Rachel Ang is an illustration and comics artist from Melbourne, and our resident artist for Vol. 7 Writers of Colour. This year she has been artist-in-residence at Tolne Gjæstgivergaard in far north Denmark, and she is the recipient of the Banksia Project—a project to promote and mentor talented young female comic artists in Australia in 2016.
The last graphic novel I read and loved was Paper Girls, by Brian K Vaughn, writer of Saga, and drawn by Cliff Chiang, of Wonder Woman fame.
Four paper-delivery girls head out on their route together—it’s too dangerous to go alone on the morning after Halloween, 1988—and discover the night has brought much stranger creatures than trick-or-treaters to their town. It’s incredibly pleasurable to read. Chiang’s drawings are so bold, strong and dynamic that they burst off the page, and the dialogue ripples along nicely, drawing you into the story.
I was seduced by the cover before I even started reading—a punk teenage girl gang looking surly, backlit by a peachy pink sunset. And what a gang! I immediately loved the four protagonists: Erin, Mac, Tiffany and KJ, bright, brave twelve-year-old girls who know they are up against a world which is sexist, classist and racist. I was genuinely scared when they get stopped by the police for no reason. It’s as if the supernatural presence which is revealed is just a magnification of the real-life threats of suburban and domestic dramas.
I often find that being female and non-white and in love with comics can be problematic territory, in the same way that liking pop, rock, or hip-hop music often provides me with many cringe-worthy or just confusing moments of simultaneous disgust and bewilderment.
Paper Girls presents a diverse cast of characters and a kick-ass girl squad of various ethnic and class backgrounds. It deals with homophobia and xenophobia in an artful, thoughtful way without glossing over these issues. Out-dated and offensive expressions are used to highlight the time-travel aspect of the story. One character approaches a bully by referring to him as ‘faggot’, and then, even more disturbingly to our sensibilities, ‘AIDS patient’. She also expresses disgust when learning that a visitor from the future is gay.
But as the visitor says: ‘Don’t worry about it. You guys are from an effed up time.’
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We’re open for submissions from anyone identifying as a writer of colour—we want your fiction, your poetry and your comics. Please submit your work here.