Terry Moore's Omnibus in Paradise

"Strangers in Paradise," Terry Moore's epic love story with an audience extending well beyond the comics field, gets the omnibus treatment this summer in a limited edition, slipcased, signed and numbered three-volume hardcover set debuting at San Diego's Comic-Con International. The "Strangers in Paradise Omnibus" includes the entire 106-issue story across two hardcover books, with a third hardcover collecting the original series cover art. The print run is limited to 1250 copies, and will never be reprinted in this form. Softcover editions of the two story volumes will be released next year and available for purchase separately, but the cover gallery is limited to this collection. Diamond Distribution will receive 500 of these copies for retail store orders, and Moore is also taking pre-orders through his web site for August shipment or for pickup at Comic-Con.

CBR News spoke with Moore about the omnibus, the history and fanbase of "SiP," and his latest series, "Echo," which just reached its thirteenth issue.

Similar to the buzz in previous years surrounding Jeff Smith's "Bone One-Volume Edition" or Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's "Lost Girls" for their convention debuts, the "Strangers in Paradise Omnibus" is being discussed as one of the must-have books of San Diego's Comic-Con International. Moore told CBR that he hasn't heard that his book was gaining such attention. "I hope I bring enough for everybody who wants them," he said.

Fans can pre-order the omnibus through strangersinparadise.com and pick up their copy at the convention or have it delivered. Moore does not handle the store's operations, which would include the Omnibus preorders, but said, "I'm told that they're really flying."

As for how fans who pick up the "Strangers in Paradise Omnibus" at San Diego will fare lugging the massive, three-volume hardcover slipcased package around the convention floor, Moore offers some aid. "We're making special tote bags out of canvas, with the cover image on the bags," he told CBR. "All the books that are sold at San Diego will be handed over in those bags. And that'll help. You can just wear that like a backpack and that should work out."

Since its initial run of single-issue comics, "Strangers in Paradise" has been reprinted in a number of formats, including trade paperbacks, hardcover editions, and novel-sized "Pocket Editions." This variety helps cater to the needs of a diverse fanbase, which continues to grow more than two years after the series' conclusion. Terry Moore said, though, that fans should not feel compelled to buy the story in each new format. "It's kind of like buying a guitar. We're going to bring out a new guitar every year, but you don't always have to buy the new one. The version this year is the omnibus edition."

However, Moore has been known to tweak details of his work with each subsequent edition. "As long as I'm alive, I want to keep trying to get a more and more perfect version," he said. "I don't feel like I can quit working on it until I either die or feel like I'm totally finished and it's perfected and I couldn't print a better book.

"I've always wanted an omnibus edition, something that was definitive and [had the whole story] all in one place, all in the right order. For me, I feel like I'm making my Ferrari version."

While the omnibus edition is likely to appeal to "SiP" enthusiasts, Moore noted the differences between readers who prefer the comic-sized trade paperbacks and those who like the pocket books. "When you talk about general America, they don't care as much about the comic book format as the general book format. The Pocket Book is more popular with the general public.

Moore said that some of his most common feedback is that "Strangers in Paradise" is the only comic book a male fan's wife or girlfriend will read, or is the only comic the reader him-or-herself reads. "These are people that are not reading comic books in general, but they like the 'Strangers in Paradise' story so, to buy it in a novel format is more natural to them -- a 400-page, small paperback book. Those are the people who would normally buy a paperback novel. But comic book fans, ones who are used to the genre and want the large art format, they prefer the larger books and the trades.

"Because I'm an artist, I really prefer the larger format, because I want the art to be big and appreciated. So I'm very excited about the omnibus, which is in the larger format. I see the point of the pocket book and the pocket book is very popular, but I'm excited about the omnibus because I get to see the art in the way that I intended it to look."

Moore has indicated on his blog that the comic-sized TPBs and hardcovers are going out of print, so readers preferring the larger art should look to the omnibus volume.

"Strangers in Paradise" was able to appeal to a broader, non-comics reading audience in part because of its strong character-centered storytelling. It was, at times, a mafia crime drama, a soap opera, the story of multimillion-dollar heist, and more. At the heart of the story, though, is the complex relationship between close friends Francine Peters, Katina ("Katchoo") Choovanski, and David Qin. Katchoo is in love with Francine, David is in love with Katchoo, and Francine struggles to make sense of her feelings throughout. Moore described his best-known creation as "a way to live with some characters that became very dear to me, and apparently to some other readers, as well."

The crime drama aspects of the series, which largely conclude around "SiP's" midpoint (though certain reverberations continue), arise from Moore's inability to totally suppress his masculine side. "I think what happened was, I started out thinking about writing a love story, but the testosterone in me got a little bored and started adding other action," he joked. "It's kind of like a man's version of a love story. There's a lot of rough edges and really rough aspects that people don't know until they dive into it--and once they're in, they're in too deep to get out! It's like the mob itself."

With readers feeling so close to the characters, though, Moore's fans are very protective of Katchoo, Francine, and company, a fact heavily in evidence when one of Moore's stories seemed to reboot their entire history. The cartoonist introduced a future scenario in which Francine's daughter was revealed to have written the entire "SiP" storyline as it was known, and Moore even presented some alternate takes on the series' defining moments. "I was playing," he confessed. "That was about ten issues where everybody was considering their futures without each other. Francine actually spent several issues in a row throwing up into a toilet, speculating about her life with or without Katchoo. When the issues were coming out, I ended issue #43 with the words, 'The End of Version 1.' Because everybody read that, and then had to wait six weeks, it was kind of like a really pissed-off cliffhanger," Moore laughed.

"It was maybe not a good idea. I've actually taken those words, 'The End,' out of the omnibus version so that it reads like, you turn the page, and there she is back at the toilet. It reads a lot better. I think that was a young creator being foolhardy. And now, it didn't take much, all I had to do was remove or change a word or two and it reads totally different in the omnibus, more like what my heart was intending. I sure paid the price for it at the time! It wasn't a very popular thing. We'll see how it reads this time around."

Terry Moore has previously stated that though he had always intended to conclude "Strangers in Paradise" at a certain point, the nature of that ending changed following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "The ending actually changed drastically. What happened was, I was thinking in terms of a traditional tragic love story all along. High prices are paid, and all that," Moore explained. "But after 9/11, I felt like there was too much grief in the world, and I didn't want to add to it with another tragic love story. So I wanted to change the tone of the story back to one of hope and, 'yes, good things can happen.' That actually came from the rebel in me, because I'm always rebelling against whatever the predominant thing is. If the predominant thing is hedonism, then I want to go the other way with my work; if people are feeling that there's just no hope in the world, then I feel the need to draw a lighthearted cartoon. That was kind of what happened. After 9/11, I felt like it was the creative people who were responsible for re-instilling hope into the population. I started thinking about my story, that I could do it with 'SiP.' It kind of changed my heart on the story and what I wanted to do with it.

"When it came time to end it, I really feel like I made the right decision. The version we ended up with is so much better than what I had in mind before. It's funny how things turn out, and hopefully they always turn out the right way. I feel like 'SiP' ultimately became the story it should be, so I'm very happy with that."

Following the conclusion of "Strangers in Paradise," Moore began work on "Echo," which stars a young woman partly covered in a living metal that attached to her as she photographed an explosion in the sky. The metal is in fact the remnants of a nuclear-powered flight suit created by a secret government weapons project, and is imbued with the consciousness of the suit's pilot. "I wanted to write stories that would appeal to an even broader reader base," Moore said, adding that he believes he has succeeded. "I didn't know how many 'SiP' readers would go with me to 'Echo.' I think I have some. I know I don't have them all, because a lot of people that were attached to 'SiP,' it was all about Francine and Katchoo for them. If I write another Francine/Katchoo story, they'll be back, but in the meantime it's kind of like being in a different band, and maybe [fans] don't like the music in the second band. So that's the risk you take when you move on."

Like "SiP," Moore has planned "Echo" as a finite series. The story will conclude with issue #30, which the cartoonist believes he should complete in about two more years.

Moore also recently completed a writing stint on "Runaways," which, along with "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane," represent the fruits of his current exclusive work-for-hire contract with Marvel. He said that he is not currently working on any titles with the publisher, but added that he enjoys the opportunity to work with the major superhero publishers. Moore has previously written "Birds of Prey" for DC Comics, and said that he would love to work with them again at some point. "I'm very grateful that I can have my own comic book and still be invited to work with Marvel and DC, that's such an honor. I look forward to anything I can do with them in the future."

The Strangers in Paradise Omnibus can be pre-ordered at http://www.strangersinparadise.com/store.html and will available for sale at Comic-Con International July 23-26, and in comic shops in September.

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