… but that is what he was asked on numerous occasions when he published his first comics, Strangers in Paradise, in 1993. Why? Because he chose to write and draw a story based on a Matriarchal society. Is that so bad? One might wonder why the same questions—about hating the opposite sex to the one in power—aren’t asked of men who create patriarchal societies in mainstream comics…
Does that mean he hates men? No. And here is why:
Moore’s writing style is an interesting one, he writes people, rather then characters, and by doing so, personalities live within the pages rather than being imagined. As he explained in an interview for MOOC last Tuesday: ‘I write a human being first, and then the gender comes second’.
Like every writer, his stories are inspired by his life, but in an ‘oh if only I could go back in time to that argument, I would have said this, this and that!’ kind of way, thus making his characters a different version of what he is.
SiP is filled with gender stereotypes, that’s true, but most of them are turned on their heads. This inversion brings new perspectives to actions and reactions from different genders. This proves to be an eye-opening tactic and often results in negative assumptions that naturally, he must hate men!
In most of his work Moore shows women as being strong, violent, vengeful and powerful as well as (and not just) neurotic, sensitive, bruised, forgiving and caring.
Some men are shown as vulnerable, sweet, compassionate; others as pricks, sexually driven machines; and others as cold, but lawful and fair.
The range of characteristics in his characters is broad and thus breaking down the constructions of masculine and feminine and suggesting that all human beings can have mixes of both.
His approach is not by any means perfect, – and let’s not forget this is a decade before the awesomeness of My So-Called Secret Identity – but it is nonetheless an interesting and different one that raises more questions that need to be answered by society as a whole.
SiP tells the story of a strong friendship and the lengths Francine and Katchoo go to save each other. Here are some of the main characters:
Katchoo is a free-spirited, good-looking woman, she is always pushing Francine (her best friend) to be more assertive and to demand respect from everyone around her. She began her story as a sidekick to Francine, nevertheless at the end of issue 1, Katchoo is arrested for avenging her friend and a FBI file comes up with her name on it. At that point, Moore got so curious about what she had to hide, he started to write her into a main character spot. Since then, we have discovered that Katchoo has a past of abuse and violence that haunts her. It turns her into a vigilant, strong, athletic and aggressive woman who hates men for what they have done to her in the past (stereotype). After she left home, she met a woman who cared for her and showed her a new life as a call girl; the only difference here is that this is a service run by women and the clients are women (stereotype turned). Oh yes, and she thinks she is totally in love with Francine, but is she?
Francine is a sweet, warmhearted woman looking for a long-term relationship with a man whom she loves. She has been hurt by many men in the past and so in order to guarantee that this one (Freddie) won’t leave her, she refuses to have sex with him for a whole year, as she believes men leave her as soon as she gives herself to them. When he has had enough of waiting he leaves her and she finds out he was having an affair with his secretary for a while. This is when we see a different Francine come out: she is strong, decisive and neurotic; she wants him back and she is ready to do whatever it takes. She eats a lot when she’s down, and she doesn’t care!
David is a sweet artist, who falls deeply in love with Katchoo and even if it hurts him, he would rather be just a friend than nothing at all. He is sensitive, caring and unfortunately, comes from a very dangerous family that might put Katchoo and Francine at risk.
Freddie is a bag of stereotypes! He is inconsiderate, selfish, sarcastic, thoughtless, hedonistic, conniving and superficial. But, physically harmless and clueless.
Darcy is a ruthless, rich, violent and very powerful woman. She is the head of a mafia who controls the country and the economy.
Another aspect of Moore’s fantastic work is his drawing of realistic bodies. In his books, people are normal sized rather then extremely tall with elongated limbs. Double necks, beer and cake bellies, messy hair and dark circles are common occurrences in his drawings.
Moore’s work is known for its sensitive and realistic portrayals of women in particular. At a time when the comics industry was portraying women in highly exaggerated and sexualized images, Moore created female (and male) characters with natural body fat and who had body image problems
Quote from Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
Unfortunately when he was younger, whilst illustrating for mainstream comics, his freedom of drawing from realistic examples was capped and he was asked to work within ‘the norm’.
When I did get in trouble was when I tried to draw other people’s characters. For instance, when I drew a pinup for DC or Marvel or Image, they would always give me feedback, like, “Okay, on our character, this neck is – this neck is too short and too fat, thin up the neck, you know, make her – ” And they would guide me in toward their character boundaries, you know. So that’s the only time I got in trouble. But, you know what, that was only kind of in the beginning. As I’ve become a little more wellknown for how I draw, I haven’t had people tell me that so much. They let me draw Rogue however I want, so I – when I did a Rogue cover for XMen, I drew a normallooking nineteenyearold, and they let it go. I was really pleased about that.
Here are some examples of Rogue by other artists:
And now here is Moore’s Rogue:
See the difference? The fact that he is now allowed room to do it his own way because he has established himself as a famous artist doesn’t mean that the same restrictions aren’t still being imposed on new artists. Of course, this raises concerns for the future of artists’ freedom of interpretation in comics.
In another occasion he has also posted in his Devaintart page the following image and comment:
Ms Marvel vs Julie… who’d win in a fight? The answer is Supergirl.
But, okay, this drawing is a perfect example of a major flaw in my work. My character is on the left, the much, much, much more popular and well-known character is on the right. Notice the obvious difference in the two? … Right, my character is wearing underwear. WHY-WHY do I keep drawing characters who wear underwear?!! WHEN will I learn? Panty lines kill sales.
Good news is The Sip Omnibus Boxset is coming this July woooohooo!!!
Terry works together with his wife Robin who is his publisher and runs Abstract Studios. His style is a mark in the changing of independent comics and the way character design is approached, but if we want to change it for better and for good a larger influencial approach needs to be had by mainstream comic artists.
Like, when the Image school of design hit in the early ‘90s, they changed the look of comics within one year. Within one year, most all comics were being drawn like an Image comic, so there you go, there’s your answer. Yes, it can be done. You just want the next artist to be drawing in a little more realistic style. I’ve done the best I can. I think I’ve had two people drawing like me. So you’re gonna need someone a little more famous than me, a little bigger than me to change it.