Saturday, March 5, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore

The collected pocketbooks of Strangers in Paradise
Strangers In Paradise is one of the best graphic novel series around. Written and illustrated by Terry Moore, this long-running series follows three close friends, as they get over themselves and get together.

Katchoo (Katina Choovanski) is a beautiful blonde with a troubled past. Between an abusive childhood, and getting caught up in the Mafia, she has a lot of issues, not much patience, no liking for men and a lot of temper! She managed to get away from the notorious Mrs. Darcy Parker, around the same time that a lot of money vanished. She pursues her art career - something she has a lot of talent for.

She went to high school with the love of her life, Francine Peters - a sweet girl who's got self-image issues, tends to overeat when unhappy, and is constantly looking for Mr. Right. At the beginning of the series, they're flatting together, and carefully avoiding topics such as "I love you", while Katchoo tries to keep Francine from ever knowing about the less savoury aspects of her past.

David, an arts student with a few secrets behind him, walks into their lives when he meets Katchoo in an art gallery. He falls in love with her, and ends up tangled in their lives. And then of course, Mrs. Parker comes looking for her money...

This is a really, really good series - one that I've reread several times (often back to back). Terry Moore has written several songs, including the very haunting "This Mask I Wear" and intertwined the lyrics (along with songs from artists such as kd lang, The Beatles and Tori Amos) in with the stories. Music and poetry is a very major theme - the series itself is named after the song "Stranger In Paradise", from "Kismet", a 1953 musical, which is set to the music of "Polovetsian Dances" from Borodin's opera "Prince Igor". More about the music of Strangers in Paradise can be found here.

The series can be a bit confusing - it has recently been republished as six small (but quite thick) pocketbooks, as you can see below. Previously, it was released in nineteen individual, larger, graphic novels, which compiled the single comics that Strangers In Paradise was first released as!

The nineteen larger books are easier to read, and come with individual cover images drawn by Terry Moore - almost worth collecting for their own sake! They vary in price, from about $5-$15, reflecting both rarity and the fact that some are larger than others, with more issues per book.

For price, the pocketbooks are a lot cheaper (six books for about $10-12 each, new), and each contains more of the story.

Some of the individual comics - there are 19 and most of the covers are gorgeous
Strangers In Paradise: I Dream of YouStrangers In Paradise Book 19: Ever After (Bk. 19)Strangers In Paradise Book 17: Tattoo (Strangers in Paradise (Graphic Novels))
Strangers In Paradise Book 18: Love & Lies (Strangers in Paradise (Graphic Novels)) (v. 18)Strangers In Paradise: High School! (Bk. 6)

There's also the Strangers in Paradise: Treasury Edition - which is basically an edited version of the entire series in one book, with extra drawings and cover art.

Good for the beginner or collector, but the individual books are a better choice for the entire story.

Further Reading