Sunday, October 05, 2008

No, but I read the Special Edition

Being awesome, Bully recently sent me the really sweet Ghost Word Special Edition hardcover from Fanatagraphics. For Ghost World fans this is a pretty nice collection that contains some extras that are either out of print or in separate, hard to find collections. One of the interesting additions to this issue is the screenplay for the film. There are also notes, poster art and many other nifty things included. For anyone else not familiar with Daniel Clowes or do not believe how good a comic book format story can be this edition is a good place to start learning. The story also contains mature subject matter that is not unnecessarily gratuitous.

I doubt I can add much in the way of a review for Daniel Clowes' most popular work, Ghost World. Whatever my understanding of it is may be 180 degrees from any other review, essay or article ever written on the subject. I first read Ghost World when it came out in the trade many years ago. Even though I was pretty much disgusted and done with comics back then (Thanks, Marvel!) I was intrigued by the buzz and liked what I read.

To be clear though, Ghost World is not, as Bully would opine, FUN. It is a good piece of work even though it can be emotionally painful to read. Ghost World is full of sad, unhappy and dissatisfied people. At least, it is if you subscribe to Enid's outlook on things. Because how could anyone be happy if Enid is miserable? While consisting of an ensemble cast Enid treats everyone as if they are shadows or constructs that exist only when she is looking directly at them. The stories are also very voyeuristic in nature and the reader is as much attracted as they would be repulsed by Enid's disdainful, hipster viewpoint.

Yet Clowes makes it clear that not everyone is like Enid as much as she believes they are. That is what is intriguing about Ghost World. One almost hates the sense of superiority that Enid displays towards everything and anything. She works very hard in finding a reason to feel contempt towards all things, including herself, but she is loathe to change anything. The story is also about fear. Enid is frightened that the future very well could be great and that all her time bitching, judging and moaning about the state of things was a waste of time and that she is at fault and not the world around her. Ghost World is not so much a story about coming of age but of leaving behind preconceptions and entering maturity. Eventually, even the most unaware individual catches a glance at themselves in the mirror in an unguarded moment and realizes they were almost always full of crap. When forced to accept that she may have to leave her unhappy, though comfortable and unchanging life, Enid artfully avoids any meaningful reflection until she effectively wanders into a hall of mirrors with a hammer concealed in her purse.

While I bought the first collection and read it, I also purchased yet failed to completely watch the film version starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson when it came out on DVD. When I played it the movie was mostly on in the background for noise, much like when I place Serenity in the DVD player. I think I've semi-watched both films about 15 times each, without actually watching them in their entirety.

On an aside, I expect that when the Ghost World DVD is next re-issued I imagine the credit for lead actress of Birch will be relegated to a smaller type size in favor of a blurb stating STARRING SCARLETT JOHANSSON in great big letters (much like the names of Julia Roberts now appear on the slip-case for the Justine Bateman vehicle Satisfaction and likewise Jack Nicholson for The Little Shop of Horrors). It's funny to see movies again when a player was in the beginning of or a lull in their career to be hyped as the star, when originally they may have only appeared in one scene as Victim #3 or something like that. That's marketing, though.

You can get your own copy of the Ghost World Special Edition here at Fantagraphics. Do it. You'll be cooler than all the other kids.

1 comment:

  1. Hard to imagine the value of a "read along" script, unless it has notations and material that didn't make the final cut. Otherwise I'd feel like I was reading on of those old Power Records comics. "Oh cool, Space 1999 made it back to Earth at last! And everything's even cooler with Zipatone! Even the old man with the...ark? Wait, this is messed up. Shouldn't there be more Brian Blessed?"

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