bit in love with her. It was Francine who dumped Chuck... when she met Freddie. Also he is engaged to be married to Casey, Freddie is obviously still obsessed with Francine.
NOTE that the statue gazing stonily on the scene as Freddie re-enters Francine's life on this symbolic cover is Katchoo.
Katchoo is about to be released from the hospital. She is about to tell Francine something about the money, but they are interrupted by David, who is met with icy silence from both of them. He tries to explain that he doesn't work for his sister, he just did her a favor when she showed him Katchoo's picture. He took a year off from art school in New York, but now he's returning. He leaves a gift for her on the bed. After he has gone, Katchoo opens it. It is a picture of the beach house when she and Emma stayed while they were in Hawaii. A note on the back of the photo explains that Darcy asked David what he wanted for doing her a favor, and he asked for the beach house, which he has now given to Katchoo as a gift.
Final twist: Francine suggests they take a vacation to Hawaii and Katchoo agrees... as long as they stop by Zurich on the way. Katchoo actually did steal the money and opened a Swiss bank account in Samantha's name to frame her for it. Samantha had been embezzling from Parker for years, and Katchoo simply hid her $850,000 in the eye of that hurricane. As they drive away from the hospital, Bambi (or is it Tambi?) looks on.
That's a good place to stop for the day. I'm trying not to read just comic books, but this project really eats into the ol' time, y'know?
ISSUES #10-13: Freddie becomes increasingly obsessed with Francine, leaving her countless messages she refuses to return. Ftrancine and Katchoo are evicted from their rental. (Despite having $850,000 in a Swiss bank account, they can't get at it.) Francine's friend Margie offers to let them stay in the apartment above her garage. Katchoo feels as if she might be falling in love with David. Katchoo and francine share their first romantic kiss when David unexpectedly arrives. He and Katchoo have a long conversation in the rain during which she punches him slaps him and hugs him. They end up staying up all night together talking. This confuses Francine.
Meanwhile, Freddie contacts Chuck and tells him that he has gotten back together with Francine and that she would like her bikini and the pictures he took in Cancun back. Chuck is now living with a woman named Rachel. Their relationship is a little... odd. Freddie then stalks Francine at work. He tells her he loves her and she slaps him in the face. He almost hits her, but instead gives her an airline ticket to his destination wedding in Hawaii.
A flashback reveals that David first met Katchoo, not in the art gallery as shown in v1, but at Darcy's mansion on the night Katchoo stole the money from Senator Chalmers. (She doesn't remember because she was too drunk.) The money she stole was an illegal campaign contribution financed by the mob. David asks Darcy about the Lily tattoo on her calf. she says that's her "brand," and she puts it on everything she owns.
When Katchoo and David find Francine's not that she has flown to Hawaii to attend Freddie and Casey's wedding, they follow her.[After appearing in clock faces, cereal boxes and VCR tapes, Bjork makes a cameo appearance (as a nine year-old girl) kicking the back of David's airplane seat.] In their hotel room, David sees his sister "brand" tattooed above Katchoo's heart. They catch up to her at the ceremony itself.
On another thread yesterday we were talking about the concept of "romantic weddings," whether or not such things exist. Freddie and Casey have certainly chosen a romantic location, but the ceremony itself is a farce. The bride and groom are standing naked in a pool beneath a waterfall, but the water is freezing and the minister is obnoxious. Freddie leaves the pool to chase after Francine, which is when Katchoo intervenes, using the same nose-hold she (and Bambi) used on Wayne Digman.
Francine went to the wedding only for some closure and didn't even intend to be seen by Freddie. Now that she has been reunited with Katchoo and David, they all decide to go back home. Kevin Smith once said, "When people say romance comics are dead, O shove a SiP graphic novel into their hands,"
END OF VOLUME TWO