Brian K. Vaughan on the Moment That Gave Him Goosebumps in Paper Girls

Brian K. Vaughan on the Moment That Gave Him Goosebumps in Paper Girls ...

This Paper Girls article contains spoilers.

Paper Girls, a popular comic book, extends its appeal to the small screen, capturing the heart, fun, and general sci-fi humor of the source material. More than that, it takes the time to reflect on Mac, KJ, Tiffany, and Erin's rich inner lives as they embark on a decades-spanning quest that puts them in conflict with everything from their future identities to their mortality.

Brian K. Vaughan (who wrote all 30 issues) and Cliff Chiang (who illustrated them) serve as executive producers on the series. Their involvement both validates and supports the show, which ambitiously strives to build upon the time-jumping world that the comic so perfectly established.

Den of Geek: Tell me about the origins of Paper Girls.

Brian K. Vaughan: Well, it all started when I was a kid. We used to get the Cleveland Plain Dealer delivered to us by a young man, until one day it suddenly wasn't. There were a bunch of 12-year-old girls in our neighborhood, delivering everyone's Plain Dealer. It was cool.

I recognized that these women were pioneers and that they weren't likely to be around for a few years. I've always thought about them and I always wondered whether or not I might use them in a narrative. I think when Cliff and I became parents and contemplated writing about growing up, I thought oh, those young women would be wonderful. Not just as supporting characters, but as the main characters in a story.

Cliff, what visual influences did you draw upon while creating the look of Paper Girls?

Cliff Chiang:I think a lot of people treat 1980s literature as a punchline. They go really broad because they are very colorful and it's a lot of fun, but we tried to make things that felt a little bit documentary-like about suburban life in the 80s. We tried to keep things simple by including colored objects in the footage. These colors and things like that give the film some personality.

With Halt and Catch Fire, you've already had experience with the television world of the 1980s. Now, obviously, Paper Girls is partially set in that period. What do you think is compelling storytellers to stick to that decade?

Christopher C. Rogers: To bastardize a Camus quote, I think all art is about reintroduction to those early fundamental images that first touched you when you were young. In some ways, we are all children of the 80s. This story is set in 1988. Like Brian, it may have been girls you knew at school or understood.

I think we were drawn back into the past and wanting to portray it in a more broader context. I think people skim the top layer of what the 80s were known for in film and television, but this show wanted to go a bit deeper when its in that period into Reagan, into the diverse experiences of people with different ethnicities or sexual orientations, and into some of the darker corners as well.

The episode A New Period surprised me in the best possible way. It was just the discussion of seeing what young women go through during puberty. I cant remember a time when it was described in a way that was so heartfelt and humorous on television.

Christopher C. Rogers: I think this is one of the most memorable scenes in the show. I think it's a scene only Paper Girls could create, and, paradoxically, I had the least to do with it of any writers in our room. It's an all-female room other than me women in their twenties to women in their sixties tons of different life experiences.

That's the best thing we can do, which is to represent people and young women at this age's coming of age, but also to fit it into this kind of exciting narrative. Im very proud of that moment and what we captured on film, and hopefully it will make you laugh and make you uncomfortable, and people out there will say, Oh yes.

The comic and the show both have a real honesty. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I found the scene with KJ when she sees her future self involved in a same sex relationship to be that kind of beautiful, terrifying, eureka moment that I think most queer people go through when they realize their sexuality. To see that brought on screen in a different way than the queerness was presented in the book broadened the possibilities for what Paper Girls might be like on television in general.

Brian K. Vaughan: Thank you for describing it. Im just remembering seeing it for the first time. It was like, Oh, this is why adaptations are so great, because that's something that Cliff and I had captured in Paper Girls. Im so proud of that moment in the comics, but seeing it on television and the way they were able to do it was just so amazing. I just, I loved it.

Cliff Chiang:I'm amazed by how many scenes there are that I wish we'd done in the comic. There's just so much passion and so much emotion and just taking the characters to places that I wish we could have gone to. It's just so amazing and made me so happy to see the team take the show and make it their own.

Christopher C. Rogers: The idea of this program, in many ways, was to sit down longer to discuss these wonderful moments that are suggested in the comic. And then going to the director who had her own coming out story for that one, what do we want to feel? And then going to the actress and saying, These are the things we think are true around this, but what is Its such an additive medium where so much can be produced in the making.

By the way, that actress (Fina Strazza) is incredible, because she has to do so much of it with a look. It's not a dialogue heavy moment. So I'm really impressed with the actors who took on this task and really took the time to understand where these characters came from.

Now, I understand that Stranger Things is predated by the comic, but do you think the similarities that are inevitable are due to the fact that you have young children having supernatural kinds of adventures in the 80s? Do you think that the show will benefit or hinder it?

Brian K Vaughan: I'm hoping that it helps and that I've yet to see Stranger Things. It came out when Cliff and I were in the middle of writing our series and I didnt want to be influenced unintentionally or otherwise. But Ill say that his 12-year-old son loves Stranger Things.

Because of any apparent similarities to Paper Girls, he was initially interested, but from the very first episode, he was like, Oh dad, this isn't like Stranger Things, is it? He's like, No, this is fantastic. So yes, I think the world is large enough for two programs about young people who are from the 1980s. And I hope as you have stated, we can all coexist peacefully.

What do you think of Paper Girls' future and where would you like the series to go at this point?

Christopher C. Rogers: We believe the future is bright. We absolutely know where we want to go. I think if you have read the comics, you know that we were just scratching the surface of the arcs of these characters. I think everyone on this call is unified in concern about a second season. I know the girls as well.

Tell me a little bit about the hiring process for bringing these people who are primarily known for comedy into this eerie Paper Girls world.

Christopher C. Rogers: Yes. The program attracted fans. Jason Mantzoukas is a huge Paper Girls fan, who in fact gave the comics to Ali Wong and said, You should read this before there was ever a television show, before there ever was a chance. Nate Corddry is obviously playing a character that we imagined against someone established in the story.

I think we were looking for people who were as excited about it as we were and who didnt see it as a job. Ali certainly brought that, Jason brought that, Nate brought that. We all know that chemistry on the day is everything to us, and that those are all people who, because of their abilities, can (can) have very serious things happen, but then have very funny things happen.

Was there a sense that the Paper Girls world was your last exploration of the comic? Has the TV show inspired you to revisit these characters?

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Cliff Chiang:In a lot of ways, I feel like an old gunlinger. I thought Id put it all behind me, but after seeing the program, it makes me think about other ways we might re-enter the Paper Girls universe. It makes me want to try that too. But I don't know if there are opportunities for that, but it's a wonderful thing for the show to try to rekindle some of those creative impulses.

Christopher C. Rogers: I say, do it. I want to read it for myself.

Brian K. Vaughan: I will say, it made me want to work with Cliff again. Whether it's on Paper Girls or something unique, I guess you'll see. But it's just been so nice because usually after you finish a book, it's like, oh, here's this old connection that I had, and you're gone. It's just so nice that we get to keep sort of living in the Paper Girls world together, but to not be checking on Cliff's beautiful

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Paper Girls' first eight episodes are now available on Prime Video.