In Paper Girls, Time Travel Makes It Too Damn Easy to Hate Yourself

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It’s a good ol’ standby question in celebrity interviews: What advice would you give your younger self? The scifi shenanigans of Paper Girls allow these moments to happen but the advice never gets passed on, because the young ladies in this comic are too shocked at what happens when they grow up.

I’m catching up on this great series, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Cliff Chiang. Paper Girls focuses on the adventures of a group of friends who deliver papers in the suburban town of Stony Stream in 1988. After a run-in with travelers from the future, Erin, Mackenzie, KJ, and Tiffany all start bouncing around the timeline themselves. One of the series’ best arcs happens when the girls stop in our present on their way back from further down the timeline.


Issues #6-10 see the four friends landing in 2016, where they encounter an older version of Erin, who understandably freaks out. While they’re all trying to unravel the mysteries and freaky occurrences connected to the time travel, the two Erins share a few funny and poignant moments when the younger version sees what her possible future looks like.


Things are more tragic for Mac—already a girl with a screw-it-all attitude—when she learns that she’s going to die from cancer before she turns 40.


In another volume collecting a more recent storyline, the girls get flung all the way back to prehistoric times, where they befriend a young mother who had her son kidnapped by the men who raped her. In broad strokes, the plot beats all sound weighty, but Vaughan’s excellent writing stops things from ever feeling too heavy. The mix of humor and human-condition commentary manages to home in on an organic coming-of-age truth: As children, we can know intellectually what adult responsibilities are and that grown-up heartbreaks exist, but it’s almost impossible for a kid to imagine what it’s like to live inside those realities. Unless you can travel through time.