In the world of
An Interview with Terry Moore
Strangers in Paradise is a book like no other. Not many comics have the distinction of actually bringing women into comic book stores, but this one does.
In an industry where spandex clad heroes fill the racks of retailer stores and the only female characters seem like they will be having severe back problems in the future, Terry Moore and Strangers in Paradise stand at the top of a not so crowded field of strong female driven and character driven storylines.
Anyone who’s never read a comic book (for the stereotypical reasons) needs to get their hands on a copy of this book. If you’re a comic book reader and your significant other doesn’t understand why you’re such a geek: let them read this book! Strangers in Paradise is a critical and a cult hit for a reason…well many reasons, as a matter of fact. Read the interview with Creator/Writer/Artist Terry Moore and then go buy this book. You won’t regret it. As a special favor to female readers of this site who are reluctant to go into a comic store (and I wouldn’t blame you) go to www.strangersinparadise.com and order the books directly from Terry.
AG: Why did you choose to tell this story in comic book format instead of through a movie or novel? It’s not the traditional ‘comic book’ type story.
TM: The comic format was a much easier way for me to tell the story. It’s a lot easier for me to make things happen this way and have it on my own terms. When you’re talking about writing a screenplay or a novel, there were a lot of other people involved and it got aggravating. There were too many people involved and I just wanted to tell the story the way it needed to be told. AG: Did you set out to do the comic on your own, instead of going through a larger publisher?
TM: Oh yeah, originally that was the plan. But if you try and describe or pitch this story it just sounds terrible (laughs) ‘Yeah it’s the day to day adventures of this group of friends…’ Mainstream companies have their own requirements for comics and Strangers in Paradise didn’t fit within those boundaries. It’s a quieter, slower paced, more intimate story. I was begging Fantagraphics for an entire year back in 92/93 to take the book but no one was interested. Finally, a little company called Antarctic agreed to publish. They figured what the hell, we’ll take the risk and the rest was history. It was a cult favorite. I couldn’t explain why, but people were hooked and there was tremendous buzz.
AG: What’s your typical day like?
TM: I’m a cultural media junky. I try to take in as much as possible: movies, television and music. I like going out and speaking with people. I try to pick up on what they’re doing and what their lives are like. I like seeing how they dress and how they talk to each other.
AG: SIP fans really fall in love with the characters. That’s one of the appeals to the book, because readers just get themselves wrapped up in this world you’ve created. Is this a problem when you writer? Do you sometimes change your story ideas because you think the readers would want something else?
TM: I wish I could say it was 100% me and I didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought, but that isn’t the case. I do feel somewhat limited because I am accountable for my actions with this book. I can’t make it as controversial or intimate as I would like, because then I get letters from teen age girls who tell me that they’re no longer allowed to buy the book. Or the retailers put it behind the counter with the T and A books. If they do that, they might as well just burn all the copies.
AG: How far ahead do you plot? Do you know how the story will end?
TM: The ending is all figured out. There is a definite resolution, but we are not there by any means yet.
AG: You write and draw the book…which do you enjoy more?
TM: Both become a chore until those moments that mean a lot. When I draw, and it’s complete and I really like the way a page or a character looks, it makes me very happy. I love the moments when I look at a finished page and I’m just pleased with the end result. The same goes for when I write. When I write a revealing or intimate moment and it flows so well, I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It’s like listening to the radio and discovering a wonderful new song for the first time.
AG: How are you able to write female perspective so well?
TM: I’ve always been interested in the female side of things. I grew up with a sister who was my own age and I’ve basically lived with a woman my entire life: first my sister, then my wife. I draw from my experiences with them. ˝ of me is a regular guy, you know? If I hang around with just women too long and listen to them, I feel like I need to get away and do something ‘manly’. The other half is just tremendously fascinated with their point of view.
AG: So you just listen and learn?
TM: I always was intrigued by their ‘side’. Women aren’t these strange creatures that speak a different language and act like aliens. They talk like guys do, they think like we do. They’re human beings and they have the same emotions that guys do. When I started to understand and see them as real people, it became easier to write from that point of view. You could even stretch and say Katchoo is a male character in a female body. It’s not that simple, but in a certain manner, she portrays all the qualities that are stereotypically a man’s. If the character was a man, then it would just be a traditional boring love story.
AG: Do you have a favorite character?
TM: I care for all of them a great deal. I’m emotionally attached to each of them. My favorite moments are having Katchoo and Freddie in the same room; there’s a great dynamic there.
AG: Freddie is one of a kind.
TM: He’s the stupid man in me. He always wants to know why everything is so complicated. Why does everything have to be so confusing? He’s the side of me that just doesn’t understand. Katchoo is like the wife. She will never lose an argument and you know it, and you know she’s right and you just wish she would be quiet. AG: If you had enough free time and could write any character, who would it be?
AG: Really? Why Spider-Man?
TM: Because I hate the fact that it’s so terrible now. I keep thinking, how could I save this book? I would love the opportunity to go in there and do a story that I know would make sense and not insult the reader’s intelligence and bring the character back to where he should be.
AG: So you’re not happy with the books now?
TM: I think part of the problem with that book is that they’re handing writing assignments to people who’s only credentials is that they were editors. The writers on these books are raised through the system and their thinking methods are more along those ‘status quo’ lines. They need to bring in new blood and writers who have a fresh take on the character. Having a Masters Degree in English Literature would be helpful, too. You need to bring on someone who has experiences outside of this particular world in order to make the character fresh.
AG: So does the character work best as the typical down and out single guy, or family guy with a wife and child, fighting crime on the side?
TM: Spider-Man loses his magic when he can’t take a risk. If he’s married with children, he’s not going to take un-needed risks to jeopardize them and that makes it no fun. The story dynamics changed when Peter Parker grew up and got married. It’s an aspect of his life that the typical fan can not relate to. Peter Parker’s appeal was that he was this young, normal guy who was confused, conflicted. Readers could relate to that. When age him, marry him…it just changes the whole character. It’s like when Frank Miller did The Dark Knight Returns. I didn’t want to see a 60 year old Batman. I want my Batman to be this Terminator type unstoppable force. I didn’t want to see him like that.
AG: So you wouldn’t go for aging the characters…
TM: A character like Batman has been around 60 years and the writers haven’t changed him as much as they have Spider-Man in recent times. You don’t need to make change just for changes sake.’
AG: You said it’s hard to describe Strangers in Paradise…give it a shot.
TM: It’s an intimate look at the friendship between a small group of people. I think readers relate and have a certain curiosity for the book because of the issues at stake. The issues in the story are things that people can relate to. The physical actions that the characters take may not be possible for people, but the conversations that they have are the type that anyone can relate to: Love, Loyalty, Friendship, Hate. It’s pretty obvious that I’m pulling for these people as I write them, but no matter where they end up, the journey is the fun part.
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