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Paradise Found

Francine, Katchoo and David are the pen-and-ink, flesh-and-blood stars of Terry Moore's Paradise.

It has become exhausting, if not incapacitating, trying to explain to non-believers (and, um, 15-year-olds) why a man in his 30s still reads comic books--like it's something to be ashamed of, the mark of the stunted and stupid and stinky. And what, exactly, are you reading today? Something Oprah recommended? Mick Foley's second autobiography? Tuesdays With Morrie? The Bible? But, hey, I'm not judging. Just don't expect me to feel defensive when I lay the smackdown with my hardback Jimmy Corrigan or my Kevin Smith Green Arrow collection; man's gotta have hobbies, even if they come with monthly subscriptions to The Comics Journal. Besides, some of the best modern fiction exists between the thin pages of a comic book: Dan Clowes' haunting and intimate Ghost World (coming to a theater near you in August), Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez's resurrected Love and Rockets, Alan Moore's post-mod take on superheroes (Top Ten and Tom Strong), Tony Millionaire's wacked-out Adventures of Sock Monkey. For starters. Look: Art is art, even when it's dressed down in a medium you abandoned around the time your voice broke or your bust...busted?

The true believers will gather this weekend in Richardson for the Dallas Comic and Toy Fest, where one of comicdom's best non-hero tale-tellers will be available to sign autographs and take questions in between your shopping binges. Terry Moore's name doesn't appear in most, if any, of the comic-book encyclopedias and half-assed histories dedicated to the medium. Nor does the Houston resident's name appear whenever the serious-minded discuss comics-for-non-comics readers; if Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City), Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and the mighty, mighty Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan) remain in the underground, then Moore lives in the tunnel about 34 feet beneath their caverns. Had Moore's 8-year-old, self-published series Strangers in Paradise--which features Katina Choovanski, a pain with a past; her weight-challenged pal Francine Peters; and the deceptively serene, not-quite-born-again David Qin--been made into an HBO series, as rumored in 1998, perhaps his would be a household name in homes where David Chase and Alan Ball visit on Sunday nights. Instead, Moore presides over a cult that treats Katchoo and Francine as more than pen-and-ink caricatures who live inside tiny boxes; for the fans who wait by their mailboxes every six weeks, these women--flawed and fragile even beneath thickset and hard-bitten exteriors--are very much flesh-and-blood. In the words of one female reader, writing in the SIP mailbag found at the end of every issue, "I love the humor and sensitivity, passion and suspense."

If you don't feel like hauling it out to Richardson--where you'll also get to hang with myriad other comic-book writers, artists and inkers (such as Young Justice's Todd Nauck), not to mention lost boy Corey Haim and his pal Davi...well, let's just say it's a Scream-y special guest who likes Cox--Moore will also meet and greet Friday evening at Titan Comics, the only comic store in town that matters. And, fellow travelers, consider yourself especially blessed: On Friday and Saturday, the Sci-Fi Expo & Toy Show takes place at the Grapevine Convention Center, featuring all the usual Star Wars suspects: Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and Mara Jade (Shannon Baksa). Oh, how you can so get your dork on this weekend.


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