Katchoo loves David, but she’s in love with Francine, a mostly straight woman who returns Katchoo’s love just enough to break both their hearts. The tangled relationships among these three characters are at the center of Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, the award-winning comic book series that concludes its 14-year journey next month.
The end of SiP is an unfortunate loss for the comic book industry, where queer characters are usually nonexistent, marginalized, closeted in subtext or reduced to the simplicity of after-school specials. From the beginning, SiP was different. It featured a number of lesbian characters who played out real-life situations, not fantasies — at least not fantasies of the magic spandex and invisible plane variety. Like Moore’s other characters, the lesbians are well-rounded: flawed, occasionally unhappy, often physically and emotionally strong, and sometimes deeply in love with the wrong person. Most importantly, they’re real — or as real as any medium could render them.
Moore took a break from creating Issue 89, the next-to-last issue in the series (available in stores on Wednesday), to talk to AfterEllen.com about being kicked out of church, the anger that fueled his creation of Strangers in Paradise, and the beauty of two women finding love in the midst of chaos.
AfterEllen.com: As someone new to the genre, I was in awe of what you accomplish in so few pages.
Terry Moore: It’s amazing how powerful the comic book format can be because it incorporates the best of both film and prose. Novels and movies or television are creative vehicles that rely on something moving in order for you to experience them. The film has to roll, your eyes have to run across the page to get the experience … whereas in a graphic novel, you’re looking at the scene. It stays there on the page all day, and you experience the moment for as long as you want to experience it. It’s just an amazingly powerful medium.
AE: What kind of reactions have you received from lesbian fans of SiP?
TM: Well, I think I may have become an honorary lesbian through the series. The work has a very strong following in the gay and lesbian community, which is ironic since I’m not gay. I think if I were gay and was doing this work, I could be making a real signature piece here and just run with it for the rest of my life.
AE: But because you’re not gay, things are different for you?
TM: Well, there’s part of me that realizes I will never quite get it. It’s like … the new episode of South Park last night was about some white guy using the N-word and how it offended the black people. The black kid in school kept saying, "You guys will never get it; you will never understand what it’s like to have that word said to you."
It’s kind of like that for me, although I still suffer a lot of the bigotry and the prejudice that’s leveled against gay people because my work is gay. I defend it; I’m proud of it, so I take a lot of grief. I got kicked out of my church and all this stuff as if I was gay, and I have all those prejudices against me in the comic book industry — people who will not touch it because it’s about lesbians.
I’ve suffered a lot of that kind of prejudice, and that’s still only a taste of what it must be like to go home and tell your family and be out and open and struggling with it. You never know where you’re going to find your next bad experience, whether it’s in a café or wherever, and then there’s the struggle for legal rights.
Really, I’m kind of doing the very safe journey into what it’s like to be gay. I’m suffering some of the consequences of it because of my signature work, but at the end of the day, I can put it on the table and go back to my straight life and shake my head and go, "Wow, you know, that’s a lot to deal with."