Previously, in episode 77, I made a list of 12 pop culture things I wanted to check out in 2018. One item on that list was to read more comics that were not part of Marvel or DC. I was given several suggestions from you and I’m taking the time to dig into these books.
Reviewing comics is one of the hardest thing for me on the podcast because, generally, people don’t have the access to comics the way they might a big-budget movie. I actually have to get my comics digitally because the closest comic shop is nearly an hour away from me and, sadly, they don’t always carry everything. That said, there are going to spoilers. There’s really no other way around it, especially for this series. Sorry.
Today I’m covering Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughan. This series (which is still ongoing at the time of this recording) debuted in October 2015, so I am absolutely late to the party here and I’m so sorry that I am.
The first issue begins on Halloween 1988, where four 12-year old girls meet each other on their paper route and get sucked into a plot that is so much bigger and twisted than they (or the reader) realize. The vibe has been called “Stand By Me” meets “War of the Worlds” and I think it deserves that comparison. When it was recommended to me, it was along the lines of “Stranger Things,” which is also a good comparison.
When I started reading this series, I had no idea what I was walking into. I didn’t read any of the plot or even a summary of that first issue. I just picked it up and ran with it. The 80’s feel was spot on and that is really what sucked me in at first. And then all of the weird sci-fi stuff started.
But let’s back up.
Our protagonists are, like I said, four 12-year old girls doing their early-morning newspaper deliveries. They’re spunky. They have attitudes. They aren’t the typical girls written in comics and that makes them more special and more interesting. Erin is the newcomer to the group and bumps into Mackenzie (the tough leader), Lindsey (the tough girl’s best friend) and KJ (the tomboy). Vaughan makes it plainly clear that the 80s were tougher than we would like to believe.
Unlike a lot of female protagonists, these girls are capable of handling things themselves. That’s shown at the beginning of the first issue, when Erin has to deal with a dirtbag teenager harassing her. Mackenzie, Lindsey, and KJ roll up to stop him, regardless of them knowing this new girl. Vaughan doesn’t mess with cliches here.
In addition to the Paper Girls meeting each other, they get sucked into a weird sci-fi adventure when someone steals one of Lindsey’s prized walkie-talkies. They decide to chase him down, which leads them to an abandoned house, where they find what looks like a lunar module in the basement.
After a flash of light and a loud hum, the girls return outside to see that the sky looks different and things just don’t feel right. They find the walkie-talkie thief, who is revealed to be someone from the future. It’s also revealed that the girls are in 2016, not 1988.
This is where things get weird. This is also where we are constantly reminded that we aren’t in a time-travel story. But maybe we are? (As I’m recording this, I’ve not read the most-recent issue, so things are still developing and still a little foggy.)
At the end of the first volume, the girls run into Erin… as a 40-year old woman. Later we meet another version of Erin that is from the future, but is still 12 and speaks the same language as the Elders, who seem to be the antagonists in the story. And they ride these pterodactyls who fly in the sky. When Erin shows up from the supposed alternate universe, she brings back giant tardigrades who start fighting Godzilla style in a lake.
Like I said, things are weird the further you get in Paper Girls. But that just makes it more fun.
A word of caution for those of you who are more sensitive to certain material, there is strong language in the series, as well as some blood and gore, though I would not call it gratuitous. All of it shapes the story in small ways and helps set the world.
The artwork by Cliff Chiang and color palette in Paper Girls is perfect for the mood Brian K Vaughan is conveying throughout the story. Not only does it work with the 80’s motif, but it also works well with the sci-fi that takes place more and more as you read the story.
I have to say that it has been an overall well-written series with a great mystery that makes you want to come back issue after issue. In an interview with the LA Times, Brian K Vaughan said that the book is planned to run for a couple of years and he has a definite ending in mind. That makes me extremely happy because I’m loving this series, looking forward to how much weirder it can get and, and definitely excited to see where he’s going to take these characters.
A huge thanks goes out to David Arington at Helix Reviews for suggesting this series.
Have you read Paper Girls? If you have, shoot me an email at and let me know what you thought. You can also use that same email address to suggest more books outside of the Marvel and DC bubble for me to read. I’m looking forward to the recommendations, so send them in!
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