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HomeBlogsBill Williams's blog"Paper Girls" Showcases Brian K. Vaughan's and Cliff Chiang's Greatest Strengths

"Paper Girls" Showcases Brian K. Vaughan's and Cliff Chiang's Greatest Strengths

Bill Williams and Michael Ossowski are back for another comic book discussion. Bill Williams is a comic book writer/penciller/inker/letterer/editor extraordinaire, who has been published by DC Comics, IDW, Ape Entertainment, and more. He’s currently working on the coming-of-age superhero series “Punchline” for ComiXology. Michael Ossowski is a media ecologist and comic book retailer, who runs a late night pirate TV station that's the craziest, weirdest viewing experience you'll ever see called “The Black Lodge” at at midnight central time Monday through Thursday.

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Bill says

We're talking about the first "Paper Girls" trade paperback. It was written by Brian K. Vaughan who's written “Y: The Last Man,” "Runaways," and "Saga," among other things. It's drawn by the genius Cliff Chiang. This book's got some coverage. It was covered in the L.A. Times, USA Today. It's won a couple of Eisner Awards. And according to the ICV2 Inside Baseball website that covers comic book sales, it was the number four seller in graphic novels last year moving about 24,000 units. So while it's an indie book, it's not that indie. Mike, what can you tell me about the first "Paper Girls" trade paperback?

 

Michael says

We definitely agree that Cliff is an absolute genius. There's no argument with that. And it's beautifully written. There's so many things to say about this book. One of the things I like about it is how much it relies on Brian K. Vaughan's strengths. I think one of the things that Brian K. Vaughan does the best is writing dialogue, and he writes the dialogue of young people very well. It never seems stilted or forced. It never seems like he's an old man trying to relate to kids. Even though they're in 1989, so they're Generation Y kids, teenagers in some ways are universal.

This book starts off on Halloween night 1989, and it clearly and firmly entrenches itself. It begins with a four-page dream sequence, which is stunning. It captures your attention and motivates you to keep reading. The brilliant thing is that once the dream sequence is over, I didn't feel cheated. A lot of times something opens up with a dream sequence, and then on page 5 the person opens their eyes and you're like "Aww, it was all a dream sequence." With this, it's very obvious that the dream sequence is pertinent and important. There's lots of meaning and hidden depths, and it's kind of a reveal that it's going to pertain to the story that’s coming.

 

Bill says

It feels like a dream sequence. It also feels like it's doing a little foreshadowing. But because the book kind of pops around in time and in genre, you just get the feeling that we've seen an extremely future chunk of some character's life.

 

Michael says

Right. There's an allusion to the character's future life. Absolutely yeah.

 

Bill says

I like it. It's a big adventure and it fits right in there with with “Goonies” or “Stranger Things,” where you’ve got these kids that are on an island having their own special adventure but instead of pirate loot, it's neighborhood guys doing hi-jinks on Halloween.

 

Michael says

Yeah. That's my elevator pitch to most people: It's “Stranger Things” with girls. She wakes up from her dream on page 5, and she has a “Monster Squad” poster on her wall. Clearly I don’t know where she got a “Monster Squad” poster, but it does entrench it in that time period and immediately it says to the reader, “Hey, we know what this is like. Yeah, we know what you're going to compare this to. We're going to go ahead and make that allusion right off the bat.” Then, two or three pages later, it's got a Freddy Krueger reference.

One of the things I love about this opening too is after that dream sequence, we get we get five pages without words. Cliff is so good at actually using those to tell stories and using panels to convey motion and meaning. There's so many wordless panels in here that work. It's absolutely genius.

 

Bill says

His work is pretty stunning, I think. One of my favorite things that he did is a little red book called "Doctor 13." It's a book about a guy who’s a professional ghostbuster, and he collects this group of outlaws and misfits, and it's just this super meta book, and Cliff Chiang's art work on that is beautiful.

The one thing that I have been a little off put by is, as much as I like Brian K. Vaughan's work, he seems to have a problem finishing stories out. I wasn't real sold on the "Y: The Last Man” in the way that wrapped up. "The Pride of Baghdad" has probably the most depressing ending for a book ever. And there's a lot of stuff that he does where I think that he gets the plates in the air, and I think he spins them pretty well, but I don't think he knows how to do a dismount, and I'm kind of waiting to see if he can do that with either "Saga" or with or with "Paper Girls."

 

Michael says

I would have trouble disagreeing with that. I did not necessarily think the ending of “Y: The Last Man" was that great or even that good. As I said, I feel like this books plays more to his strengths. I know "Y: The Last Man" was a huge critical success and all that. I think "Runaways" is just a much better written book. And he didn't need to end that. So it averted that. He didn't have to even deal with having much of an ending. He could sort of end the main storyline or the main plot that they were dealing with without putting a tired ending on the book. "Swamp Thing," which I also love and I also feel played to his strength, got cancelled before it had a chance to end. So again it was unencumbered by having a definite finite ending. So we'll see how this turns out when this is all said and done.

 

Bill says

Yeah I'm just amazed that he has the wherewithal to start off these projects and finish them out. Usually if you're an indie comics guy, you've got no money in your pocket when you putting these things together. You're putting these things together on nerve and shoe leather. He must be still getting residual checks from "Lost" and "From Under the Dome."

 

Michael says

Oh yeah I had forgotten about his “Lost” episodes, which were some of the strongest episodes of “Lost” easily. Again he was unencumbered by it not ending there.

 

Bill says

Yes, well, he left before the ending, but I was reading it, and when I got to the end of the first trade, I was like, “OK this is cool. Is it going to wrap up or is it just going to run right into the next one?”

 

Michael says

That’s another one of his strengths: the cliffhanger. That was the thing about “Y: The Last Man.” If you read the first and second volume, you're just fiending for volume number 3. He leaves you with a perfect cliffhanger and you feel like you just have to see exactly what happens next. And that's that's a big strength of his that a lot of writers I'm sure wish they could pull off.

 

Bill says

Yeah I've got a buddy Philip Anderson who is a longtime comic art dealer who once told me that the job of a comic book is to make you want to read the next one. And that falls right in line with David Mamet's “The audience has to know what comes next."

 

Michael says

There is one thing I want to mention about Cliff Chiang's art. There's a scene where they're looking at a device in a basement and they're using flashlights, and I don't know how much of this is Chiang or how much is Matt Wilson, but the shading was this under light shading to all their faces that is absolutely masterful. Their heads are all dark on top, and it's just the highlight. The way he uses the white to contrast the blue to shape their forms and to shade the scene is just gorgeous and breathtaking. So if it's not Cliff, if it is indeed the colorist Matt Wilson, he gets mad props for that too.

 

Bill says

Yes. The linework on that book is beautiful. I'm about to hit this with the highest praise that I know of. You can put pages from the first “Paper Girls” book up next to Watterson's “Calvin and Hobbes,” and you'll find a lot of similarities. There's a lot of confidence. There's a lot of expressiveness of the line work, and it's just outstanding.

 

Michael says

That's really funny that you should mention such a classic comic strip because the other thing that I wanted to mention was the second dream sequence that she has, which is her skating with her dad, I think. Somebody. But it clearly looks like Ronald Reagan. It's made to look like Reagan. Yes, it's definitely freaking Ronald Reagan that she's ice skating with. But in this scene, on the second page of it, at the bottom, there's a panel where she literally has a Charlie Brown sort of squiggly mouth that’s directly taken from Charles Schultz. The mouth is perfect because that mouth  conveys that feeling that the artist is trying to capture there.

 

Bill says

That's why it is perfect for your WTF moments like "What did I just hear?"

 

Michael says

 

And using that to such great effect in this book, just that tiny little touch, shows how brilliant he is. It's also got other great panels like the “bang panel” where the images are inside of the word and the word is slanted giving it motion. Just stunning.

 

Bill says

it's very clever work, and I've been super busy, but I enjoyed the first one, and at some point I'm going to pick up the rest of them and read it and hopefully it holds that high quality that you see in the first one.

 

Michael says

Brian K. Vaughan is really clever, and I'm hoping that this turns out to be more than just that. It's nice to see the characters doing clever stuff and in that moment realizing it's got some got some IQ behind it.

 

Michael says

Yeah I also do like how it addresses how our childhood selves would have trouble recognizing us as adults. I think that's the actual meat behind the book and that's actually what I'm curious to see. Will he reveal his truth about ourselves to us that isn't necessarily so easy for us to see? I'm curious to see how much of later issues will contain that.

 

Bill says

I'm looking forward to it too.

Bill Williams

Bill Williams

Bill Williams has done it all in the comic book industry. Writer, penciller, inker, letterer, editor… you name the job, he’s done it. Bill has been published by DC Comics, IDW, Ape Entertainment, and more. He is currently working on the coming-of-age super-hero series Punchline for comiXology.

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