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.
ISSUE #5: They are at an exclusive hotel on a private island in the Riviera. (George Clooney is one hut over.) Katchoo brings Tambi up to speed on her side of the operation. Tambi tells her that the young man Stephanie killed was her cousin, Neil. Tambi starts telling Katchoo the history of the island, how Julius Caesar had a residence there and that Cleopatra once came to negotiate. She goes quite a bit into Cleopatra's history, then reveals that her tomb has been discovered, but the discovery has been kept quiet because her body wasn't in it. It was unmistakably her tomb, though, and a parchment written in base phi was found. The papyrus was sent to Cairo University where Stephanie's cousin Neil, working in the archeology lab as an undergrad, saw it.
When he naively mentioned it to Stephanie, she immediately recognized it's importance to the Phi Project as invented by Julie Martin. Making an intuitive leap, Katchoo suddenly realizes that Tambi has been manipulating Stephanie, and her, all along. She comes up with an alternate series of events in which Tambi's agent who "found" Neil's body in the batchtub, not Stephanie, was actually the one who killed him. Tambi neither confirms nor denies Katchoo's theory, but instead tells her, "Call your wife. Her mother's in the hospital."
Katchoo finds a series of messages on her phone from Francine confirming Tambi's story. Before she can return the call, however, she gets a text from "S". S(tephanie) asks if Katchoo would be willing to meet her. Yes, but where? Check your feet. Written in magic marker on the bottom of her right foot is coordinates, longitude and latitude. They agree to meet on Friday. Katcho is being lied to by somebody, and she doesn't like it. The two versions of events just don't add up. she really should call Francine, but she has to get tot he bottom of this first.
ISSUE #6: The coordinates take Katchoo deep into the jungle in Columbia. As she's sitting at a table outside a little bar, a guy on a motor scooter comes puttering up. Holding onto the man's waist is a little money wearing goggles and with a satchel strapped to his back. The man comes to a stop, the monkey hops off the scooter, deposits the satchel on Katchoos table, and they both depart without saying a word. Inside the bag is a metal canister and a cell phone with a note attached. Inside the canister is Cleopatra's base phi papyrus. the note says, "K-- Sorry to do this to you, but I can't reenter the U.S. Take this to Jet, or else... -S" On the cell phone is a picture of a man with a gun in his jacket standing in front of Katchoo and Francine's house!
Meanwhile, we get five and a half pages of Francine taking the kids to visit her mother in the hospital. I can tell you right now, this scene is going to hit Tracy hard. The kids' names are Ashley and Koo, BTW. Francine's daughter was named Ashley in the flashforward (which is now out of continuity), but this is the first time their names have been mentioned otherwise.
As Katchoo races to get back to the states, she suddenly finds herself pursued by three men in a pick-up. Two are in the cab, but the third is firing an assault rifle at her from the bed. He shoots out her tires and she has to flee on foot. As she approaces a ravine, she thinks to herself, "Please be a river down there!" The last panel is a shot from below. We see her falling, but we have no idea what she's jumping into.
ISSUE #7: Not only is there water below, there is also a boat. Katchoo misses the boat (barely) and swims toward it. the skipper grabs a hooked pole, not to help her but to push her away. she grabs the pole from him and hits him with it. Just as she's climbing aboard, the men above start firing at her. She and the skipper take cover, and Katchoo surrenders. the boat has been idling, but she shoves the throttle forward and it takes off with the men above firing at her.
Back in Sante Fe, a humorous three-page scene about whose turn it is to take out the trach. (It's Koo's.) Libby is there, too. On her way back to the house, Koo smells something unusual but, before she can investigate, she is called back inside. Near a bush is a pile of cigarette butts and a maybe-not-so-mysterious shoe.
Back at her hotel, Katchoo discovers a very unprofessional assassin who has fallen asleep in her bathtub. She lets him sleep. Now that she has a cell signal again, she makes a few calls and leaves a few messages. She tells Francine to get out of Santa Fe and take the girls to the beach house first thing in the morning. She tells Tambi she has Cleopatra's papyrus and she's going to deliver it to "a certain person" as directed unless Tambi "takes care" of the gunman outside her house. Also, if she hasn't killed Stephanie already, she will. She gets in a cab and asks to be taken to the airport, but the driver heads in the opposite direction. He finally remembers where it is when she holds a gun to his head.
Back at home it's nearly 3:00AM. Koo can't sleep. She goes downstairs and looks out the sliding glass door. When the mantle clock simes she looks away, but when she looks back there's a dark figure standing right in front of her.
ISSUE #8: Katchoo arrives in Manson and drives to the garage just as Ray accidentally squirts some gasoline in his good eye. Before they can talk, Katchoo and Jet need to take him to the ER. While Katchoo is waiting in the car, she imagines Francine was there as outside, crows begin to congregate. By the time Jet finishes in the ER, crows have filled the tree, they're on the ground, they're on the car. Jet has no idea why Stephanie would have wanted her to have Cleopatra's papyrus, but she decides Rachel should see it.
At Rachel's house, Katchoo meets Zoe for the first time. Katchoo immediately recognizes Rachel as the woman from the diner. Rachel identifies the papyrus as being authentic, and decides to return it to its rightful owner. "Egypt?" asks Jet. "Lilith."
Back in Santa Fe, the police are investigating the prowler Koo saw the night before. They believe it was a paparazzo trying to get a shot of "Mary Midnight." Libby gets feisty when the cop suggests that Marie was a "porn star" rather than an "erotic model". Also, Libby is identified as Marie's sister rather than her aunt. The SiP-verse contains a number of niggling little inconsistencies, but this one may have been on purpose. Even as Francine's aunt (rather than great-aunt), Libby is getting a bit long in the tooth. Ashley and Koo decide they need to set up some Home Alone-style traps, but Libby puts in a call to Samantha (Motor Girl) Locklear, still staying at her mother's house. Mike is still with her, lying in a hammock in the backyard, but when Sam's mother calls her to the phone, he's a stuffed toy again.
Meanwhile, Rachel and Jet and Zoe and Katchoo arrive at Rachel's farm. She doesn't answer their knock on the door, but one look at the crows in the field tells Rachel that Lilith knows they're there. While they're waiting, Jet tells Katchoo who Lilith really is.
"Something deep within me began to stir as I realized that nothing in my life had prepared me for this," Katchoo narrates, "meeting Lilith."
ISSUE #9: Lilith walks across the snow-covered field, barefooted, while two falcons gyre above her head. They bring her up to speed. Katchoo has stepped out of an issue of Strangers in Paradise right smack into Rachel Rising. Rachel demands to know why Lilith wrote the papyrus (yes, Lilith was Cleopatra, which I'm sure you've figured out by now), but all she says is, "I was having a bad day." Rachel explains, "Nukes use Man's math. Build a bomb with this... God's math... and it will start a fire that cannot be stopped, feeding on hydrogen, it will race from star to star until Heaven is dark and God is alone."
"I like you better when you can't remember shit," says Lilith, slamming her hand down on the precious document, incinerating it. Unfortunately, the papyrus itself ends up being something of a McGuffin. It has already been translated and copied. As Rachel says, "Don't you see it's only a matter of time?! You've put us on a countdown! They'll build the bomb! They'll test it! They won't stop to ask if they should, they'll do it because they can!" Even Zoe suggests that Lilith is Malus. Lilith kicks them out. Jet decides she wants to keep the airtight, waterproof, laser milled aluminum cylinder the papyrus came in, but when she goes back to retrieve it the house is entirely empty, no Lilith, no cylinder, no furniture, nothin'. The crows are flying away and one of the falcons is eating the other. Zoe looks in the window and notices the kitchen is on fire.
In Santa Fe, Francine doses at her mother's bedside. She dreams her mother is standing beside her, a young woman. Back at home, Ashley and Koo have finished laying their traps. Finally, Koo shows Ashley a hiding place she discovered. From the attic, they can crawl into the heating/cooling ducts. They can see Aunt Libby through one of the vents. she is crying.
Back at Lilith's farm, the house has burned to the ground.
"How long do we have?" asks Jet.
Rachel answers, "Five years."
ISSUE #10: On her way to the airport to catch a flight back home, Katchoo calls Francine. Her mom is doing better (I thought for sure she passed away last issue). Katchoo comes close to telling her about the five year countdown, but decides to hold off until she gets home.
Back in Santa Fe, Ashley and Koo are still watching Aunt Libby through the vent. She's not crying tears of sadness, but tears of anger. Sitting on the floor, out of the girls line of sight, is a man with a shaved head and multiple tattoos holding Libby at gunpoint. This isn't the same man from the photo Stephanie sent (I think that was just a bluff); this is a guy who came up with the idea to kidnap the girls for a million dollars apiece on his own. Libby is as feisty as ever, but when the gunman starts to physically threaten her, Koo can't help but to call out, revealing their location.
Libby does everything she can to distract him, but he pulls the vent off the wall, grabs Ashley by her hair and starts to drag her out. Koo grabs Ashley's legs, and all of a sudden Ashley goes limp. Koo starts to panic until she hears Aunt Libby's calming voice telling her Ashley is okay and to let go. Koo pokes her head out of the duct and Libby explains, "My friend Sam got here... finally." I knew this moment was coming, but even so I almost stood up and cheered! Sam did what any Marine would have done in the same situation: "neutralized the threat." Koo remarks, "You're just like my Aunt Tambi."
"Tambi?" asks Sam. "Tambi Baker?" turning to Libby she says, "You didn't tell me this was her family."
"The first rule of Tambi," Libby replies, "is don't talk about Tambi."
"Roger that. Okay... wow. She's like a legend in the corps."
[That's a piece of information we didn't have before, further tightening the bonds of the SiP-verse.]
Later, a (nearly) silent four page sequence as Katchoo returns home and makes her way from room to room while everyone is sleeping.
In Manson, Tambi is tying up some loose ends. It was she who put all the wheels in motion... Stephanie, Jet, all of it. Now she and Rachel (and Zoe) are putting their heads together to come up with a plan to stop the world powers from destroying everything with Lilith's base phi formula. Rachel points out that's it is, in fact, possible to stop the spread of knowledge, but you have to wipe oput civilization to do it. "The Flood, Krakatoa, the Black Plague... I've seen it many times."
"So if we do nothing the human race will torch the universe," sums up Zoe, "or we can destroy the human race and save the universe." Tambi suggests calling in Ivy Raven and Julie Martin (from Echo, if you're just joining us). Elsewhere, Katchoo, Francine, Sam and the girls are somewhere where it's snowing. Sam helps Ashley and Koo build a "snow gorilla." Francine has hired Sam to be the girls' bodyguard. Katchoo takes Tambi's call. She has told Francine about the five year countdown, but turns down Tambi's offer to join their team. She and Francine have decided to spend however much time they have left together as a family.
And that's the end of Strangers in Paradise XXV. those summaries weren't nearly as labor intensive as the Motor Girl ones last week were. You might think I'd be complaining about "decompressed storytelling" at this point, but no... something happened in each and every issue that advanced the plot. You may remember I mentioned the set of triptych covers for the last issue of Strangers in Paradise (v3). There was also an additional fourth cover (a "retailer incentive" one I don't remember seeing at the time. The last issue is SiP XXV is an homage to SiP (v3) #90.
STRANGERS IN PARADISE (v3) #90:
STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV #10:
Okay, the score stands now at Jeff-10; Tracy-0.
Over to you, honey!
After reading the first issue of STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV, I wondered aloud about Tambi and Katchoo being worried about prison. Tambi gave the government all her Parker and Big Six information and millions in exchange for total immunity for herself, Katchoo, Cherry, and Becky. Everyone but Katchoo even worked for the government for a time.
In our house, if one of us knows more about the reading material than the other, and questions arise, the knowledgeable person says "Keep reading."
Jeff of Earth-J said:.
STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV:
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 #3 - #4 Well, I knew it was Neil running from the small restaurant that Katchoo sees in the distance. Jeff's right, cows and sheep across the road in Scotland are a common occurrence. So is the rain. At least once a day while we were there. I'm disappointed that Moore didn't draw a herd of Highland Coos instead of the boring cows we have here.
Also, Katchoo, I don't think Skye liked us much either. We had breakfast on a sunny morning before driving over to bridge to the island. As we crossed over, it started to rain. It rained the entire two days we were there. Only after breakfast at our hotel did we get a break. We got a double rainbow. The rain held off for just long enough to snap a few pictures. There is a picture of me looking like a drowned tourist from that day.
Yeah, it's never not going to be heart-wrenching for me to see a parent dying of cancer. Francine says that her mother is the only grandparent the girls have. When Francine and Katchoo were both pregnant, Francine's parents were together and buying giant stuffed bears for the babies. I guess her father has passed away.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
ISSUE #6: We get five and a half pages of Francine taking the kids to visit her mother in the hospital. I can tell you right now, this scene is going to hit Tracy hard. The kids' names are Ashley and Koo, BTW. Francine's daughter was named Ashley in the flashforward (which is now out of continuity), but this is the first time their names have been mentioned otherwise.
Francine's mom is doing better. Katchoo is back home with her family. Sam has a good home and a job she does well. She didn't lose Mike after all. Tambi and Rachel and Zoe can go sort out the world's nonsense and shortcomings before we blow ourselves to h*ll. I love that Moore wrote a series to tie everything together.
I had to find out about the door and it wasn't revealed in the 10 issue series. Here's what the internet said.
Indie comics icon Terry Moore has released the first teaser art for January's revival of his long-running series Strangers in Paradise, which appears to be operating under the working title of Strangers in Paradise XXV.
The image, seen in the attached gallery, despicts a door open, a letter sitting on the floor next to a torn envelope, with the message "The door opens in January."
The image is a reference to, and inversion of, the final page of Strangers in Paradise's original run, in which Francine and Katchoo literally closed the door on the reader, gently poking at the fourth wall and implying that it was time for the pair and their children to live in privacy after years of being in the spotlight.