SPECIAL FAN FICTION REPORT - 5/17/98
[Last updated 5/28/98]
This is a special fan fiction report in that I'm not going to be reviewing Xena fan fiction at all here but rather the efforts of an incredible storyteller by the name of Terry Moore whose work I was recently made aware of by fellow Xenites and which I KNOW will appeal to anyone who enjoys the types of stories we see in the Xenaverse. Terry is the author of an OUTSTANDING comic book series by the name of STRANGERS IN PARADISE which made its debut back in 1993. Most of the individual comics published to date are available in five combined volumes which I just finished reading and which absolutely blew my mind. The reason I decided to talk about them in this special Xena fanfic report is that STRANGERS IN PARADISE is like an alternative uber-Xena novel in comic book form - and yes I did say alternative - comics have changed A LOT in recent times. STRANGERS IN PARADISE doesn't have the testosterone heroes with unbelievable muscles or the heroines with unbelievable breasts ;-) It doesn't rely on one- dimensional stories with predictable endings. It is a comic about human relationships and it is a comic intended for adults. Terry has built his characters and his stories around many of the same themes and strengths that originally attracted so many fans to XWP. Moreover, he bases SIP on the magic of a very special relationship, exploring all the facets of that relationship in a way that is extremely reminiscent of Xena alt. fiction.
Terry's main characters are Katchoo and Francine - two young women living in our time, the best of friends since childhood and now roommates who nevertheless had very different experiences during a few years back when they were separated. For Katchoo in particular, those years would change her forever giving birth to the nightmares she now struggles with constantly and the enemies who stalk both her...and the best friend she's secretly in love with. Francine, meanwhile, is a young woman struggling with relationships, fighting insecurities as she looks for that man who might be able to honestly love her, all the while becoming more and more aware of just how much she is already loved. The two are joined by other characters which will remind you quite a bit of counterparts in XWP.
Terry's stories, like the XWP TV series and especially the fanfic so many of us enjoy, are a wonderful mixture of humor, drama, suspense, action, and friendship all revolving around a very special relationship and the need for love in the human heart. Here's a listing of the trade novels which combine vols. 1-3 of the comic book series:
VOL. I - STRANGERS IN PARADISE by Terry Moore
Introduces Katchoo and Francine in a hysterical moment from their high school days. Years later the two friends are roommates as Francine tries desperately to salvage a relationship with her wealthy, self-centered boyfriend Freddie. Katchoo, meanwhile, meets David, a lonely young man who quickly becomes infatuated with the beautiful artist, never suspecting that her heart already belongs to another. He remains clueless even as a furious Katchoo enacts an appropriate revenge against the jerk boyfriend that has dared to hurt the woman she loves. Vol. I of the trade novels includes all the issues in vol. 1 of the comic series.
VOL. II - I DREAM OF YOU by Terry Moore
My favorite volume in the series so far, this one brings the past and the present together for Katchoo in a riveting storyline which the back cover of the volume summarizes as follows: "Katchoo is a beautiful young woman living a quiet life with everything going for her. She's independent, smart and very much in love with her best friend, Francine, a loveable neurotic with a heart of gold. Everything is perfect, until Katchoo's former employer, the deadly Mrs. Parker, comes looking for her and $850,000 in missing mob money. As her idyllic life begins to fall apart, Katchoo realizes she never left her past behind, she brought it with her, and now it threatens to destroy her and the woman she loves". Vol. II of the trade novels includes comic issues vol. 2, #1-9
VOL. III - IT'S A GOOD LIFE by Terry Moore
This volume is like a study in relationships and in the ironies of the human heart. Preparing for his wedding, the obnoxious Freddie is nevertheless still obsessing over Francine who wants to forget him but just can't quite seem to go on with her life. Katchoo meanwhile is trying to buy David a clue since he refuses to believe he doesn't stand a chance with her. All the while, the beautiful artist and her best friend are beginning to explore other facets of their relationship - beginning to think about possibilities that may bring them the happiness they only seem to feel with each other. Vol. III of the trade novels includes comic issues vol. 2, #10-13.
VOL. IV - LOVE ME TENDER by Terry Moore
This fourth volume has the two friends concentration on their livelihood as Francine lands a job that brings with it some unexpected duties and Katchoo tries to go back to painting only to feel the bitterness of a betrayal. The back cover of this volume very succinctly describes what this comic book series is all about: "No men in tights, no silicone women, no battles won by the biggest gun...LOVE ME TENDER is the story of two young women living just next door. You went to school with them, you work beside them, they rode the elevator with you just the other day. You may not notice them in a crowd, but they laugh and cry, love and hope and look for tomorrows that may never come. LOVE ME TENDER is an intimate look into the lives of Francine and Katchoo, two ordinary women who lead extraordinary lives". Vol. IV of the trade novels includes comic issues vol. 3, #1-5
VOL. V - IMMORTAL by Terry Moore
This latest volume is gripping and powerful as it gives us an insight into the nightmare life Katchoo once escaped and is now being pulled back into. All the while, we also see Francine and David struggling with their own emotions over Katchoo - each desperate to help the young woman despite the deadly foes they are facing. Here's the blurb from the back cover: "Katchoo leaves her beloved Francine to look for David, the only male friend she's ever had, but finds his wicked and powerful sister Darcy Parker instead. Given an offer she can't refuse, Katchoo is forced to return to work for Darcy in the sordid world of sex and politics, or lose Francine forever. When Francine enlists the aid of Detective Walsh to help find Katchoo, she soon discovers the horrible secrets her friend has been hiding - secrets that may destroy them both!". Vol. V of the trade novels includes comic issues vol. 3, #6-12.
Overall guys I give this comic book series by HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. It is NOT entirely like XWP. In fact Terry started SIP two years before the Warrior Princess and her bard started gracing our TV screens but somehow these two creative efforts have managed to tap into many of the same themes, many of the same elements that I think are responsible for the infatuation a lot of us have with XWP. If you're a fan of Xena alt. fanfic in particular I can GUARANTEE you Katchoo and Francine WILL strike a chord. As a matter of fact, Terry Moore is himself a fan of the show and I've heard that he is planning on a little tribute to the warrior and bard in an upcoming issue of his comic (vol. 3, #16 I believe).
Soooooo now that I've hopefully picked your interest - how can you get STRANGERS IN PARADISE? Well, first of all this IS a comic book series so you can get the newest issues at your local comic book shop. You might be able to get older issues that way too. However, my advice is that you try to get the four trade novels which I listed above because these compile most of the comics which have been published too date allowing you to read the entire story so far. If your local comic book shop can't get them for you there are a number of places you can try on the Web. Our fellow Xenite and a bard extraordinaire in her own right, Dax, maintains a page at her OBSESSION site dedicated to STRANGERS IN PARADISE where she lists a number of retailers from where you might be able to order the trade paperbacks. The URL to Dax's SIP page is: http://www.obsession14.com/SIP/sip.htm
I myself have dealt with the following two SIP comic retailers and received excellent service:
Phoenix Comics & Games
Family Comics and Cards
The list prices for the volumes are vol.1 $8.95, vol.2 $16.95, vol.3 $8.95, vol. 4 $12.95 and vol. 5 $14.95.
For more information on this comic you might also want to check out the UNOFFICIAL STRANGERS IN PARADISE WEBSITE at http://www.frii.com/~maida/sip.html
One last thing to tell you about this series so that you aren't as confused as I initially was - there are five trade paperbacks which are referred to as vols. 1-5. However, the individual comic book series so far has three volumes only - the latest issues being released now are marked as vol.3 The voluming used in the trade paperbacks just doesn't correspond exactly to that used in the comics.
A little disclaimer before I close guys - I don't know nor am I in any way associated with any of the parties I mention here. Just sharing a very good thing with others I think will also recognize it as such. If you're like me SIP is going to seem like one heck of a good Xena uber story.
For those of you reading this post who are not familiar with the term alternative (alt.), it refers to ADULT stories that add a romantic element to the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, depicting them as more than just friends.