Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise volume 3’s representation of queerness became my first exposure to positive queer characters with agency. I discovered Strangers in Paradise through stray copies of volume two in FYE, while in middle school. The characters, through Moore’s work, was my first exposure to independent self-published comic books. Strangers in Paradise had kinetic physical comedy balanced with brutal sudden violence, and strong characterization. I hunted down back issues and filled in volume one and two through local comic book stores and internet stores, when they became available. Aside from great artwork, strong characterization and real relationships were the draw. Francine’s attractiveness was not the basis for Katchoo’s love. It was Francine’s empathy, kindness, and loyalty. Francine valued Katchoo’s selflessness, honesty, and endless compassion. The two characters had an authentic relationship rooted in appreciation and friendship.
Seeing a balanced queer relationship, and created agency, was a stark contrast to mainstream representation where homosexuality was rarely addressed, and when it was homosexuality was treated like a plot-device. Katchoo was driven by her queer relationship with Francine, and inherent danger in queerness. This is exemplified by Freddie Femur, Francine’s ex-boyfriend, who is jealous of the characters’ relationship and suffers embarrassment when he attempts to push his heterosexual expectations on Francine. The other antagonist, Darcy Parker, represents the exploitation of women by other women, through an international prostitution ring, which pushed hetero-erotic gender-roles on an under-age runaway Katchoo. Both adversaries’ suppression of queerness was a driving force, informing both character and plot development.