Comic Book: Strangers in Paradise
"I can sniff out the potential SIP fans, those looking for something different, some character driven drama with fear and loss being the kryptonite and love being the hero. This book will always continue to draw new readers in."
—guest review of Strangers in Paradise
from "The View from Flying Colours"
First there is Francine, a nice but insecure girl who dreams of a perfect marriage and cannot quite let go of her Jerk Ass
ex-boyfriend. Next there is Katchoo, her darker and edgier
best friend who is madly in love with her. Finally there is David, a sensitive young man who is in love with Katchoo despite her constant (and harsh) rejections.
Then there is the Mafia, who Katchoo used to work for. Some of them want her back, others just want her head.
That is how Strangers In Paradise starts
. First published by Antarctic Press
in November 1993, the series moved by Abstract Comics, creator Terry Moore's own company, between 1996 and 2007; it consists of over 90 issues. It is generally acknowledged as a Slice of Life
classic, although the occasional vergings into crime drama were not quite as well received, and it is frequently hailed as the number one comic book to give to your girlfriend. What that means is a bit unclear, but it probably means something
Not to be confused with Stranger Than Paradise
Strangers In Paradise contains examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Frequent. Some loose ends are left loose forever, and some seemingly important insights and revelations are never mentioned again. The Time Skip moments ALL fall under this banner.
- Abusive Parents: Katchoo's step-father beat and raped her when she was fifteen. Her mother then told her to stop making up vicious lies.
- The Alcoholic: Recovering. Katchoo began attending AA meetings when she was eighteen. Now she is in something of an odd place; she drinks recreationally, but manages to avoid any severe over-indulgences...except for when things get out of hand.
- All Just a Dream: Happens from time to time.
- American Dream: One of the driving plot points is that Francine really does want the dream. A husband (Preferably a firefighter, but she will settle for a lawyer or doctor), children, a place in the suburbs, she really wants it. This proves to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in her growing relationship with Katchoo since, despite all that she and Katchoo could potentially have, they could never have that.
- The Atoner: Katchoo and David, both of whom are hoping to make up for the mistakes of their youth.
- Bad Boss: Darcy Parker was vicious and disliked by all of her staff.
- Bi the Way: Katchoo, despite her attitude, is not gay. In fact, almost every woman in this series turns out to be bi.
- Bookends: The covers of the first and last issues are nearly identical: Francine and Katchoo in an art gallery, in the same poses.
- Brawn Hilda: The Baker twins are tall, muscular and scarred from battle (And self-infliction) and aggressive enough to overpower any other character in the series. Unlike most examples of the trope they are not unattractive, but their long hair is their sole "girly" trait.
- Break the Cutie
- Breast Expansion: Casey gets breast implants. Twice.
- Broken Bird: Katchoo
- Brother-Sister Incest: Darcy has an...unhealthy interest in her half-brother.
- Butch Lesbian: Tambi Baker. Even as a fictional character she is tough and hard.
- Butt Monkey: Freddie just can not catch a break. Of course, maybe if he did not set himself up for so many falls...
- Character Development: The series defining characteristic as, without an overarching plot beyond day-to-day life, the progression of the characters is what drives the story.
- Comically Missing the Point: Casey, the sweetest girl there is, had no idea that Katchoo was talking about joining the new iteration of the Big Six when she mentioned "going back to work." It was this display of naivetÚ that helped keep Katchoo out of the game and got her painting again, which was what Casey thought she meant in the first place.
- Crossover: In Terry Moore's subsequent series Echo, Ivy Raven, an NSB agent who has gotten involved in the potentially world-shattering events of the story, begins to suspect that her superiors in Washington might not be as trustworthy as she had previously believed. The other characters ask if there is anybody she can go to for help, somebody outside the system who would nevertheless be able to give the important answers, and Ivy mentions that she might have somebody she can call. The next panel is apparently Katchoo getting a phone call. Tambi guest stars two issues later, #28, where she tracks down a former Parker Girl who stayed in her cover as a member of the US military after the operation collapsed.
- Dead Person Impersonation: David Qin/Yousaka Takahashi
- Later on, Katchoo also impersonates Darcy, in order to confuse and distract Veronica and rescue Francine. Of course, it's not a long term impersonation, but it still qualifies.
- Death of the Hypotenuse: Of course, which hypotenuse is the more tricky question.
- Depraved Bisexual: Darcy and Veronica, both of whom are just fucked up people.
- Derailing Love Interests: Conveniently, Francine's husband turns out to be cheating on her.
- Dirty Harriet: Special Agent Sara Ryan
- Does Not Like Men
- Dogged Nice Guy: David is potentially the very epitome of this trope.
- The Don: Sal Tucciani, chairman of the Big Six.
- Door Closes Ending: How the finale ends.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Katchoo slaps and punches David, but it's shown as proof of her terrible mental state.
- Dragon Lady: Darcy.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Katchoo
- Everyone Is Bi: Seemingly all of the women. Oddly, none of the men.
- Evil Makeover
- Funbag Airbag
- Gambit Pileup: It would be faster to list all of the characters who weren't working under the auspice of some secret agenda at least once during the series.
- Genki Girl: Casey, "cheerleader for the soul"
- Genius Bruiser: Tambi, whose terror-inducing physical presence is almost equal to her abilities to pull the strings.
- Genre-Busting: It's a Slice of Life story, mixed lesbian romantic comedy, crime drama, and on occasion a Xena parody.
- Genre Shift: From relationship comedy/drama to crime drama and back again...and again...and maybe a third time, too.
- Girl Next Door: Francine really is a sweet, good natured girl from a small town. This is what makes her so special.
- Girlish Pigtails: Casey
- Handwraps of Awesome: The Baker-Choovanski family's Harbinger of Asskicking.
- Has Two Mommies
- Heel-Face Turn
- Heir Club for Men
- If It's You, It's Okay
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Various characters are doing this constantly. Freddie, however, inverts it.
- Jerk Ass: Freddie really is a jackass son-of-a-bitch. Despite being given a fair amount of development throughout the series and at times even seeming sympathetic, he never stops being a jerk... though there are hints of him slowly developing more compassion during the later parts of the story, and during his last appearance he gives the upset Casey a surprisingly heartfelt and insightful pep talk, telling her not to give up on her friends. While he never really loses his Small Name, Big Ego tendencies, it does seem like he Took a Level in Kindness to some degree.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Ok, Freddie Femur is a jerkass of the first water; he's a creepy obsessive patronising sleazebag who treats women like sex objects, has all the tact and charm of brain surgery performed with a hammer and chisel, he thinks he's hilarious while he's just slimy and cheeseball, and he has hairplugs to boot. No arguments - he's a repellent little man. But, when Casey is about to leave for home after being revealed to have been working as a Parker Girl all along in David's will his attempt to convince her why she should stay after all is actually kind, pretty endearing and most of all honest and completely correct - and lo and behold it helps work everything out. Ok, he makes a pass at Casey while he does it might just be showing form on his part, but it seems more likely he's actually trying to be a nice guy while making a joke at his own reputation as a horndog jerk to his ex-wife.
- Kill and Replace: Yousaka Takahashi began to live the life of David Qin after he killed him in a pointless gang fight.
- Kissing Cousins: The Takahashi family has a few issues.
- Knight Templar Big Sister
- Kudzu Plot
- Lipstick Lesbian: Casey experimented in college and is more than open to a relationship in the present.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: In the (possible?) future, Katchoo and Francine's daughter is attempting to publish a story, based on their life, titled Strangers In Paradise.
- Locked in a Room: Invoked. Casey, sweet devious Casey, figures out how to help Katchoo and Francine make up
- Love Dodecahedron: Katchoo, David, and Francine are the constant objects of desire for every character in the series, including each other.
- Love Triangle: Which gradually grows and evolves and turns into a Love Dodecahedron (See above)
- The Mafia
- The Mole: Almost everyone at one point or another.
- Morality Pet: Casey, somebody who is not involved in any way with Francine or the Big Six or the Parker Girls, often gives Katchoo a good grounding in reality and at least once helps pull her away when she starts to sink back into her past life.
- Na´ve Everygirl: Francine
- Obfuscating Genki
- Off The Wagon: Katchoo has a pretty rough history with drugs and alcohol that she tries to keep a handle on, but when things go bad and she winds up back with Tambi she loses control and goes wild.
- Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Big Six, who have controlled America since The Great Depression...sort of. Their actual level of control of the government is never specifically nailed down.
- Pair the Spares: Tambi/Casey, which came way out of left field even with recent revelations.
- Paranoia Fuel: In-universe. Katchoo's life is so full of spies and double crosses that by the end she's flatout asking people to their faces if they're setting her up. Couldn't help her preexisting trust issues.
- Parental Neglect: Katchoo's step-father beat and raped her when she was a teenager, but her mother's refusal to take it seriously, even telling her to stop making up these vicious lies, caused just as much lasting damage to her psyche.
- Polyamory: Katchoo, David and Casey, for a while, as they deal with troubling news and try to make each other happy until the end.
- The Power Of Trust: At one point, when it looks like Katchoo and Francine are really over (No, do not ask which time, there are too many to count) Katchoo decides that she might as well "go back to work." Casey is delighted to hear this, since she has always loved Katchoo's paintings and letting out some of her emotion will be good for her, and Katchoo never has the heart to tell her she originally meant "work" to mean joining the new iteration of the Big Six.
- Power Trio
- Progressively Prettier: Two of the main themes of the series are Francine losing weight and gaining self-confidence while Katchoo gets a handle on her drug/alcohol problems and deals with her personal issues stemming from her youth, both of which result in slimmer, healthier, more-together women than were present at the beginning of the series. How this explains Francine's longer legs and Katchoo's expanding bustline, however....
- Psycho Lesbian: Darcy, who has the "psycho" part down pat.
- Rape and Switch: Played straight...sort of. To the end of the story Katchoo never self-identifies as gay, but her experiences in her youth have made her permanently opposed to a relationship with men.
- Rape as Backstory: Katchoo's step-father beat and raped her for her fifteenth birthday. Her mother asked her to stop making up these vicious lies.
- Re Write: Issue 43. A much older Katchoo and Francine have a daughter, an author, who is trying to publish a story based on their life. At the end of this little interlude it says "end of version one," and the same events are retold in a slightly different fashion. Fandom's reaction was... mixed.
- Ring... Ring... CRUNCH: The first issue begins with Katchoo shooting her alarm clock and they keep getting broken throughout the series.
- Scars Are Forever:
- Katchoo has scars on her wrist in a "z" shape, but there was never an official explanation for their cause.
- Tambi Baker is covered with scars, with the ones on her forearms the most obvious. She used to cut herself while in the employ of Darcy Parker.
- Self-Harm: Tambi Baker used to cut herself while in the employ of Darcy Parker.
- Stalker with a Crush: Freddie is not a Dogged Nice Guy, he is just creepy and offensive.
- Rusty's stalker in the Las Vegas subplot. Like him or not, Freddie was never like that.
- Shaggy Dog Story: The FBI investigation of Katchoo spans dozens of issues, but changes virtually nothing in the end.
- Satellite Love Interest: Subverted. Casey is introduced as the silicone-infused-aerobics-instructor, and this seems to be all there is to her, but as the story progresses her character, personality and history are expanded to equal any of the main characters.
- Slasher Smile: Casey of all people gives a great one of these while conspiring with David how to get Katchoo and Francine to start talking with each other again. Particularly brilliant because she's almost never shown with anything but a big smile on her face, and this evil grin is so out of nowhere that it's incredibly funny.
- Slice of Life
- Someone to Remember Him By: Planned out by Casey and Katchoo when they find out David has a brain tumor.
- Superhero Episode: Two of them, but both turn out to be All Just a Dream.
- The Syndicate: The Big Six are apparently everywhere with their influence stretching over everything.
- Tattooed Crook: Former Parker Girls can be identified by the lily tattoo they all wear somewhere on their body.
- Time Skip: Frequent, none of which end up corresponding to what actually happens in the story proper.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Katchoo and Francine
- Butch Lesbian / Lipstick Lesbian: Tambi and Casey, and eventually Katchoo and Francine if you are pretty loose with the definition of "Butch" and "Lipstick"
- Took a Level in Badass: David in the Child of Rage arc.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: David.
- Tsundere: Katchoo
- Two Girls and a Guy
- Villainous Breakdown: Veronica's starts pretty much the moment she becomes the boss.
- Villainous Incest
- Villainy Discretion Shot: Veronica's demise.
- Wall of Text: SiP can be quite wordy, and Moore frequently abandons the graphic format altogether and just resorts to full-on prose passages for several pages. "Molly & Poo" is told almost entirely in prose, with only a few accompanying illustrations.
- WHAM Episode: Reading the will.
- Yakuza: The Takahashi family.
- Yandere: Veronica.
- Yoyo Plot Point: Will they or won't they? Or they?