||[Feb. 5th, 2008|09:40 pm]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#94 GHOST WORLD – Daniel Clowes
"This is the Mona Lisa of the bad, fake diners!"
All too often teenagers in comics talk like either actors in pimple-cream commercials or beatniks from the days when Mr Burns was young. The fact that Daniel Clowes perfectly captures the voices of teenagers in Ghost World’s Enid and Becky would be praise-worthy on its own, but what really makes it special is what he says with those voices.
The two girls are stuck between high school and adulthood, preferring to fantasise about the secret lives of their dead-end town’s misfits and weirdoes rather than talking about what, if anything, they’re going to do with their own lives. While there’s genuine pathos in their inability to face the possibility they might sincerely want something out of life because of the thick armour of protective sarcasm they’ve had to build to survive high school, there’s more going on in Ghost World than just the angst over lost innocence the plain colour scheme of sad blue-green might suggest. There’s genuine and hilarious comedy to be found in the interplay of the two girls, whether it’s the way they torment local nice boy Josh (“Why do you spurn us?” they ask after mockingly offering themselves to him), or react excitedly to anything that suggests life is less boring than it seems, even if it’s just a pair of pants on the street that no one picks up (“Look! It’s the pants!”). Clowes lets us in on their in-jokes as he lets us in on their personalised slang, built out of shared obsessions rather than some phoney universal teen-speak.
When you’re young it’s easy to live in your own world with its own signifiers, but part of growing up is joining the larger world and adopting some of its ideas about what’s important. No matter how you try, you can only retain a part of what you used to have and who you used to be. However, the mythology of Enid and Becky’s personal world, where creepy people are definitely Satanists and possibly incestuous, corny diners are the best places to eat and Joey McCobb is God, is preserved forever like an insect in peculiar blue-green amber. Through the time machine of Ghost World, you can revisit your own youth as well as theirs.