The final announcement from Image Expo 2015 brought Brian K. Vaughan to the stage for a second time, having previously revealed details of “We Stand on Guard” with artist Steve Skroce. He was joined by a surprise guest, artist Cliff Chiang. After the excited applause quieted, the pair announced their first creator-owned collaboration: “Paper Girls.”
Set in 1988, the ongoing series follows four twelve year-old newspaper delivery girls on their adventures beginning the day after Halloween. Vaughan and Chiang previously collaborated on a “Swamp Thing” short story nearly 15 years ago, and judging by the crowd’s reaction, readers are thrilled to see them together again.
Although Vaughan and Chiang shared that they wanted to maintain the mystery of the series, CBR News was able to grab them for a few minutes after the announcement to find out their reactions to the day’s activity and swap our mutual connections to the nostalgia of paper routes.
CBR News: Eric Stephenson began his keynote address today by sharing that he does a lot of writing in his shower. Where do you guys do your writing and art?
Brian K. Vaughan: In Eric Stephenson’s shower.
Cliff Chiang: Yeah, I get my inspiration from his shower as well.
Vaughan: Actually, I like long walks around my house. I need to be getting up and moving or pacing around. The shower is a home run for writers, but a walk is a close second.
Chiang: Inspiration strikes me rarely. A lot of times its just about getting to work. Often you grind out an idea, but other times they come to me when I’m just about to fall asleep. I get into that delta wave state and something pops up. It takes a while to percolate in my brain, but sleep and working. That’s my life.
Out of all the upcoming Image books that were announced today, which are you the most excited to check out?
Chiang: “Island” is incredibly ambitious and sounds very cool. The idea of doing this anthology monthly with different creators is exciting. I was a big fan of “Heavy Metal” growing up and it’s inspiring to hear someone trying to take up those reigns.
I know that you don’t want to reveal a lot about “Paper Girls,” and we’ve heard the general plot, so are there any additional details that you’re comfortable sharing this far out?
Vaughan: It’s much more than just a slice of life. It’s not just a quiet, naturalistic drama. There’s something else going on. We like the idea that we’ve earned a bit of trust and that people will at least give a first issue a shot. We want them to be surprised.
Chiang: There’s nothing like being surprised by a book and getting to go along for a ride. We don’t want to spoil too much of that.
Vaughan: It’ll appeal to fans of “Runaways.” But it’s very different. That’s a book I wrote when I was very young and not long after I’d left school, so it was very easy to think about parents as villains. With “Saga” it was me becoming a parent and realizing we aren’t so bad, so let’s write something from their point of view. “Paper Girls” is about a whole new group which is sort of pre-adolescent, a really unique time of life, being told in a unique period. It’s exciting.
What was the last book you read that surprised you?
Vaughan: The first splash page that you flip open to see — it’s harrowing!
Chiang: Yeah it’s great. I love how imaginative it was and how they handled the very human emotions in it. Pick up “Beauty” as well. It’s a longer read but very similar.
During the keynote speech today, Image publisher Eric Stephenson said that he saw you creators as the future of Image. What do you think of Image Expo as the future of conventions? Is the format and experience something you enjoy?
Vaughan: Yeah. I was telling Cliff since they brought him out at the very end that he was the Steve Jobs “one more thing.” He was today’s iPhone that came out. But I love comic books and I have the same excitement that I’m sure tech fans do watching an Apple announcement. You want there to be something really new, and not just your favorite character getting a new costume or becoming a different gender — you want something new. So I love hearing new thing after new thing, and making it about the creators and not the company was cool.
Chiang: What strikes me is how much Image cares about the books they put out and that they’re able to share their enthusiasm with the audience. I tend to be a pretty cynical guy but coming here as been a real eye opener for me. Seeing how excited the creators are to be making their books and seeing the readers react. It’s a big love fest and cons are usually much more business than that.
Vaughan: That’s why I like comics so much. I like film and TV, but it’s always business first since it’s so expensive. It has to be commerce before art. At Image, more than any other comics company I’ve worked for, it is people who start because we love the art. The business stuff we let take care of itself. If people like it, it works, if not, it doesn’t, but we get to start as creators and not as business people.
What is the art of getting into the headspace of the twelve year-old girls in your book?
Chiang: Have we ever left? I feel like I’ve always been in the headspace of a twelve year-old girl.
Vaughan: It hasn’t been that much work. We started writing on “Swamp Thing” and it’s tough to think about what a fucking vegetable says, but twelve year-old girls? We identify them completely, so we just write to the height of our intelligence and hope it sounds right.
Chiang: I have all the personality quirks and and insecurities of a twelve year-old girl.
Well, as someone that was a twelve year-old paper girl, I relate deeply to the concept of your book as well as preserving that mindset.
Vaughan: You were? What time did you get up in the morning?
That was a long time ago. Maybe 5:40? And then I’d go straight to Catholic school all day.
Chiang: You are one of the characters in the book!
Vaughan: Man, that’s intense.
Chiang: How many neighborhoods did you have?
Around four? But I have asthma, so I was only able to get through part of it before my dad would come pick me up and finish the rest of it for me.
Chiang: I love that detail.
Vaughan: Skottie Young backstage was telling us all of these great paperboy stories. It’s something a lot of people our generation had as their very first job. It’s intense.
It really is! Who lets kids work like that anymore?
Vaughan: We couldn’t imagine sending our kids out in the dark at four in the morning on a bike with bags of money. It really is a lost art. We think they’re going to be very cool characters to write, though.
“Paper Girls” launches later this year from Image Comics.
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