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"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 Paradisestarts. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.