No one has their eye–or ear–focused on youth as acutely as Daniel Clowes.
Just as Vogue’s comment on his Ghost World, Daniel Clowes created such a comic that pierces through puberty, right into the deepest layer of young lads’ heart.
It was about two young women who just finished their high school and never noticed that they were facing the biggest crisis they ever got. It was about dealing with the past.
“We march backwards into the future.” As Marshall McLuhan said. It is essentially difficult for us to proceed forward, since we are always looking at the present through a mirror, in which the past reflects as well. It was no difference to Enid.
In her puberty, Enid tried hard to deal with her past. She put up a garage sale of her old stuff, but struggled to make the decision. She left the pile untended in the garage, but came back and pick “Goofie Gus” back up at the end. She also tried a punk style hair cut and dressed totally different from usual. She thought in this way she actually “committed the change”, that she embraced it with no fear. However, her inner self still didn’t change, and all ended up with disguising hats. She felt desperate for love and recognition, but simultaneously the super-ego rejected her desires, sealing her real feelings from being expressed and making her hate herself for being such a loser (a totally inner feeling not expressed or even self-recognized).
And there was her bestie Betty. Her real name was a trick played by Daniel: Rebecca Doppelmeyer, which lures us to think of “Doppelganger”.
The shadow of self. The GHOST.
They’ve always been good friends and there were almost no secrets between them at all. That was such an advantage towards their friendship, as well as a critical trigger for annihilating the perfect relation. They were like shadows of each other, moving and acting as a whole; and each side tried hard to maintain the relation in that state. Even when they faced changes in their old friends, they would express the same argument just to match up with the other.
This seemingly unbreakable, synchronized relationship was doomed to end. When puberty came, inevitably Enid and Betty were forced to face their unknown futures. As described above, we are always looking back when marching forwards, re-tasting the viscous sweety past of us especially when we fear to face the truth of grown-up. Enid wanted things to be as they were intended to be, but she felt a stronger feeling that she had to step forward. She gained more and more self-recognition, and thought that she was shadow of no one(that she was the “leading side” in this relationship with Betty). Meanwhile, the uncontrollable reliance and tendency to stick with Betty confused her, then the hatred to herself stroke, and the Great Wall of friendship started to shatter.
It was the same story to Betty.
She tried to look back, re-tasting her sweet past, maybe even before her mom died. The song, the “Goofie Gus”, the dinosaur in the park. These were her solace as she couldn’t figure out what to do but hate herself.
Enid accidentally met with Bob Skeetes when he was using a metal probe to find something on the shore (how interesting). The so-called astrologist offered her a guide that was very ambivalent.
And the story ended with Enid coming back to town. She saw her old bestie Betty; she saw the scratches near the bus stop, she saw the reopened bus come and go. Most importantly, she saw the newly painted “Ghost World” on the wall, and she almost caught up with the guy who painted it.
The ghost was still there.