Page 45 Review by Stephen
There is no comic I am fonder of than STRANGERS IN PARADISE.
I may have declared THE NAO OF BROWN by Glyn Dillon to be the finest work of comicbook fiction, and I have pronounced that the best body of comics anywhere in the world to date is the autobiographical ALEC: THE YEARS HAVE PANTS by Eddie Campbell, but there is no comic I am fonder of than STRANGERS IN PARADISE. It means the world to me, and I know the same goes for our Dee.
We have history, you see. We have a lot of history. We also have a lot of love, but nobody I know has as much love for his fellow human being as its creator Terry Moore, and it shines from this series as radiant as any sun in the heavens.
You can buy all 2128 pages of this epic, heart-warming, heart-cleaving story in the STRANGERS IN PARADISE OMNIBUS BOXED SET EDITION reprinted in two slipcased softcovers restored as nature intended them without several slices of self-censorship. Not only that but at Page 45 all of our copies come with its retailer print signed by Terry himself. Plus we have unbeatable UK and European shipping prices.
In summary: David is in love with Katchoo, who is in love with Francine, who thinks she is in love with serial philanderer Freddie Femur. Unfortunately David is not who he seems, Katchoo is not who you know, and poor Francine is caught in the middle.
The comedy is all the funnier because it is juxtaposed against gut-wrenching tragedy; and the tragedy is worse because you will never see it coming.
From the creator of RACHEL RISING and ECHO plus TERRY MOORE'S SKETCHBOOK: HOT GIRLS & COLD FEET and TERRY MOORE'S HOW TO DRAW - and, boy, does he know how to draw! - here we go!
"I don't know what to feel anymore. You confuse me."
Rarely am I allowed the luxury of re-immersing myself in our one my favourite series of all time: there are so many new comics and graphic novels each week which demand fresh reviews. But occasionally a window appears and I defenestrate myself immediately. And that's very much akin to what the cast experience here: free-falling in love and experiencing one hell of an emotional turbulence.
Twenty years ago there was a relative paucity of comicbook fiction in the US and therefore UK readily accessible to women. Of course there were exceptions - LOVE & ROCKETS, EXIT, SANDMAN, CONCRETE - but exceptions they were and I could show you one hundred women I know personally whose first experience of comics, followed by an immediate love affair with the medium, was STRANGERS IN PARADISE.
Drawn by an artist who loves women as women and not stick insects, who can see the beauty and grace in a curvaceous thigh, and written by a man unafraid to be kind (I'll put that into context with volume two), it had a heart of untarnished gold, embracing love as the one thing worth living for - and, if necessary, dying for - when so many play games with affection instead. Don't get me wrong: there are those who play games here, there are those who are proud and stupid and nasty. And what one tends to forget is that actually Terry was really pretty damn saucy. Seriously: lots and lots of sex jokes. Do not denude Terry of his naughtiness!
Indeed the first three-issue mini-series was very much a slapstick burlesque in which we find the main protagonists Francine and Katchoo renting a house together. Katchoo is quite evidently in love with Francine, but Francine is in love with Freddie. Freddie is in love with no one but himself and only after one thing: sex. Francine knows that, Francine tells him that, which is why she won't sleep with him. Instead, aghast at Freddie's philandering, she spends most of her time in the fridge. Katchoo meanwhile is so fractious that she shoots alarm clocks. Imagine what she will do to Freddie Femur when she finds out he's cheating on the absolute love of her life? It's really quite cathartic.
But what arrested me on re-reading this is that I had forgotten how utterly shocking it was when the real story first kicks in and the comedy is buried under the weight of the protagonists' past. I've typed twelve sentences here already, but I just don't want to spoil it for you. Instead I will simply tell you that the following scene takes place round a bed nursed by nuns as Katchoo visits the one person in the past that showed her kindness while they both worked as high-class call girls for a certain Mrs. Darcy Parker. Emma is dying of AIDS.
"How you doin', Chewy? You okay?"
"I'm fine, Emmie. Looking forward to seeing Canada with you when you get out of here."
"Then you better grow wings."
don't talk like that."
"Really. It's okay. I talked to God."
"I'm worried about you, Chewy."
anger. It'll eat away at you till there's nothing left. You need to let somebody
"You're there, Emmie. You're there."
"I mean somebody who'll stay with you.."
Katchoo has boundaries and they've been built pretty high. The only person she'll let in is Francine who, let's remember, is slightly distracted by a) Freddie Femur and b) the fridge. She has no idea how Katchoo really feels. Then along come David; sweet, doting David; puppy-dog David with whom Katchoo has a little fun. They meet in an art gallery and then in the rain (always, always in the rain) and no matter how many times he's rejected he won't go away, he just will not give up. He's fallen head over heels in love with Katchoo, and he believes.
Which brings us to another of this series' exceptional qualities: the arguments are long. They're played out in all their confused complexities then exhumed later on, whereas in so many other series they're merely nodes in a simple plot device. And they almost always end in rage, remorse and tears. Nothing is linear here. When is life ever that straightforward? Here's David and Francine when Katchoo suddenly sends herself straight off the radar.
"So what was the deal?"
"I don't know! You tell me! You're the one who was with her! You're the one she's buddy-buddy with these days! You're the one she talked to about that whole Emma thing! I'm just her best friend! She doesn't tell me squat!"
"Francine, the only reason Katchoo talked to me's because I was there and she really needed someone to talk to."
"No sir! I'm not buying that! I've been here all along! She can talk to me!"
"She's afraid to, okay?! She's afraid if you find out what she's done, you'll hate her or something."
"That's absurd! I mean, we're best friends! I could never
"I think that's the whole point, Francine. Whether you want to admit it or not, what you two have goin' on here is more than just friendship!"
"Of course it is! We
wait a minute! What's that supposed to mean?!"
"I mean I've tried to fit in here and believe me, there's no room!"
"I told you Katchoo wasn't interested in men! She's gay! You idiot!"
"Oh, I'm not so sure about that, but I definitely know why she's not interested in men or anybody else right not
She's in love!"
"With you, of course!"
So when I so casually used to type that David is in love with Katchoo who is in love with Francine who is in love with Freddie Femur, it never did justice to this title. Francine is jealous of David's place in Katchoo's life, and wonders for a while if she may even be in love with David herself. Katchoo is absolutely dedicated to Francine but David is like no other young man she's ever met. He's kind, he's considerate and sensitive. But David
David is not who he seems. Which brought about what was quite possibly the finest-ever cliffhanger in comicbook history.
"RUN!! FRANCINE! RUN!!"