The key thing to note about this “Palmer’s Picks” is that it’s the very last one without any quotes from the cartoonist being profiled. As mentioned in previous posts, I had started to call creators to prepare my column, but I was still treating the interviews as just part of the research process. I basically thought of “Palmer’s Picks” as an essay, and it wasn’t until next issue where I fully embraced the journalistic style of writing.
Part of the problem was that I didn’t have enough confidence in my ability to get good material out of my interviews. I was painfully shy, and cold-calling comic book artists was not at the top on my list of things to do. But as I started talking to more and more creators, I learned that there were ways to get what I needed from my interviews, like asking the right questions or knowing when to get out of the way and just let your subject talk. Some artists liked discussing their work and others really didn’t. The key was knowing how to steer an interview back on course if it looked like things were going off the rails. It also helped when I realized that there was a good chance that the person on the other end of the phone was uncomfortable too!
Another factor was that at this point in the life of “Palmer’s Picks,” I had already written about all of the “big” names. Since someone like Strangers In Paradise creator Terry Moore was new on the scene, I hadn’t spent years and years reading his work. It was all unfamiliar territory, so that meant there were a lot more questions that I could ask during an interview, and they probably hadn’t been asked a million times already.
The great thing about this time period was all of the cartoonists who practically came out of nowhere fully-formed: Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, and Paul Pope (subject of the next “Palmer’s Picks”) are three perfect examples. While Smith and Pope continue to produce comics today, they haven’t matched the output of Moore. He’s built up a great body of work over the years. Aside from completing Strangers In Paradise, he’s also finished a number of other series (Echo, Rachel Rising and Motor Girl) as well as a sequel to SiP, and is currently working on Five Years, a series that will unite all of his various characters. On top of it all, he’s made a concerted effort to ensure that his work is readily available in a number of formats, both print and digital. If you’re interested in checking out any of Terry Moore’s comics you don’t have to look too hard. Just head on over to his website and buy some books!
By Tom Palmer Jr.
Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore claims that the characters he created for his first comic book series are not his favorites. The comic has been very well-received by just about everybody who has seen it, but Moore says he’d rather be doing stories with different characters and situations. Despite what Moore thinks, it would seem almost impossible to come up with a series to top Strangers in Paradise.
Terry Moore is one of the brightest new talents in comics. He has played in rock bands, worked on movie crews, and edited television commercials and music videos, but this marks his debut as a comic artist. With little fanfare, Antarctic Press launched Strangers in Paradise late last year as a three-issue mini-series. Word spread quickly, turning the comic into the sleeper hit of 1994. After the series concluded, there was enough demand from readers and critics to warrant a second mini-series. Rumors circulated that Moore would bring his sequel to Dark Horse Comics or Kitchen Sink Press, but he eventually decided to put everything on the line and self-publish. So far, Moore has received nothing but support and enthusiasm from distributors and retailers, which is very rare for a new publisher who only does one black-and-white book.
The original Strangers in Paradise series features a story about love and relationships involving two best friends: neurotic Francine and impulsive Katchoo. Francine is in love with Freddie Femurs, who can best be described as the furthest thing from the ideal boyfriend; he’s only interested in sleeping with her and cheats on her any chance he gets. Katchoo is upset with Freddie because of the emotional damage he is inflicting on Francine. So, Katchoo decides to take her own form of revenge on Freddie because she happens to be in love with Francine. The situation is further complicated by David, who chases after Katchoo even though she repeatedly tells him she’s not interested. Somehow, Moore manages to resolve most of this mess by the end of the series.
With the new self-published series, Moore catches up with his main characters nine months after the original series. All of the players have changed and aged, especially Katchoo, who is now subdued and troubled about something. Moore will not give away too much, but he says that the new storyline will deal with AIDS. He wants to present a more poetic and personal approach to the subject without being preachy or clinical. Instead, he will take a look at how people cope with the death of a friend.
Moore has created a cast of more than twenty characters for Strangers in Paradise, but only a fraction of them have appeared so far. This abundance of characters helps give the comic a firm setting and background. He imbues all of the characters, not just the main ones, with their own stories. There are more than enough plot threads and secrets alluded to in the first series to expand upon in future issues. Moore’s new series will be non-linear, so some stories may take place in the past to reveal more about mysterious characters like Katchoo and David.
While the plot of Strangers in Paradise may sound like typical melodrama on the surface, Moore looks at things from a unique perspective. By making his two main characters female, Moore reveals a different standpoint on relationships. He infuses the comic with a fair amount of lighthearted humor, and carries the story along at a fast pace. Moore writes Strangers in Paradise with one of the most romantic and lyrical voices in comics today. The characters seek an idealized picture of love. Moore intersperses small, quiet glimpses of poetry and song lyrics throughout the story, and while the characters sometimes deal with their problems in extreme ways, they never reach the point of parody.
Moore has been drawing all of his life, and it certainly shows. He took a few classes from Dick Ruhl, a retired Disney animator, but he is mostly self-taught. With a flair for characterization and expressions, Moore holds his pages together with a strong sense of design, best demonstrated by his use of black areas. His characters’ expressions may be cartoony at times, but they move and react to events like real people. Moore shows his characters’ emotions not only with their faces, but with their body language as well.
Moore has plans for stories differing from Strangers in Paradise. One fantasy/romance/science fiction story revolves around a man who claims to be the mid-wife to our world. However, Moore intends to stick with Strangers in Paradise as long as people follow the characters and he remains enthusiastic about them. Considering the popularity of Strangers in Paradise and the strength of its characters, the series should last for a very long time. As always, you can send any letters, comics for review, or chocolate chip cookie recipes to me at Palmer’s Picks, c/o Wizard Press,
151 Wells Avenue, Congers, NY 10920-2064.
Pick Of The Month
ACME Novelty Library #3: This series changes formats once again. Chris Ware presents stories featuring the potato-guy from Raw and some early college strips from the Daily Texan in a digest-sized book featuring both color and black-and-white pages. Ware’s painstaking work never ceases to amaze; he deals with the loneliness and isolation of everyday life under the guise of a “harmless” cartoon style.
Tom Palmer Jr. is a fugitive running from the law who happens to do some freelance writing in his spare time.
Tom’s Recommended Reading
Strangers in Paradise: Terry Moore’s comic was originally published by Antarctic Press as a three-issue mini-series. Antarctic has also published a trade paperback collection of the series, which includes a short story from Negative Burn, pinups, and sketchbook pages. If you can’t find these items at your local comic store, you can order individual issues for $3.75 or the collected edition for $7.95 (both prices are postage paid) from Antarctic Press,
7272 Wurzbach Suite #204, San Antonio, TX 78240. The new Strangers in Paradise series is self-published by Moore’s Abstract Studio, and the first issue should be out by now with more to come on a bi-monthly schedule. If for some reason, you can’t find the new series, you can drop a line to Abstract Studio at P.O. Box 271487, Houston, TX 77277-1487. By the way, the second and third issues of the original Strangers in Paradise series contained a back-up story featuring A-Girl by Elizabeth Watasin. A-Girl is the star of an excellent small-press comic that Elizabeth publishes herself. For a look at Elizabeth’s work, send two dollars (or more) to her at 120 So. San Fernando Blvd. #231, Burbank, CA 91502.
Miscellaneous: Strangers in Paradise is Terry Moore’s first comic book, but his work has appeared in other places as well. A five-page Strangers in Paradise story ran in Negative Burn #13 and was reprinted in the Strangers in Paradise paperback. Moore drew a back cover for Negative Burn #15, as well as “Madame October,” an eleven-page installment of The Alan Moore Songbook for #16. He penciled a Sandman pinup for Sandman: A Gallery of Dreams which was inked by Wandering Star creator Teri S. Wood. He drew a story, written by Dennis Eichhorn, for Eichhorn’s Real Stuff #17. Additionally, Strangers in Paradise has been featured as the Cerebus Preview in Cerebus #186.
Terry Moore’s Recommended Reading: For those of you who are interested, here’s a list of some of the comics that Terry Moore is currently reading:
The Ballad of Doctor Richardson, Sin Titulo and THB by Paul Pope, from Horse Press
Cerebus, by Dave Sim and Gerhard, from Aardvark-Vanaheim
Bone, by Jeff Smith, from Cartoon Books
The Incredible Hulk, by Peter David and Gary Frank, from Marvel Comics
The Maxx, by Sam Kieth and William Messner-Loebs, from Image Comics.