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The Wednesday Waffle - Issue Eight: Wonder Women

Comics have a reputation for being a little - how shall we put this? - a little bit testosterone heavy. Many non-readers imagine comics to be little more than big men in spandex punching each other, and if we're honest that stereotype isn't entirely without foundation.

But we also know that there's much more to comics than that, so this week we'll take a look at comics created by women, or that put their female characters in the lead roles, or both. Because I think we can all agree that any discussion about women in comics can only be enhanced by the opinions of another middle aged man.*

But since I am a middle aged man, I'll kick off with the work of another middle aged bloke. Terry Moore has been a force in comics since the early nineties, when his first hit Strangers in Paradise took the scene by storm.

Part complex love story, part crime thriller SiP centred on the relationships between apparently twee suburban housewife Francine, wild artist Katerina Choovanski, aka Katchoo, and their friend David. David loved Katchoo, Katchoo loved Francine, Francine

loved Katchoo but wasn't entirely comfortable with that at the beginning.

Throw in Francine's boorish, boring ex husband Freddie, David's terrifying sister Darcy Parker, Darcy's terrifying mob enforcer Tambi, Darcy's crime empire and Katchoo's shady past as a part of that empire and you had a rollercoaster of a ride that ran for nearly a decade and a half - and it was beyond glorious.

I dislike the term "strong female characters", because as a rule it is used as a synonym for "female characters who behave exactly like men". Terry Moore's characters don't - at least most of them don't. I'd have to acknowledge that Tambi is essentially an enforcer direct from central casting, all muscle and obedience. But the strength we find in both Katchoo and especially Francine - and even Darcy Parker, the villain of the piece, has nothing to do with masculinity.

I mean, yes, Katchoo will literally rip the nose off your face if you threaten her or the people she loves, and she knows hundreds of creative ways to kill you with both maximum efficiency and, if preferred, maximum pain. But she's more likely to cut you dead with a sarcastic comment.

And Francine's strength has nothing at all to do with violence or physical ability. It becomes clear that you wouldn't want to cross her, but she's not into brute force. Over the course of the narrative a lot of things happen to Francine - she endures a lot. But in many ways, that's the point. She endures.

From the very beginning Francine has her hopes and dreams dashed, her plans for the future constantly threatened - even as those plans, hopes and dreams grow and evolve. She's no passive stoic, though - there's not a hint of victim about her. No, Francine stands to face every challenge and tackles each one in her own inimitable way - any obstacle that blocks her path falls before her eventually. She's a quiet force of nature, but so is a tree root, and they can break mountains eventually. She's magnificent - I promise, you'll love her**.