Terry Moore: Paradise Found (DVD)

You’d have a bad attitude if everyone called you “Katchoo” all the time, too.

Strangers in Paradise is the story of three unlikely friends, Francine, David, and Katchoo. Their various misadventures are sometimes romantic, often hilarious, and occasionally tragic and shocking. But it’s the light, slice-of-life scripting and the detailed, charismatic art that has kept readers coming back to cartoonist Terry Moore’s independent comic for the last 11 years.

Terry Moore: Paradise Found is a look deep inside the life and thoughts of the titular cartoonist. Beginning with his youth and his early career in music and television, the narrative then moves to his attempts to make it big in cartooning before his risky—but ultimately successful—choice to self-publish his own comic book. From there, Moore discusses the SiP characters, his creative process, his dealings with his fans, his “mainstream” comics work, and more.

There are really two ways of looking at this documentary, depending on whether you’re already a fan of Moore’s, or you’re coming into this new, not knowing a thing about the man and his work.

For fans, there is a wealth of information here. You get to see a number of Moore’s early works, including his music and his work in TV editing. There are hints here of Moore’s characters and visual style. Moore’s anecdotes about his first efforts in comic book publishing are hilarious, and his ultimate success with awards and sales shows that sometimes an ordinary guy really can find his place in the world.

For non-fans, this is a lot of sitting and talking. Almost the entire movie consists of Moore sitting in his studio, answering questions from an unseen interviewer. This one shot is occasionally broken up by title cards or shots of SiP covers—but get used to seeing the same camera angle for 75 minutes. If you’re not familiar with Moore, you’ll spend the first third of the movie wondering why he rates an entire documentary as he discusses his youth and his failed careers in his twenties. It’s not until he begins talking about the origin of SiP that newcomers will understand just how creative and humorous he can be.

The picture quality is mostly good, especially when showing off Moore’s art, although the colors are slightly soft during the interview footage. It’s a little tough to judge the audio, because most of the sound here is just Moore talking. But during the brief acoustic guitar breaks—and especially during the music on the extras—the audio picks up and is quite impressive.

The extras here add some visual variety to the disc; variety that is not found in the movie itself. The penciling and inking featurette shows Moore working on what would eventually become the cover art for this DVD. At first, the “Songs from Strangers in Paradise” appears to be nothing but more acoustic guitar over plain-looking title cards. But keep watching, and you’ll come to some nice songs written for the comic—Moore worked the sheet music and lyrics into the art in some issues—edited together with images from SiP. This is the sort of diversion that could have improved the main film. The “Evolution” and “Locations” featurettes are too brief to offer any deep information, and the “Making of” segment is just a collection of outtakes.

Fans of Francine and Katchoo are likely already out buying this disc. If you’re curious about the Strangers in Paradise experience, we recommend you begin with the comics—handily available in graphic novel form—and then move up to this DVD.

The Verdict

What…no liver?

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