This article containsSPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Drew: Brian K. Vaughan series are hard to pin down, generically. I mean, they obviously fall into big capital-G genres like “sci-fi” or “space opera,” but the list of specific influences — which Vaughan often name-checks — can shift from issue to issue. Case in point, Paper Girls has sprinted through dozens of generic touchstones in its 17 issues. And yet, I’ve been holding onto its starting point in the Spielberg/Columbus-style suburbia of the late ’80s as some kind of essential component of its DNA, even as the series hasn’t been in that setting since its very first arc. While some of the girls may still be in that head-space (Mac sure seems to be), they’re traversing worlds that have entirely different points of reference (both for the people who live in those worlds, and the stories we tell about them), which seems to be leaving an impression on them. Continue reading →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
One of my most vivid memories is a day in first grade when we had a substitute teacher. I opened a little tupperware container full of alphabet flash cards and it fell on the floor, scattering the cards all over. When I started to pick them up, the teacher came over and yelled at me for “crawling around on the floor,” wouldn’t listen to a word of my protest, and sent me to detention. The flash cards remained on the floor for the rest of the day.
When you’re young, it often feels like you and adults live in two different worlds, but that specific scenario was one where I quite literally felt like the teacher and I were seeing and experiencing two very different realities. That rift between generations is illustrated just as literally by Cliff Chiang, Brian K. Vaughan, and Matthew Wilson in Paper Girls 16. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Ryan M are discussing Paper Girls 15, originally released June 8, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Patrick: I’ve always loved the idiom “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.” It implies such a rough and determined win against nearly insurmountable odds. Like, think about how much courage it takes to snatch anything out of a pair of motherfucking jaws, never mind that the jaws evidently belong to the personification of “defeat.” It’s dramatic, heroic, hopeful. But it’s seldom something we see in the work of Brian K. Vaughan. Closing out the third story arc, Paper Girls 15 gives us a prime example of the exact opposite — defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Every act of bravery is punished with increasingly perplexing consequences, until the very nature of the Girls’ time travel is thrown into question.
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Paper Girls 13, originally released April 5, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: The best sci-fi creators find a way to distill their grand ideas and concepts down to situations and emotions their audience can connect with and relate to. Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have been wizards at this throughout Paper Girls, using their story to explore themes as weighty as prejudice and generation gaps and as mundane as family and growing up. Issue 13 distills that idea even further, slowing their ongoing story to a crawl and instead using the journey to naturally draw out the cast’s view of themselves, their families, and growing up in general. The result is never anything less than completely engaging. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Paper Girls 11, originally released February 1, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
1. an unexpected punch or blow.
Patrick: There’s not much that happens in Paper Girls that is expected, so it might be kind of hard to notice when the series is actually delivering unexpected blows. I mean, when you’re tumbling through time and space, what actually counts as “unexpected” anymore? That could be a tension killer, but under the measured eyes of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, a constant stream of sucker punches becomes an unsettling canvas. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Paper Girls 9, originally released September 7th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: There’s still much we don’t know about the world of Paper Girls, and despite Clone-Erin’s assurances on the first page, issue 9 doesn’t even begin to answer all our questions; what it does, though, is further dig into the “kids vs. adults” conflict apparently brewing in Clone-Erin’s future. How Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matthew Wilson do so is fascinating; instead of going into a detailed flashback or history of the conflict, they simply recreate it amongst their own cast. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan D. and Michael are discussing Paper Girls 3, originally released December 2nd, 2015.
“Don’t trust anybody over 30.”
Ryan D: The Free Speech Movement, originally born out of the turmoil roiling in the belly of an America committed to both the Vietnam War and the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement, gave youths protesting a mantra regarding who is trustworthy and who is not. The original quote, spoken first in 1964 when an interviewer accused Weinberg and the Movement of being backed by Communists or some other nefarious group, asserts that people over a certain age always have an agenda. Though Paper Girls takes place twenty years after the FSM, this most recent issue’s reveal proves that the saying holds true, even in the far future, or alternate universes, or wherever it is that is invading the Earth in this ripping read. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Ryan M. are discussing Paper Girls 2, originally released November 4th, 2015.
Drew: How early in a narrative can you usually predict the ending? Usually, when we describe a narrative as “predictable” we mean that derisively, but most stories have prescribed endings — oftentimes, the genre of the story is enough to hint at the ending: how does a romantic comedy end? How about a murder mystery? What about a sports movie? There are obviously countless examples that subvert those expectations, but those play by the same rules — the ending can be flipped, sure, but the potential endings are still reduced down to a small handful of options. Unless, of course, that story “defies genre,” evading any of the pigeonholes that would dictate its ending (or at least evading them long enough for you to get sucked in). That’s exactly the case with Paper Girls 2, where the deepening mystery thwarts any expectations about what might happen next. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Paper Girls 1, originally released October 7th, 2015.
We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.
Lindsey Brigman, The Abyss (1989)
Patrick: When The Abyss came out in 1989, the Cold War was still very much a part of the American Zeitgeist. So much so, that a James Cameron movie about underwater aliens necessarily had to address political tensions between the US and the Soviets and the fear of nuclear annihilation. Those themes are more clearly expressed in the lumpier director’s cut of the film, but even the theatrical release is colored with assumptions and anxieties specific to that period in time. I love The Abyss, but I probably didn’t see it until I was 11 or 12 (1994 sounds right), which means I was able to take it in from the other side of the Berlin Wall, and none of those relics of Cold War paranoia rang true to my personal experience. But rather than being alienating, those details tap into an existing international psychology, and create a world that is instantly recognizable as real, honest, and not so far outside the world we know. Paper Girls pulls a similar trick, filling the pages with 1988 details that don’t so much tell a story as set the scene for a story. Continue reading →