Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #13 - March 1996

Strangers In Paradise

Publisher:	Abstract Studios
Story & Art:	Terry Moore
Cvr Price:	$2.75 
Frequency:	Bi-monthly


Francine and her roommate, Kat Choovanski (Katchoo to her friends) have lived together for a long time and have been friends forever. This is the story of their lives as Francine struggles with boy troubles, and Katchoo is dealing with a boy who she may or may not like, but soon she disappears without telling anyone, and when she reappears months later, she refuses to talk about her time away. I don't think I can say much more about this storyline without giving plot points away...

Writing Review:

Melodrama in the best sense of the word, Strangers in Paradise is a dramatic effort dealing with powerful (and occasionally dark) themes in a softly-written way that flows naturally from the heart. Dialogue and some of the plot can occasionally edge into the exaggerated, but Terry never loses sight of where he's taking the narrative. I'm not sure there's another book like this on the market today - almost a pure romance comic, but a Romance Comic For The 90's, attempting to single-handedly update an entire genre with a new, skewed look at relationships and friendships.

Art Review:

Crisp, clean, flowing and natural - Terry has a way with his brush. His characters look incredibly real and full of expressions; characters almost never have a "blank look". Then, too, although beautiful in their ways, neither Katchoo nor Francine is a typical comics "bombshell". Francine is getting a bit chunky since she started overeating again, and Katchoo - well, that look in her eye...


Strangers in Paradise has been around long enough to have achieved a strong fan following on its own, but steady sales of the first trade paperback (now on a fourth printing!) and earlier issues show that this is a book which continues to expand its readership, reaching beyond the bounds of comic-book fans to the arms of the general public. SiP is the single best comic to hand to that bored spouse waiting for their Significant Other to get their comic fix - or hand it to Mom as she watches Junior grab this week's haul.

And it has been gaining readership in fandom as well, as older readers begin looking for a story they can relate to - (like two colllege-aged, relationship-challenged roommates). Readers of Hepcats, and Strange Attractors, should check it out, along with those who enjoyed the Death High Cost of Living miniseries for its story as much as its author - this similar tale of sensible women in insensible times should catch the same heartstrings.
 [ panels from Strangers in Paradise ]

If you like Strangers in Paradise, take a look at:


Publisher:	Alaffinity	
Story & Art:	Marcus Harwell & Adam Harwell
Cover Price:	$2.95  (issues 1-9 available)
Frequency:	Bi-monthly, soon.


When an out-of-control spaceship makes an unscheduled hyperspace jump and crash lands on a planet too small to have an atmosphere, space travelers Jan and O'Sea are surprised to discover this planetoid has one. It also doesn't appear to rotate, and has near-standard gravity. Impossible? Tell that to the inhabitants, who are going to war over a pointless claim to a tall tower nobody can get in or out of. Meanwhile, three factions form up in the war, and various parties begin their schemes to avoid it, conquer, or just survive.

Writing Review:

Greymatter is structured as a multi-character novel; every few pages we shift scenes to see what some of the other characters are up to. Part of this is just to keep the reader's interest up, but part is practical: Greymatter is not done by a writer/artist team, but instead by two different writer-artists, each of whom is telling the stories of three or four characters and telling a cohesive overstory as well.

This makes for an occasional jarring scene-shift, and an unevenness which can be offputting, but also allows for a certain freedom and variety in the writing. Marcus, for instance, enjoys focusing on the space travelers as they disguise themselves or try to earn a living for food, while Adam enjoys showing the way of life of one of the planet's native inhabitants (or is he?), Puingsy.

Art Review:

Another uneven blend, as even each artist has places where he excels and others where he could use work. Marcus' tales of Jan and O'Sea are generally well done, but occasionally fall prone to loss of the "background-perspective". Adam's work on the adventures of King Arniez are fairly good, but his shots of Puingsy and Waedchyll are generally unsettled and occasionally-jarring. Overall, it's a title that could use some work, but has been steadily improving over its two years of publication.

Sales Overview:

Thanks to the general mingling of many characters and stories, there's a lot here to appeal to many fans. To start with, O'Sea (one of the space travelers) is an equimorph - a man-shaped body with the head of a horse, so fans of anthropomorphic literature (Equine, Red Shetland, Furrlough, Hepcats, etc) should give this a look. The cute-creature-who-looks-like-a-shmoo (Puingsy) hearkens to Bone phsyically, but has a more mystical feel to his character that should appeal to fans of deeper fantasy (Starchild, for instance). Fans of Arcana and Cerebus will probably like Greymatter; although technically science-fiction, the story feels more like fantasy since the planet is low-tech, and the occasional comedy relief is reminiscent of Sim's jaunts into laughter in Cerebus. Meanwhile, fans of Strange Attractors and Wandering Star may enjoy the fish-out-of-water aspects of the high-tech spacers dealing with low-tech civilization.

Potential readers will require some patience with the art as it slowly improves over the (so far) 9-issue run, but will find it suitably engrossing by the time they get to the shocking ending of issue 7. Give it a try - the starter pack in particular is a great value.

If you like greymatter, take a look at:

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