Amazon's Paper Girls, the newest tv phenomenon, is cut from the same cloth as uber-phenom Stranger Things on Netflix. Both series feature groups of tweens in a Goonies-like sci-fi adventure set in the 1980s, with a carefully curated, retro-cool soundtrack. They were even both created in the same time frame, sorta.
Paper Girls the Image Comic started in October 2015, and concluded with issue #30 in 2019. Stranger Things debuted in Summer 2016. Stranger Things had been conceived well before Paper Girls, so the similarities are amazing, but purely coincidental.
Where Stranger Things straddles the sci-fi/supernatural line, Paper Girls, despite its deceptively tame title, is pure sci-fi. It’s also a very faithful adaptation of the comic, right down to using the comic’s logo as-is (including that frustrating “a” that looks like a “u”), the visual depictions of the characters’ hairstyles and clothing, and the storyline. No surprise really, since comic creators Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang are executive producers (along with Brad Pitt!).
Both the comic and the tv series start off innocently enough with a group of tweenage girls delivering newspapers in the pre-dawn hours the day after Halloween 1988. Both depict real-life hassles young girls would face against bullies staying up all Halloween night causing trouble and looking for a fight. But neither medium wastes much time after dealing with the bullies before veering sharply into a hefty dose of sci-fi tropes, with time travel as its focus. I was surprised how many sci-fi elements from the comic were included in the tv series; no expense was spared to generate high-quality SFX.
As much as I loved the sci-fi plot, sets, and costumes, what I was most impressed with were the human, coming-of-age stories of these girls: their home lives, each one different but difficult in its own way; their struggles with self-identity; and the mysteries of puberty (especially for girls, as addressed in one very uncomfortable-but-endearing episode).
TO AVOID SPOILERS, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH: As for their experiences with time travel: can you imagine how you would react to meeting and spending time with your future self? Or to find out that when you grow up, you won’t be who you thought you were, or hoped you would become? Or to find out the year you will die? Or the possibility of being lost in time? The girls face these situations, and I don’t think 12-year-old Me would have handled them nearly as well as these girls do. The scenes with their future selves are some of the most heartfelt and emotionally impactful of the series.
The casting and directing of the girls seemed a bit uncertain in the first episode, but everything got smoother and less awkward after each installment. I grew to respect their acting abilities and care about each one of their characters, and was sorry when my weekend binge of the 8-episode season was done. I didn’t want it to be over. And neither will you, if you give Paper Girls a watch.
Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Paper Girls #1-30 (2015-2019)
A compendium edition Paper Girls: The Complete Story containing all 30 issues is set to arrive with a cover price of $49.99 in comic stores on Wednesday, October 27th, and in bookstores on Tuesday, November 2nd.