From the beginning, paper girls came with a pedigree. Written by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Saga) and illustrated by Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman, human target) the sci-fi adventure series about a group of time-traveling teenagers took the comics world by storm when it debuted in 2015. It won the prestigious Eisner Award for Best New Series , received critical acclaim and developed a sizable fanbase over its four-year, 30-issue run.
I believe it was the beloved bard William Shakespeare who said that “all great stories should get a TV adaptation”. Amazon Studios bigwigs have certainly taken notice, bringing the sci-fi mystery comic series paper girls from the page to the small screen this summer.
paper girls debuted an eight-episode first season last Friday on Prime Video. For those who are not sure if they want to run this marathon stranger things-esque series – you should, by the way – here’s everything you need to know for this highly anticipated adaptation.
paper girls is a teenage time travel story with a twist
In the early morning hours of November 1, 1988, four 12-year-old girls—Erin, Mac, KJ, and Tiffany—bike through their fictional small suburb of Stony Stream, Ohio, delivering newspapers. With plenty of creeps still roaming the quiet streets, the girls decide to complete their routes as a group. It leads them to discover something beyond their wildest dreams. Their sleepy town abruptly becomes a dimensional battlefield, placing these four girls at the center of two factions of time travelers. This group of unwitting preteens may well hold the key to solving this endless war.
The rhythm of paper girls is gripping and relentless, refusing to let the reader catch their breath as they delve into a vast, convoluted, and unique story. The series is also invested in the complexities and ethics of time travel such as discovering friendships, understanding your own future and what it would be like to meet you in the future, discovering that your aspirations for childhood are unfulfilled ambitions.
The characters live up to the story
It’s easy for a comic as conceptual as paper girls losing his characters in the shuffle. But what makes the series incredibly special is that our four protagonists – Erin, Mac, KJ and Tiffany – are never outdone. Their needs, goals, and desires are always at the center of the story, which helps keep things on track and makes things easy to follow even when the story is doing the max.
Vaughan’s story never loses sight of its four unique protagonists, and it’s actually rather miraculous that a male writer wrote such an intimate and compelling story about female characters. In a 2016 interview with Slate, Vaughan talked about casting teenage girls as the heroes of her new series.
“I’ve always loved writing female characters, but sometimes I feel like even when they’re protagonists, they’re still defined by their relationships with male characters,” he said. “I wanted to write about girls who could be characters on their own, who weren’t defined by their interactions with men.”
All four girls are defined on their own terms, which is incredibly refreshing, and seeing them take control of their lives is a key factor in paper girls Hit.
How does the show compare to the comics?
Let’s start with what the Prime Video show and comic book series do exceptionally well: focus attention on the girls themselves. But the show goes even further with this; there are decidedly fewer sci-fi elements, leaning more into the girls’ stories and their realities facing their own complicated future, rather than exploring the intricate complexities of time travel. Their hopes, dreams, and fears are at the forefront of the series, though one particular relationship doesn’t develop as well as it does in the comics.
In terms of timeline, there are more important differences. The first episode is a fairly faithful retelling of the first volume of the comic, but things diverge considerably from there. The show includes elements from most of the first half of the comic book series. But it loses the breathless pace of the comics, moving at a slower, more contemplative speed. While we learn a lot about the time-traveling factions, and especially the main antagonists, near the start of the comics, those aspects are very largely kept out of the way until the final episodes of the first season. It’s clear that Amazon is aiming for a second season to delve deeper into the vast world of paper girls.
More disappointing is how the aesthetic has changed. Leaving some of the original style seems unavoidable when translating a work from page to screen. But the paper girls The comic is one of the most colorful and artistically exciting series in recent memory, and it just doesn’t happen on the TV screen. There are some hints of comic book beauty, namely the eerie pink sky, but much of the visual splendor, including the creatively designed monsters and creatures, is nowhere to be found.
The comics are superior, but both are worth a look
Way like this, live action paper girls can feel like a big departure from its origins. But it still has a lot to offer, because while the show deviates from a lot of what makes comics so wonderful, it understands that the girls themselves are the crowning glory of the story.
If you’re drawn to the TV show, I urge you to dive into its inspiration, which is one of the most exciting, creative, and overall best character-driven comics around. And even if you watch the show and it doesn’t wow you, the paper girls the comic book series is almost guaranteed to blow your mind.