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.
The scene with the little boy and his stuffed gorilla tore me up. I have been working with more veterans in the past few years and Moore treated this ugly flashback with the respect it deserved. No wonder her companion is Mike the gorilla.
ISSUE #9: This is begins with a three-page cartoony sequence which ends up being a story Mike is telling Sam in a bar. To the other customers, Sam is sitting at the bar talking to an empty stool. "What's her problem?" one of the patrons asks the bartender. "Sam?" he replies. "She did three tours in Iraq. Captured, tortured, survived two bomb attacks. If she want to come in here and yell at the back wall, I say yes ma'am, thank you for your service and would you like a beer for your 'friend'?" Whenever she's not drinking, Sam has a habit of keeping her thumb in the bottle's neck to keep out the flies. Also, when she burps, Mike burps. It's cute.
Libby returns from the ladies room and they have a long talk about Sam's experiences in the war and the treatment she refuses to get. I'm not going to transcribe the whole thing and I won't do it the injustice of summarizing it, but you know where to find it if you're interested. It ends with Sam stalking outside and getting into an argument with Mike (which I will transcribe)
SAM: "I don't need any help! Okay? I carry my own load! No one has to help me! I help tham! I'm the strongest person in the room! that's how it works!"
SAM: Dam straight!
MIKE: Then why am I hear?
She looks him right in the eye but, from Libby's perspective when she joins her outside, she's just starring out into space.
Back in Walden's camp, Vic and Larry prepare to liberate Bik. It's another cartoony scene, but Larry does manage to free him from the plexiglass box they're detaining him in. Meanwhile, Sam and Libby return home to find the damage inflicted by Walden's paid soldier. By the shells left behind (223 Remingtons), Sam is able to identify the ordinance as AR-15s (I said AK-47s, but what do I know?) They rush over to Walden's encampment only to discover that Vic, Larry and Bik have been captured. Sam makes pretty short work of the hired guns with a punch to the throat and a punch to the face.
while Walden is ranting, a whole fleet of alien saucers arrives.
Once I had more of the whole picture, three tours, survivor of two bombings, and her capture and torture, Sam became very real to me. I separated her from the other characters drawn by Moore. She is probably my favorite because of that.
Okay, before I go any further I have something to say. If you have been reading along with these summaries but have not read Motor Girl and think you might like to later, please stop reading now.
ISSUE #10: The saucers attack. They fire their disintegration rays. Sam gets her friends to cover. Walden adopts a messiah complex and becaomes God and Patton wrapped up in one. The NP-2 takes out a ship which crashes right on top of Walden, but then rises into the air again. From below he can be seen lashed to the ship like Ahab to the whale. (The tissue of his lower leg has even been stripped away, leaving only bone, like a peg leg.) All of the ships fly off except one, which lands for Bik. Before he leaves, he rushes back to Sam.
CLOSE-UP on Sam's eyes as they tear up. The spaceships become helicopters, the aliens become soldiers, and "Bik" becomes a Marine running toward her.
MARINE: Sgt. Locklear?
SAM: Yes. Where are we?
MARINE: BIK, Iran, ma'am.
The little boy who gave her the gorilla is hugging her waist. She looks down to see the alien Bik. He runs off the the helicopter. Inside is her father, shouting, "Sam! Let's go!" She is confused and calls for Mike, who suddenly appears. She seems to see fireworks in her mind's eye. She hears a voice from far off: "Sam? Sam, can you hear me? Your brain's bleeding. they have to get the shrapnel out right now. So you're going into surgery, okay? They're going to get you all fixed up." But she's afraid she'll lose Mike. He says, "Sam, you need this. It's time to let me go."
"What? No!" she protests. Mike, listen... I promised the boy I'd protect you. He trusted me!"
"He wasn't asking you to save me, Sam," Mike replies. "He wanted me to save you. But this is as far as I can go. the rest is up to you."
Sam wakes up in a hospital bed and starts to cry.
Weeks pass. She's moving out of the junkyard to go visit her mom. She thanks Libby for saving her life, but Libby protests that all she did was call the ambulance. "Well, I knew sometnhing wasn't right when I came to tell you I had an offer on this place. You were slurring your words and talking to the chair. I thought you were having a stroke. Then you fell to the floor and lights out!"
"Wow. That's not how I remember it at all."
As she drives away in her beat-up Ford pickup, a little stuffed gorilla is seat-belted in at her side.
I hope no one thinks this ending is a cop-out. The presentation of this last issue as Sam was succumbing to the tumor was quite effective. All of the backstory was "real", although most of the series itself was a tumor-induced hallucination. In any case, we haven't seen the last of Samantha Locklear (or Mike for that matter). As with Rachel Rising, Terry Moore leaves the final issue with a cover portrait of the main character.
It was a wonderful ending. Well done, Moore!
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?
Back when I first started this discussion, ClarkKent_DC asked whether or not I planned to include SIP Kids in this discussion. I hadn't planned to at first (because it's not part of the SIP-verse proper), but I decided to include it as long as there was an interest. [I don't know if Kelvin is still following (he hasn't posted since then), but if not, perhaps the changed topic line will lure him back.] The question was, where to place it?
SIP Kids was originally released in 2014 smack in the middle of Rachel Rising. I've been dealing with these series chronologically, but I didn't want to mess up the flow of Rachel Rising, and I didn't really want to put it before Motor Girl, either. As with the two arcs of Rachel Rising (in which Moore first introduced his characters then proceeded with the story he wanted to tell), so too does Motor Girl present the last in a string of seemingly (mostly) unrelated series which he will now weave together going forward. IOW, now that he has put the pieces on the table, he's ready to play the game. Another good reason to deal with SIP Kids at this time is because the next series is Strangers in Paradise XXV, the 25th anniversary series.
As Kelvin pointed out, the series is rendered in "a faux Charles Schulz style." I would argue there's a lot of Bill Waterson in there as well, plus occasional flashes of Lynn Johnston and Matt Groening. Each of the four issues is built around a theme: soccer, snowboarding, track and filed at school (segueing into a birthday party) and Hallowe'en. Many of the characters have their own Peanuts antecedents. David is clearly Linus; Katchoo is Peppermint Patty; Darcy is Lucy; Tambi is Snoopy (at least in one scene); and so on.
Two of my favorite gas are from the first issue (although the pacing and comedic timing shine throughout). First, when Freddie is stunned by a soccer ball, he sees a vision of the future Francine and Katchoo (rendered in Moore's usual style), and second, all along the team has been gearing up to play the Katy Kupcakes, but their SUV broke down and the Rachel Rising cast makes a cameo appearance as the Manson Maulers (doing an "action hero walk-on").
Back on February 11, I mentioned Terry Moore's contribution to Kaboom's 2015 book PEANUTS: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz. Not only did he contribute artwork, but he also had the following to say...
"Charles Schulz was my hero. For me, he was the very definition of a cartoonist in every aspect, from work to lifestyle. His strong personal ethic made an indelible impression on me. But i echo many cartoonists today when I say the most powerful influence he had on me was 'world building'--my words, not his. Peanuts was a fully formed world, and a place you'd rather be. that's a magic I've spent my career trying to reproduce.
"the last time I saw Charles Schulz was December 14, 1999. 'the today Show' aired his final interview and Schulz described his regret over never letting Charlie Brown kick that football. 'What a dirty trick,' he said with tears in his eyes. Two month later, my hero passed away. His final strip appeared the next day. Schulz was a master of timing.
"Fifteen years pass and I am invited to contribute to this anthology. 'Any ideas?' says the e-mail. 'YES!' I reply. 'Can I have dibs on the football gag?" (tense wait for reply) 'I CAN?1 THANK YOU! I know EXACTLY what I want to do!'
"This is for Sparky."
I chose not to read SIP KIDS. We are ready to move on to Strangers in Paradise XXV but I've been incredibly busy with work and tax season. I will try to start reading this tonight so we get the discussion going again.
It's all downhill from here (and I mean that in terms of quantity, not quality). There are just three more ten-issue series and a one-shot left to go, so it is possible to finish this discussion by the end of the weekend. But, speaking as someone who summarized an entire series in a single day last Sunday, let me tell you ten-issues a day is a killer pace.
STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV:
Issue #1 was offered in it's entirety as a FCBD offering in 2014. I actually prefer the coloring of the free issue, but it has a big blank spot for the store to stamp its address, so I posted the main cover above. As the story opens, a man is riding a subway. He checks his phone, puts it in his pocket. There is a kid standing next to him. The train comes to a stop and he steps off. Randomly putting his hand into his coat pocket and realizes his phone is gone. The kid who was standing next to him is halfway up the escalator looking back. The man gives chase. The kid runs down a long hallway and tosses the phone to another kid who runs up a stairway to street level. The stairs emerge in a mall, and the second kid tosses the phone off a walkway to a blonde woman (Katchoo) waiting below. The man looks on helplessly as the woman looks him in the eye, removes the sim card and tosses the phone to the ground.
Later, from work, the man (Scott) calls his wife to tell her about the loss of his phone. His wife is someone we know: the former Parker Girl Stephanie Kelly, a.k.a. Laura Higgs (see Echo #28). As soon as she finds out her husband's information was stolen, "Laura" pumps him for information regarding the thief. She disconnects the call and calmly walks into their bedroom closet and kicks through the wall. She removes a "run bag" containing cash, a new identity, passport, etc. Leaving her cat (Tink) and her vehicle behind, she changes clothes and walks out the back door into a new life.
No sooner does Stephanie/Laura walk out the backdoor than Katchoo pulls up out front. Using information from the sim card she deactivates the alarm system and goes in the house. She sees the car keys, wallet and cat left behind. Making her way upstairs to the bedroom, she sees the closet wall kicked in and sighs.
FLASHBACK: Katchoo and Francine's house in Santa Fe. Tambi is visiting and the two little girls, now about five, frolic in the pool. Tambi and Katchoo discuss the explosion of the hadron collider at the end of Echo. Tambi fills Katchoo in on what had gone on behind the scenes and what happened after. Essentially, Stephanie/Laura's involvement came to light and she traded everything she knew about Darcy Parker's operation in exchange for total immunity. If she gives the government everything they want, Katchoo and Tambi could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
PRESENT DAY: Scott returns home to find the woman who stole his cell phone standing in his bedroom. She tells him all about his wife and her run bag. "That's ridiculous!" he maintains. "Laura would never do something like that!"
"No, but Stephanie would."
"The Parker Girl you married. She's gone, Scott. If you ever want to see her again, you have to help me find her."
ISSUE #2: I remember being blown away by this issue when /i first read it eight years ago. Remember I said how, now that Terry Moore had introduced all his characters and plot elements, he would start to pull them all together? this is the series in which he does that. That's not what blew me away, though. No, this series is entirely an internal narration told from Katchoo's POV, and begins with her standing on a narrow ledge midway down a sheer cliff face. It has all the impact as one of those old Jack Kirby in medias res Captain America splash panels from Tales of Suspense. Snow is falling and the ledge is crumbling as an eagle turns lazy circles in the sky. She reflects on how she came to be in this predicament.
She remembers meeting Stephanie when they were both Parker Girls. (There were 12 with the lily tattoo, BTW.) Scott was no help tracking down his wife. Katchoo makes an intuitive leap that Jet's friend "Stevie" (of whom she spoke) might have been Stephanie. (Jet is not a Parker Girl and never was, but Katchoo suspects she may have been maneuvered into taking the job in her Houston gallery by the friend she referred to as "Stevie".) Her hunch takes her to the hometown of both Jet and Stephanie: Manson, MA. [Verbal irony: "So much history in this part of the country, I wondered if Manson had any stories to tell.]
Katchoo texted Jet and Jet suggested they meet that night at the Blue Note. Katchoo arrives in town early so she goes into the cafe where she meets Rachel and Johnny. After eating, she still has some time to kill so ends up driving out to Firehill. 100 new crosses have been installed, all bearing the same date: October 31, 1696. Katchoo concluded, "So Manson does have a story to tell. A story unfinished." [Speaking of which, Tracy and I were discussing Rachel Rising the other night and realized not only did Dr. Siemen not get a proper comeuppance, but we still don't know what experimental procedure he performed on Johnny.]
that night, after the set, Jet introduces Katchoo to Earl and invites her back to their apartment. Earl excuses himself and goes to bed, but Jet stays up awhile to talk to Katchoo. She tells her about Joe Carver, the local contractor who got Stephanie pregnant when she was a senior in high school. He paid for her to get an abortion in Boston, and she never came back. He lives in a big house on a bluff overlooking the town. Katchoo resolves to pay him a visit the next day.
She arrives at his estate to find a high wall, an iron gate and a "No Trespassing" sign. She climbs the wall thinking about how calm and peaceful it is in the snow when she hears a voice say, "Attack." She runs along the wall which leads to a bluff, 1500 feet high. The dogs are rapidly approaching and she hears the pump action of a shotgun. She sees a goat trail about 20 feet below and drops down to it. A man appears at the top of the cliff informing her, "You're still on my property!" When she tells him she's a friend of Stephanie/Stevie's, the man takes a shot at her. Which brings up up to where this issue started.
As far as I can tell, there is no Manson in Massachusetts. The closest I can find is Manson Corner, which is part of Scituate, which is odd, because I know Scituate (pronounced "Sit-chew-utt") and I've never heard of Manson Corner. It must be very small. There's certainly no such terrain as you describe there. From what you describe, it sounds like "Manson" is meant to be one of those sh*tbird little towns out in the Berkshires that are basically beyond the pale of human civilization to us Bostonians.
Yes, I imagine Manson is fictional. If 100 women were hanged as witches there in 1696 I'm sure there'd be some mention of it online. But this is the first time the state was identified so I thought I'd mention it.
ISSUE #3: Katchoo left her coat in the car, and her cell phone is in her coat. To make matters worse, she is near the eagle's nest and the eagle doesn't like it. Just as she is resolved to climb the cliff to face the shotgun and the dogs she hears her named called from a distance. It is Jet and Earl. They are on the other side of the wall, but the cliff curves in such a way they can see each other. Jet was worried about Katchoo going to confront Caver alone, so they followed her. they throw a rope down to her and Earl pulls her up.
She goes to her rental car and drives it through the iron gate. Carver comes from inside with his shotgun and his dogs, but the shotgun is only loaded with rock salt, and Katchoo has a automatic. She fires it into the air to let him know she's serious and, after a tense exchange, Carver tells them that "Stevie" has relatives on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. (Tracy, isn't that were we stayed for one night?) After a comic scene in which Katchoo returns the rental, she boards a flight for Scotland. She checks her phone and finds a message from Francine and the girls. the scene shifts to Sante Fe for a silent, two-page sequence. Francine's mother is staying with them and apparently she has breast cancer.
In Scotland, Katchoo tries to pass herself off as Stephanie's cousin but the locals aren't very helpful. She sees a figure walking off in the distance. She gets in the car and drives in that direction but finds her path blocked by a heard of cows crossing the road.
"She sees a figure walking off in the distance."
The figure wasn't Stephanie, it was the young man who served her at the inn, and he wasn't walking, he was running.
"She... finds her path blocked by a heard of cows crossing the road."
The Scottish countryside is authentic-looking, but the cows he draws look pretty much like the bovines one would expect to see in America, not the "hairy coos" of the Scottish Highlands.
Katchoo is coming down with something and can't keep up. She collapses as it starts to rain (a very common occurrence in this part of the world, believe me). Another figure walks up to Katchoos unconscious body. It is Stephanie! She lefts Katchoo's shirt and pulls down her bra to reveal the lily tattoo confirming her identity. She takes her to a nearby house. Later, the young man drops off Katchoo's rental car and luggage. Stephanie searches Katchoo's suitcase, ignoring the gun but picking up her cell phone. She is surprised to see the family portrait of Katchoo with Francine and the kids. She texts Tambi to come pick up Katchoo, that she has pneumonia. Katchoo regains consciousness briefly and says that they need to talk. "In the morning," says Stephanie. The young man is in the next room. "Why did you bring her here?" he asks. "You wouldn't understand," Stephanie replies, as she emotionlessly and swiftly snaps his neck. She puts his body in the bathtub.
The next morning, two women from Tambi's U.K. team arrive. Tambi is on the phone to assure Katchoo that they are legit. they want Katchoo to leave with them right away, but she wants to stay to hear what Stephanie has to say. Tambi tells her that Stephanie drove to Inverness last night and caught the first plane to Edinburgh. Tambi's girls followed her on the train, but she had disappeared before it arrived. They hang up and Tambi's girl Megan tells Katchoo about the body in the bathtub. He has been reported missing and the police will be there soon. Katchoo is loaded on a private jet and wakes up an indeterminate amount of time later to a warm day and the sound of the sea. She gets out of bed and opens the curtain. Out on the patio sits Tambi with a hot beverage in her hand.
"Oh, good. You survived. Hungry?"
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