Features and Columns · Movies

What Makes ‘Ghost World’ Such a Successful Comic Book Adaptation

“Well, I have to admit that things are really starting to look up for me since my life turned to shit.”
Ghost World
United Artists
By  · Published on July 5th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on what the movie Ghost World can teach us about big-screen comic book adaptations.


Different mediums have different strengths. The interactivity that defines video games is not available in movies (yet!). Neither is the communal experience of playing a board game. So how do you preserve a story, characters, and a vibe while making the necessary changes to fit a square peg through a round hole?

Despite their passing resemblance to storyboards, comic books and movies are very different forms of storytelling. Comics have an especially non-linear relationship with time, allowing the reader to apprehend the past, present, and future all on the same page. And unlike the continuous action of movies, comics leave our brains to fill in the gaps. Suffice to say: they’re very different mediums and that’s not a bad thing. The best comic book adaptations understand this and deviate from the source material in order to preserve its core essence. Two companions are better than two clones.

As the video essay below argues, Ghost World is unflappable proof of why it pays off to take creative liberties with adaptations. An unconventional portrait of irony-poisoned youth, the 2001 movie follows two friends, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), whose late-teen indifference prevents them from enjoying anything sincerely. Ultimately, their malaise drives them apart post-graduation as their lives are pulled in two different directions of purpose and adulthood.

Setting Terry Zwigoff‘s adaptation alongside its source material — Daniel Clowes‘ graphic novel of the same name featuring a story originally published in issues of his series Eightball — the video essay remarks on how, despite their differences, both the comic and the movie preserve the same message: only engaging with the world ironically is a dead-end way to live.

Watch “Ghost World and Why Adapting Comics is Hard”:

Who made this?

This video essay on what makes Ghost World such a good comic book adaptation is Greg Kon, a filmmaker and writer based in Canada. Kon runs the video essay channel CinemaKon, which covers everything from film to writing advice. You can subscribe to CinemaKon on YouTube here. And you can follow Kon on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).