Apart from maybe Pride of BaghdadI think the last look this month at the first issues written by Brian K. Vaughan is my favorite of his works. It’s a series that heralded the zeitgeist of ’80s retro horror and sci-fi that dominated the latter half of the 2010s. And it really spoke to elements of my childhood as a a fascinating and captivating way. It is paper girls.
“We warned you…never eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
paper girls #1 by Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt WilsonAnd Jared K. Fletcher features four small-town Ohio girls as they try to deliver their papers the day after Halloween in 1988. Things go horribly wrong from the start, from the mundane bullies trying to steal a paper to the fantastic to be transported through space and time.
paper girls came out before stranger things. About nine months ago. It was funny to read some of the Amazon TV series reviews that tried to label it a knockoff. It’s also not the same thing, in terms of story, characters and construction, but it taps into the same well: 80s nostalgia. Although it features a group of kids trying to finding itself at the end of the decade, steeped in pop culture and the socio-political landscape, it feels like it takes on different cues from Spielberg veering more towards science fiction than horror. And maybe a little The ‘Burbs.
In addition to the era-specific material, much of the nostalgic feel is through Matt Wilson’s colors. Wilson uses a limited palette of soft blues, purples, and pinks that evoke that retro-wave feel. Similar to the stylized washes of ex machina, it gives the book a unique feel while reinforcing the idea that it is from a different time period.
2. Cliffhangers and Shock Revelations
Surprises and twists are a common element in Vaughan’s writing. Sometimes they reveal critical plot developments, as the parents reveal in Runaways. Other times they give context to the world they find themselves in, like the last page of Ex-Machina.
In the first issue of paper girls, there are three major shock story beats: the spaceship/time machine reveal, the ninja mummy people’s face reveal, and Apple technology. Each one gives little bits and pieces of the type of story we’re getting and acts like a hook for us to keep reading to find out exactly what’s going on. The first two also give Chiang and Fletcher a chance to shine. Chiang with his interesting machine and character designs and Fletcher with the future language logograms.
And there is a homophobic slur. There’s a small difference here beyond just using harmful language for shock value, though. The AIDS crisis was a very big part of the 80s, so it makes sense from a story perspective that something should be mentioned. Also, the character saying the insult actually seems to be homophobic early in the series. Solve problems with mindset, rather than just being there to shock.
“It’s not a symbol. It’s an apple.”
Like the first issues of Y: The Last Man And SagaI consider paper girls #1 by Vaughan, Chiang, Wilson and Fletcher an artistic masterpiece. It immerses us in a fascinating science fiction world, flavored with 80s nostalgia, with absolutely magnificent works of art.
Collection of Classic Comics: Paper Girls #1
Paper Girls #1
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Picture Comics
Release date: October 7, 2015
Available collected in Paper Girls – Volume 1, Saga: Deluxe Edition – Volume One, And Paper Girls: The Complete Story
Read previous entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!