Thoughts of the Graphic Sort

A place where I can discuss my addiction to graphic novels.

Posts Tagged ‘Romance

Strangers in Paradise Vol. 1 by Terry Moore

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So, I came across this series through the comments on Amazon.com for some other graphic novel.  I can’t remember what the other one was, but it’s not important anyway.  Okay.  Moving on.

I had never heard about Strangers in Paradise until a few months ago.  It was described as a story about relationships and love between a group of friends with some mysteries, murders, intrigue, and nefarious organizations thrown in.  I was definitely interested, especially since it focused on two women who weren’t exploitations or stereotypes.

Volume 1 is a rapid-fire introduction to the characters and hints at some of the larger issues the series covers.  We meet Katchoo, a little fireball with a mysterious past who hates men, is in love with her best female friend, and confused about her feelings for David, her male best friend.  Then there’s Francine, the love of Katchoo’s life who is scared of men because they always turn out to be jerks, deals with weight issues, and is conflicted about her feelings for Katchoo — she loves her but she just can’t be with her, at least not in the way Katchoo wants.  And rounding out the trio is David, a man with a past as mysterious as Katchoo’s, who loves Katchoo but who also is involved with the people who are out to get her.

The series debuted in 1993 and although some things date the comic, like the clothes they wear, their hair, the lack of technology, Moore keeps pop culture references to a minimum which is great because it keeps the story from being pegged into any real time period.  As I read Volume 1, I sorely wished I had come across this comic when I was a teen growing up in the 1990s.    Back then, I had no idea comics like this even existed.  I assumed they were superheroes (which were for boys) or Archie-like comics (which were for girls).   Comics about women who fall in love, get angry, fall apart, and rely on each other to get back up?  Comics about two friends with real needs and issues?  Comics about love and friendship?  That would have blown my tiny teenage mind.  And my adult mind is going crazy wondering what’s going to happen to these friends next.

What I love about Strangers in Paradise is even when things go batshit crazy and people are pitted against each other, double and triple agents turn on their bosses, and someone does something foolish to protect someone else, it’s still about the relationship between Francine and Katchoo.  Will their friendship weather this storm and the next?  Will Francine ever love Katchoo the way Katchoo wants, or will Katchoo ever make peace with the fact that Francine will always only be a friend?  Will everyone just leave them alone so they can be happy?

I don’t know how the characters ends up – I’m only on Volume 4 – but I am super happy I found SiP in the Amazon.com comments.  Missing out on this gem and never getting to meet Katchoo, Francine, and David would have been a regret I didn’t even know I had, but it would have affected me nonetheless because I would never have known how great and compelling comics featuring characters with real emotions, needs, and desires could be.

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Written by JP Weezey

May 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds

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That right eye's just a bit wonky, don't you agree?

I heard about Tamara Drewe from my sister who saw the movie of the same name.  While she didn’t give the movie rave reviews, I was intrigued enough to check out the graphic novel.  So I bought it and then it sat on my shelf for over a year.

See, the cover artwork kinda threw me off.  I already disliked Tamara for being a bit cross-eyed.  And then I read the flap and saw that it was a remake of a Thomas Hardy novel (Far From the Maddening Crowd), and I was even more disinterested.  Why?  Because in my opinion, modern updates do more to ruin a story than enhance it.

But then, many months later as I was reorganizing my bookshelves, I noticed the sheep doing the nasty in the background.

Two bits of fluff gettin' it on. My kind of classy.

Okay.  Now we’re onto something.

So I gave Tamara a chance and I’m plenty glad I did.  It opens with an classified ad for a writer’s retreat that is “far from the maddening crowd, ” a very clever way to pay homage to the source.  The actual story starts with Glen Larson, an American who has a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to writing and women.  He arrives at Stonefield Retreat for for his second stay and you get the idea that through the hardwork of Beth, the proprietress, Stonefield is the perfect retreat for authors.  She does the cooking, laundry, typing, cleaning – pretty much everything so that the writers can spend all of their time writing.  Beth is the ultimate supporter, as evidenced by her refusal to disturb her philandering husband’s many dalliances with other women.

And then comes Tamara.  The whole retreat becomes a whirlwind of emotions when the ugly duckling whose nose job has turned her into a swan comes home.  She moves into the manor next door to Stonefield and every man for miles instantly wants to take her into the field and show her their fluff.

But Simmonds knows how to craft a story and she layers Tamara Drewe with very realistic characters, many of whom are unlikeable but you just can’t stop reading about them.  She brings in stalkers, ex-rock gods hung up on ex-girlfriends, unrequited love, media rags and paparazzi, and misguided youth.  And through all of the tawdry goings on surrounding Tamara is Beth.  Beth, the stable, forgiving wife who is on the verge of reaching her limit with her philandering husband.  Watching her teetering on the edge is delicious and infuriating but you daren’t look away lest you miss all of the gory aftermath.

And the artwork… Simmonds uses simple, clean lines to draw her characters which really compliments the writing.  Some pages devote more than half of the page to the writing, which Simmonds artfully interweaves around the images.  The colors are muted and she sometimes colors the backgrounds in browns and grays to highlight the actions of the characters which is really nice.  The simplicity of her artwork naturally compliments the complex story and really immerses the reader into the the world of Tamara Drewe.

Written by JP Weezey

March 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Review

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