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Comics/Graphic Novels

The Art of the Start: Paper Girls

Emily Wenstrom

Staff Writer

By day, Emily Wenstrom is a content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstorm, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.. Her Chronicles of the Third Realm War series includes Mud (#1), Tides (#2), Rain (#0), and more to come. Follow her on Twitter @ejwenstrom.

You’ve got a handful of pages to prove your concept, to introduce your character, to get your hooks into your reader and keep ‘em coming back for more. How do you handle it? In The Art of the Start we look at first issues, be they new originals, fresh story angles, or total reboots. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

paper girls

Cover by Cliff Chiang

Sugar and spice and everything nice? The young heroines of Paper Girls are more like cigarettes, snark and resolve wrapped in a denim jacket. And let’s not forget—they’re also pioneers in their field, breaking the glass ceiling in the world of newspaper delivery.

As someone who fell fast and hard for Saga, I expected a lot going in to Paper Girls, the newest series from writer Brian K. Vaughan. But somehow, Paper Girls still managed to exceed my expectations.

The story opens in a dream sequence, which is usually an unwelcome trope, but this one reveals critical details about the main character and the series at large. Plus, Vaughan does surreal so well, you just kick back and enjoy.

The first image is a bright red apple in the hands of Erin, a 12-year-old prep school girl—evoking, at first, the childhood fairy tale Snow White, until the reader is informed it’s actually the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge—thus opening exactly where the entire series sits, at the crux of childhood and adulthood.

Side note, we’re told it’s the from the Tree of Knowledge from an angel-slash-astronaut, who it turns out is also Christa McAuliffe—NASA’s first selected Teacher in Space, who died as part of the Challenger crew in 1986. The issue is full of little ’80s throwback jewels like that.

(And for Saga fans, she also looks strikingly like Prince Robot IV and company … right? Yes? Is it me?)

Maybe it’s just the screen-face.

It’s then revealed that this is a recurring dream for Erin, in which the world is destroyed and she goes to Heaven—only to find that her sister went to Hell. It’s not clear yet how this deep fear plays into the main plot of Paper Girls, but I’m sure more about Erin is coming soon.

What I consider part two of the issue starts when Erin gets out of bed to start her paper route. Problem? It’s 4:40 a.m. on November 1, and the Halloween riffraff is still out looking for trouble. It doesn’t take long for that trouble to find Erin.

Good thing the Paper Girls are out too. And let me tell you, these girls.

They. Take. No. Shit.


Tiffany has top-of-the-line walkie-talkies. KJ keeps a field hockey stick slung across her back as a weapon. And holy moly you do not want to get on the bad side of the group’s leader Mac.

Just look at that face.

Paper Girls_Issue1_Mac

Do not mess.

I don’t want to ruin the ending of this fun introduction to Paper Girls, so I’ll just give a few highlights—creepy basements, UFOs, and unknown tech all make appearances. And it all concludes with a real juicy, decade-appropriate hook that is sure to leave you hungry for issue 2.

But of course, though the plot is strong, what really makes Paper Girls is the girls themselves. The issue quickly manages to establish four distinct personalities within this badass little gang of preteens, with distinctly different faces and even body types. And also some really great ’80s hair.

The tone is true to the “simpler” time it’s set in—a time before cell phones, the Internet, and even before PCs were mainstream. And yet so much still rings true today. Mac is respected by the group because she paved the way for other women in the field of paper delivery, as she was the first girl on a route. Later, she comments on how newspapers are going to fall to the wayside now that it has to compete with TV. Sound familiar?

In short, Paper Girls delivers. (I was so close to getting through this without a pun, but I just couldn’t resist.) I can’t wait to see what #2 has in store.