Stranger Than Life

Product Image: Strangers In Paradise Pocket Book 1

My friend Dursin has been recommending Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise for quite some time now (not nearly as long as I’ve been trying to get him to read Cerebus, but that’s a different story). I figured I’d eventually give it a try, but the large number of slim collected volumes was keeping me from taking the plunge. Now I have no excuse. I’m a sucker for a large collected comic volume at a decent price, so when I saw this nice thick volume I knew I had to give it a try.

The first volume of the Pocket Book Collection is nearly 350 pages and contains the original three issue run of Strangers in Paradise and the first thirteen issues of Strangers in Paradise Volume II. The issues are presented in a slightly reduced form that’s somewhere between the standard comic book size and the ever more common manga/digest size. The artwork and lettering doesn’t appear to suffer from the reduction.

The story opens with what must be one of the defining moments in the life of Francine Peters, one of the main characters. During a high school play Francine has a major wardrobe malfunction. The story jumps forward a number of years to find Francine in bed with her boyfriend Freddie, while her best friend and roommate, Katina “Katchoo” Choovanski declares war on her alarm clock. Francine and Freddie argue because, even though they sleep together, they’ve never slept together. After Freddie leaves Katchoo comes on to Francine who flips out and leaves. Katchoo tries to brush it off as a joke but it is obvious that there’s more going on.

From there the story covers the degeneration of Freddie and Francine’s relationship, and the length Katchoo will go to protect her friend. Freddie dumps Francine and she takes it very poorly. Katchoo takes this poorly and decides to take it out on Freddie. Along the way Katchoo meets David, who she tells in no uncertain term she has no interest in, but he seems to either not get the hint or he doesn’t care. Hilarity ensues, sort of.

In the second storyline we get deeper into Katchoo’s past, which seems to involve missing mod money. Freddie is getting married. The love triangle between Francine, Katchoo, and David continues to evolve. There’s a lot going on here.

The storylines go to the edge of believability, and come very close to passing into the absurd at times, but the characters are well defined as they take us along on their journey. Just like life, everybody has secrets, and some of them were quite surprising. The artwork is very nice. There is a jump in quality at the start of Volume 2, but it’s pleasant and not at all jarring. The dialog is a cut above the rest, and reminds me why I’m such a fan of the comic medium.

This isn’t a comic genre a read often (I don’t even know of any similar titles), but this is a comic I intend to follow. I can easily see why this series has won so many awards (including the 2003 Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comic Arts, a 2002 YALSA/ALA selection for Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, the GLAAD Media Award for Best Comic Book in 2000, and the 1996 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Serialized Story). While this first volumes ends in a good spot, it left me wanting more (luckily I have volume 2 handy).

My rating: 4 out of 5

2 Comments

  1. Dursin says:

    Glad you finally took the plunge, Jay. Sorry I’m not as adventurous with Cerebus, but like I said, i did read Walking Dead on your recommendation, so that’s something. Anyway, glad you enjoyed SiP. Keep reading. You’ve only scratched the surface. You’ve got ten years worth of stories to get through.

  2. Jay says:

    Dursin said:

    Sorry I’m not as adventurous with Cerebus, but like I said, i did read Walking Dead on your recommendation, so that’s something.

    Hey, don’t apologize to me. You’re the one missing out.

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying The Walking Dead though.

    Jay