Strangers No More, As Moore Brings "Strangers In Paradise To An End

Fri, March 17th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

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When comic creators enter this industry, I think it's safe to say that they all hope to leave some kind of mark behind – either through an entire book or possibly just through a single character. Can you imagine how it would feel to have given the comics world "Superman" or "X-Men"? Heck, I'd be proud if I left behind a "Speedball."

For small-press publishers, the challenge of leaving a lasting mark is even greater, but a few do manage to do it. Thanks to some very determined creators, we will always have "Cerebus," "The Tick," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to enjoy. But what about lasting comics without sorcery, superpowers, or talking animals? The odds appear to be even more against you, but one creator has managed to leave a mark in our industry that won't disappear anytime soon – Terry Moore.

In 1993, Moore created a book called "Strangers in Paradise" (known as "SiP" to its fans), which he wrote and drew himself. Since that time, the book has not only won awards from several literary organizations, but has also been the recipient of an Eisner – the comic industry's highest honor. All good things must come to an end though, and at the beginning of 2006, Moore announced that the series will be ending in May 2007 with issue #90. CBR News contacted the writer-artist to find out more about the end of the series and his plans for the future.

For the uninitiated, "SiP" follows the lives of Francine Peters, Katina Choovanski (nicknamed "Katchoo"), and their friend David Qin. Individually, their lives have taken all kinds of funny, crazy, and bizarre turns. Together, they form the Bermuda Triangle of love triangles: David is in love with Katchoo, who is in love with Francine, who…well, one can never be sure with Francine. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of readers out there who can't wait to see how Moore wraps everything up.

If you are one of those who haven't read "Strangers in Paradise," the time has never been better to hop aboard the series – even at this late stage in the game! There is a "Strangers in Paradise Treasury Edition" compendium available (which explains much of the lore of the "SiP" world), plus affordable "Pocket Book" trades that reprint the series. Moore agrees that this is the best way for new readers to jump on board and share in the "SiP" adventures.

"I recommend catching up by reading the Pocket Books. There are way too many comics and trade paperbacks to chase down at this stage unless you just like collecting things. The Pocket Books are cheap and have the whole story so far in five books. You can read 'SiP' out of order, but it makes more sense if you read it in order."

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One of the ongoing debates in the comics industry is if and/or how the sales of trade paperbacks affect the sales of single-issue comics (lovingly referred to as "floppies"). Moore has formed his own opinion on this issue from his experiences.

"None of the ("SiP") books encourage comic sales. The books have their own readership and following, and a lot of "SiP" book readers don't bother with the single issues. It's almost two different worlds."

Moore isn't someone in the industry that's hopped around from book-to-book. He's a very monogamous comic book writer-artist, and has remained true to his creation. As such, "SiP" has become his bread and butter over the years. The book is published by Abstract Studios, which is run by Moore and his wife. Considering that few self-publishers have managed to survive as long as they have, potential creators might be curious to know if there ever comes a point when fiscal survival isn't a concern. Moore was able to pinpoint the moment this feeling occurred for him with great clarity: "When I bought all that Enron stock...then I knew we were secure."

As for their publishing company's fate after the series wraps up, Moore indicated that it will still be around for all your "SiP" needs. "Abstract Studio will continue to publish the 'SiP' catalog and whatever other books I come up with."

Since he is wrapping up a narrative that's been thirteen years in the making, one may wonder what Moore's original plans were with regards to the story: how much of the tale was pre-planned, and how much evolved over time? Interestingly enough, the creator's plans for "SiP" weren't anything as grand as the story has become.

"'SiP' was originally a three-part miniseries. That's all. I hoped it would be a good way to break into the business. Then I realized most creators dreamed of having their own book, so I decided to stay with 'SiP' and run with it as a series – see how far I could go before I had to give it up and go to mainstream. I never reached the point where I had to give up; instead, I did reach the end of this very long story."

According to Moore, the notion that he had reached the story's end wasn't something that happened overnight. He explained that this realization was "very gradual, (and occurred from) constantly watching myself and the story. There were times when I wanted to stop but the story didn't, and vice-versa. But the time has come for both of us, and I feel I've run the full course of what I wanted to do in 'SiP.'

"Honestly, I didn't begin with an ending in mind. I thought about it as I went along though. The end of Volume Two could have been the end if I hadn't gone to Homage Studios (who published the book for a brief period) and received a boost from Jim Lee (head of Homage). So when I began Volume Three, I began thinking of where all this was going and how it would conclude. That's when I began playing with possible scenarios in the story."

When prodded for information about what this ending scenario would entail, Moore replied, "I hate to say anything because it spoils the suspense of the story to do so." However, he did indicate that the story involved "everybody in the cast."

The biggest question for most fans, regarding the book's ending, involves the love triangle mentioned at the beginning of this article – will all the "triangle issues" be resolved by the time the series wraps up? Moore responded, "God, we can only hope so. But you never know with these things."

Even though he is ultimately responsible for the book's direction, Moore also feels as though he has been taken on a journey by "SiP." He's learned about the craft of comics, and more importantly, about people. As a matter of fact, one of the things that has surprised Moore most during these past thirteen years is "how many good people are out there in the world if you can just find a way to connect with them.

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"People of all types and all beliefs write me to say they are touched by the story, even though the characters are not like them nor share their beliefs. This overwhelming support by the readers for flawed characters doing their best to be good people is just very heartwarming to me. It has restored my faith in humanity in many ways. Not everybody in the world can be bothered with this sort of thing, but 'SiP' has certainly found a large number who will take the time to listen to another's tale and care about the outcome. If I hadn't done the book, I wouldn't have experienced this."

From this description of readers he's encountered, it's clear that SiP's fans are a very passionate group. And some of this passion has manifested itself in ways that Moore never could have imagined.

"Signing laptops and bare breasts with Parker Lily tattoos is something I never expected. Once at San Diego (ComiCon) a pretty young lady walked up to my table wearing only scanty underwear and bunny ears and talked to me for a good five minutes. Nobody else would come around the table while she was there so I was anxious to move things along, signing her books and telling her she could buy some clothes at the mall across the street – I was worried she'd catch cold."

For those who are curious as to what Moore is doing next, it appears you're just going to stay curious. No grandiose plans have been laid. Like the series itself, SiP's creator intends to just enjoy the journey. "I plan to take a couple of hours off and have a glass of champagne with Robyn (Moore's wife), and then figure out what to do next."

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