By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Lloyd Llewellyn was published in April of 1986, and a short time later Clowes moved back in with his grandmother in Chicago. ”Chicago is depressing, and it was horrible living there again, but it was essential in that it relieved me of the need to make money and allowed me to focus on my work,“ says Clowes, who stayed in Chicago until 1992. (He created a merciless portrait of his hometown in the 1991 comic ”Chicago.“)
In 1989 Fantagraphics began publishing Clowes‘ ongoing serial Eightball, the first issue of which centered on ”Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron.“ Clowes says the strip, a darkly surreal sex comedy with a macabre edge, was loosely based on his ill-fated first marriage, which began in 1987 and ended in 1991.
”When I read my comics years after having done them, they often seem like maps of what was going on in my subconscious. And when I reread ’Velvet Glove‘ a few years ago, it was obvious to me it was about that marriage,“ he says of the comic, whose cast of characters includes a dog with no orifices and a talking potato. ”Things often bob to the surface of my subconscious that I have intensely mixed feelings about, and with almost all the stuff in ’Velvet Glove,‘ my initial thought was, ’My God, I can‘t draw this!’ That‘s the most important stuff to put down, though, and I just sort of let it all go on the page.“
Meyer says that Clowes ”is absolutely fearless when it comes to laying out his inner world. It’s as if there‘s some approval-seeking part of the brain that just isn’t there with him. He also seems to be acutely aware that all aspects of reality are basically up for grabs, and he‘s not afraid to play around in that anarchic world.“
The anarchic side of Clowes’ temperament has resulted in the strips ”Ugly Girls,“ a primer on his refreshingly unorthodox views on feminine beauty; ”Grist for the Mill,“ wherein he demonstrates how irritating people fuel his creativity; ”I Hate You Deeply,“ which is a laundry list of social types Clowes finds annoying (fashion plates, watered-down-nostalgia hounds, idealists); and ”I Love You Tenderly,“ Clowes‘ list of favorites, which includes, as he puts it, ”honest-to-god eccentrics, living archetypes, and losers.“
”People are always trying to bury their opinions or be reasonable, and the intent with those strips was to take my most reflexive opinions and exaggerate them,“ he explains. ”I think there’s something funny in being unreasonable and taking no prisoners.“
How Clowes manages to write believable dialogue for all these different cultural archetypes remains a mystery. ”I don‘t do research,“ he says, ”but I love overhearing conversations in public. I have to say, though, that whenever I eavesdrop I’m shocked by how unbelievably mundane the conversations are. I often wonder if they‘re having a fake mundane conversation because they know I’m listening.“
In 1994, Clowes met Terry Zwigoff, who was looking for a new project in the wake of Crumb. After receiving loads of what he describes as ”shockingly bad scripts,“ Zwigoff concluded he‘d have to generate his own film and began casting a wider net.
”Dan’s work is distributed by Last Gasp Publishing, where my wife worked for a while, and she used to bring piles of comics home,“ says Zwigoff. ”Dan‘s stuff struck me as unusually genuine, and I thought Ghost World was a masterpiece as a comic. I had no interest in adapting it into a film, but I liked his sensibility, so we met. I immediately felt a connection with him, and we started meeting regularly and tossing story ideas around. Lianne Halfon was my producer on Crumb, and we wanted to work together again, so when I sent her Ghost World and she agreed the characters were strong, the three of us started having story meetings.“
Thus, Clowes, Zwigoff and Halfon were launched on what stretched into a seven-year quest to turn Ghost World into a movie. The film was budgeted at a modest $6 million, but getting it financed proved to be difficult, and several studios came and went before United Artists agreed to release it. Adapting the material for the screen was an even bigger challenge.
”The hardest part of transposing the story from the page to the screen is that in the comic you see the world from the girls’ point of view, and we didn‘t want to lose that,“ says Halfon.
As far as Clowes was concerned, ”The most important thing was getting the chemistry between the girls right. When I was drawing them, I had a palpable sense of those characters and how they felt with each other, and I imagined the closeness between them very carefully. It was essential that Thora and Scarlett be able to communicate that, and fortunately they were very comfortable with each other.“
Zwigoff says he rarely looked at the comic during the writing of the script, because he regarded it as a launching point into the creation of something new. Characters and incidents were developed specifically for the film, which is less austere in tone than the comic. The elements of the comic that remained inviolate were the personalities of the girls, and the relationship they share -- which is one of those intense friendships peculiar to defiant misfits who rely exclusively on each other for the filling of every emotional need.
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