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Paper Girls: Tongues of Rock, Hearts Like Paper

Kat’s Music and Comics Corner (Issue #12)

My favorite movie of all-time, hands down, is Stand By Me. I’m really into 80s teen films (anything John Hughes touches is golden) but although this film was made in 1986 it actually takes place in the 1950s. The age of greasers and pompadours and white cat eye glasses and milkshakes. But the reason I love this film so much is that it captures the essence of adolescent friendships so well. It’s not easy to write a story with believable teenage characters. Teenagers aren’t super powered, super genius, or super anything for that matter, which is not to say you can’t create a character that is and maintain the essence of a teenager, but by making them super you take away a sense of relatability. Teenagers are little rebels, goody two shoes, peacemakers, straight A students, straight F students. They are moody and resistant, but at their core, behind that razor-sharp sarcasm is a kid with a paper heart.

Paper Girls is a comic book written by my favorite comic book writer, Brian K. Vaughan, and illustrated by the seriously talented artist, Cliff Chiang. Honestly, the first time I read issue one of Paper Girls, for some reason or another, I didn’t like it. I guess it’s because of all the sci-fi elements, which I’m not too big on, but had I stuck around til the end of Volume 1, I would have fallen in love, like I have now, with Brian’s brilliant and hilarious and biting dialogue. The story takes place in 1988, where being a paper boy is still a thing and being a paper girl is revolutionary. We’ve got our four protagonists, KJ, Mac, Erin and Tiffany who are all 12-year-old kids who wake up early in the morning to deliver the paper to their neighborhood. Erin meets this rat pack trio when she gets harassed by some boys dressed as Freddy Kreuger, a ninja, and a clown; the girs roll in on their bikes and save Erin from the boys, and afterward even go as far as letting her in on their paper routes. Then sci-fi chaos ensues when they look up and see a sky filled with pterodactyl-like creatures.

If you’re into sci-fi you’ll definitely like this comic book, but if you like teenage (they’re preteens but are on the edge of teendom) dialogue and well-formed relationships between young girl characters then you’ll love this book. The writing is so charming and gut-punching. One part in particular that I really loved is when one of the time traveling scavengers named Heck mentions (spoilers ahead) to the Paper Girls that he had a boyfriend who was murdered. Each girl has such a realistic reaction to Heck’s heartfelt sharing. The cigarette smoking, edgy Mac is grossed out, Tiffany is shocked, and KJ calls out Mac on her rudeness. The tolerance and intolerance really speak for the decade and the individuality of teens in that time period. And then Heck empathizes with their reactions and goes on to say they live in an effed-up time period (he actually says “effed”, how cute). How right you are Heck.

The art of this comic book is so freaking awesome. *bows down to Cliff Chiang* The clothing designs for the girls are so 80s it hurts, in a good way. All the character designs are so pleasing to the eye and often comics can have very stiff looking facial expressions but the eyes, wrinkles, eyebrows and faces are perfectly shaped into the expression that was intended for it. I also have to give props to Matt Wilson for the coloring of this comic book. The covers for the single issues have such a beautiful color scheme that really scream their decade and the art is colored in a way that creates a continuous sci-fi, 80s vibe, which is so on point.

If you think all girls should wear dresses, sip tea, and curtsy, then you need this comic book as a wake-up call to the idea that they can be flawed, they can be empathetic, they can have vices, and most importantly, they may curse and have tongues of rock, but their hearts are made of paper. I’m telling you, pick up Paper Girls, it’ll be the best comic book related decision you’ve ever made.

– Kathryn Fornier