Being a huge fan of Brian K Vaughn’s comic series Saga, I was thrilled to see his scifi series Paper Girls get an adaptation on Amazon Prime. The first season came out earlier this year and was well received, but unfortunately it will not be getting a second season. Still, both the TV show and the original comic are definitely worth checking out.
Paper Girls follows four 12-yr-old girls as they meet while delivering papers very early on the morning after Halloween in 1988. What starts as a difficult morning on the job with acquaintances morphs into a time-traveling journey of friendship and self-discovery as the girls find themselves thrown into the middle of a time war.
Despite a bit of a slow start, the TV adaptation is quite engaging. The characters are its strength. By the end I was really drawn into the struggles of each of the four girls and even their intimidating antagonist the Prioress. Erin, Tiffany, KJ and Mac all have to reconcile themselves to the fact that their own futures aren’t exactly what they expected. The four young actors are perfectly cast and did such a wonderful job; it really felt like the characters had leapt off the page into real life.
Naturally, there were some changes in adapting the comic to a TV show. Mostly, they had to tone down the crazy a bit. The comic has some really memorable events that would be really hard to translate to screen without a *huge* effect budget, like the giant tardigrade battle in the Cuyahoga River.
Although there are some changes to the plot as well as new characters added in the TV series, they did a really great job keeping the spirit of the work. We still got scifi elements like time travel, Gundam-style mechs, and pterodactyls, as well as coming-of-age and friendship themes. There are some truly emotional moments. They also did a great job keeping the tension of the girls being stuck between the two sides of the time war and not always knowing who to trust.
The TV show added a clearer antagonist and didn’t go as far into depth on the philosophical differences of those trying to control the timeline and the resistance who wants freedom to change things. I wish we would get to see what a second season could have been, especially after the teaser at the end, but they really wrapped up the characters’ arcs well so the season does stand on its own.
They also dropped the idea that all the future tech is Apple branded, with the Apple logo (and apples in general) being a recurring motif. Shame to lose that depth of meaning, but the show streams on Amazon! 🤣
Saga fans will definitely find a lot to love in the comic. In particular, I was tickled to find an “alien” language, just like Blue in Saga (which is actually just Esperanto). In Paper Girls, the time travel rebels of the future speak in a pictographic-looking language. Just like with Blue, the meaning is pretty clear from context, but you can actually translate it if you want. Each symbol of STF speech corresponds to a letter of the English alphabet, so it’s a simple substitution cipher. I worked it out for myself, but of course you can also find translations online.
This is a great time out year to check out Paper Girls because it has a lot of Halloween vibes, being that it starts on the morning after Halloween, which the girls term “Hell Day.” Between that, the young kids, and the 80s setting, it does initially feel a bit like Stranger Things, but that comparison is really only skin deep. (For reference, the Paper Girls comic began publishing in Oct 2015; Stranger Things came out in July 2016.)
One last note: being from Northeast Ohio, I loved the setting! Vaughn is from Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, which you can see has clearly been fictionalized as Stony Stream. It was really cool seeing so many familiar locations in the comic (and the TV show did Ohio pretty well too haha).
Overall, I’d give the TV show a 6-7 rating out of 10, and the comic an 8. Once I’d watched the TV show with my husband I was thrilled to find that my library had unlimited copies of the complete collected comic via the Libby app. I’d recommend either/both versions of the story, and then I’d recommend Saga. 😉