“Am I the ’90s Guy?” Daniel Clowes asks rhetorically, and half-jokingly, inside Meltdown Comics.
Lately, people have been contacting the creator of Wilson and Ghost World to do album covers with, he says, “that early ’90s look.” Clowes isn’t sure what that aesthetic is. However, it’s likely that when people think of ’90s comic books, they think of Eightball.
Launched in 1989, Eightball helped define the wave of alternative comics that hit stands throughout the following decade. Clowes’ anthology of short tales and serials featured characters that were unusual for the medium, but relatable to readers. They didn’t necessarily belong to a specific place or time, but they faced universal situations. The best known of the Eightball stories is Ghost World, which was ultimately released on its own and, later, adapted into an acclaimed feature film.
Ghost World, the story of two teenage girls struggling through the uncertainty of the summer after high school graduation, resonates even today. Clowes says he still hears from girls in their late teens who are fans of protagonists Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer.
“That must seem so out of date,” he says. “They don’t have cell phones. They’re not on Facebook.”
Maybe there are things that social networking can’t change. Kids become young adults. They wander around their hometowns imagining stories for the people they encounter. They wonder what’s inside the adult store. All the while, their friendships evolve.
Clowes wasn’t at Meltdown for Ghost World though. Abrams ComicArts just released his first monograph, Modern Cartoonist. The career-spanning tome features interviews, childhood drawings and selections from some of his best known works. It’s a beautiful and detailed book, one that required the perfect editor. Clowes selected good friend Alvin Buenaventura to rummage through the archives in his closet as he worked.
“I would hear him in there flipping through sketchbooks and laughing,” Clowes recalls.
Curious, Clowes joined his pal in the digging, spending hours looking through work he hadn’t seen in years.
“It’s all stuff that I never look at, ever,” he says. “It was stuff that I couldn’t even remember.”