Comic Book: Anya's Ghost

Everyone needs a best friend.

Anya's Ghost is a single-issue graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. It features Anya: an insecure, dowdy teenager, a Russian immigrant (although she's lost the accent), who finds herself struggling with the day-to-day trials of highschool life, like her crush Sean and mouthy friend Siobhan. One day, she falls down an abandoned well and discovers the bones of a young girl who fell down there before her... As well as the ghost of said girl, still haunting the well she died in ninety years prior. The ghost, Emily, turns out to be pretty friendly, and the two eventually become good friends, as well as partners in crime. (Anya uses her invisible buddy to cheat on tests, keep watch while she's smoking and spy on classmates.) Of course, these sort of things rarely end well, and soon Emily proves more of a problem than a friend.

A lovely story about friendship, selfishness and maturity. Try the artist's blog for more information.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Adorkable:
    • Dima.
    • Arguably also Emily. Before she snaps.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Emily seems to think so.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • A picture of a girl in a bikini is visible on the inside of Sean's locker when Emily sneaks into it to look up his schedule for Anya.
    • Preston tells Anya, "Your boobs look spectacular in that shirt" at Matt's party.
    • Averted with little church boy Dima.
    • Siobhan certainly thinks so.
    Siobhan: You have a crush on Sean? He's the kind of guy you crush on in a bad teen movie! Has he even talked to you?
    Anya: Yes, he has!
    Siobhan: Are you sure he wasn't just talking to your breasts?
  • Alpha Bitch: Averted and deconstructed with Elizabeth. If you are familiar with high school tropes you'll think she'll be one, however she doesn't have the mean-spirited personality that typically defines them. Case in point, when Anya falls in gym class, Elizabeth doesn't laugh at her, and actually asks if she's alright. It soon becomes obvious that Anya is the nasty one and she and the other girls are jealous of Elizabeth, for being pretty, athletic, intelligent, dating the hunky jock Sean, and being all around "perfect". However, when we get to the party we find out Sean likes to sleep around with other girls and Elizabeth not only knows about it, she goes along with it.. Why? She only feels good about herself if she and Sean are together and desperately wants to keep him in her life. All her positive traits mean very little to her and it only shows she probably has little to no self esteem. This also drives home the theme that everyone has problems.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The other kids picking on Dima. It's only seen for one panel, but it's enough to drive the message home.
    • Anya likewise was like this in the past. It's a main reason why she's how she is now.
  • An Aesop: As mentioned above; everyone has problems. Even the person or couple you envy for being "perfect", could in reality have bigger issues than you have.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Sasha.
  • Anti-Hero: Anya is a Type III/IV. She's definitely no angel: Who lies about her last name and ethnicity, conspires to steal the boyfriend of a girl who has never wronged her whilst playing nice to said girl, ditches her one friend the moment she finds another friend who acts subservient to her, and seriously believes that nerds and minorities have themselves to thank for being picked on? Why, our heroine of course.
    • She does show moral backbone when push comes to shove, though. She can't go through with having sex with Sean, out of pity for Elizabeth; apologizes to Siobhan when meeting up with her later; comforts Dima when he asks her how she manages to survive high school so well; and in the end stops lying about being Russian.
  • Axe Crazy: Emily.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Sean turns out to be this when it's revealed that he makes out (possibly even sleeps) with other girls at parties for fun, even when Elizabeth knows about it AND KEEPS WATCH WHILE HE'S DOING IT.
  • Beneath the Mask: Elizabeth. See above.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: We're led to believe at first that Emily is just a timid but friendly ghost who only wants to be free from the hole her remains are in, akin to Casper. But once she manages to get Anya to got to Sean's party, the facade slowly starts to crumble and we begin to see how she really is.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Comes into play when Anya comforts Sasha after he's threatened by Emily.
  • Character Development: Largely with Anya, she comes off as a moody and unlikeable character at the beginning of the story, only caring about herself. As she goes through her encounter with Emily, she begins to realize her own faults and how she previously thought of others were wrong. Ultimately growing to become a more caring character.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Anya.
  • Control Freak: "Highschool's pretty fun, but imagine how great college will be! Not that you'll be needing any more boy help pretty soon! How young do people get married nowadays? ...Well, we'll just have to find that out then, won't we?"
  • Clingy Jealous Girl
  • Cute Ghost Girl: She's more of a mousy, spindly kind of cute, but still distinctly adorable. Most of the time, anyway...
  • Dead to Begin With
  • Death by Falling Over: Emily died by falling down the well and breaking her neck.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The entire graphic novel is done in varying shades of black, white, and purple.
  • Delinquent Hair: The boy who rescues Anya from the well has a mohawk.
  • Disappeared Dad: Anya's father is never seen. However, Anya's mother mentions using child support to pay for private school, likely meaning that Anya's parents are divorced.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Emily killed two people because one of them wouldn't return her affections. Lampshaded by Anya:
    Anya: " I don't think murder is an appropriate reaction to disappointment."
  • Dream Sequence / Imagine Spot:
    Sean: "Oh Anya, let's have an intense spiritual relationship for no believable reason!"
    Anya: "Oh Sean, take me away!"
  • Everyone Hates Mathematics: Siobhan refers to economics class as 'naptime'.
  • Evil All Along: Emily.
  • Evil Counterpart / Not So Different - Emily is the evil counterpart to Anya. She starts out mellowed out pretty well after ninety years sitting in a well to think about what she's done, but when Anya teaches her her own high school lifestyle she reawakens the beast, and the beast turns out to possess exaggerated versions of all of Anya's negative traits: Emily is obsessive over boys (but unlike Anya, she is a Yandere), sees existing girlfrends of 'mark' boys as not human individuals who deserve respect as such - but just competition (but unlike Anya, she is inclined to murder them), lies and manipulates (but not just about her last name, she lies about her entire past). The mirroring is even physical: she dons Anya's hairdo and starts smoking "ghost cigarettes", presumably a mimicing of Anya's bad habit. In the end, we even get an explicit You're Just Like Me speech from Emily - and Anya partially concedes the point, stating that she is enough like her to at least understand her.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Emily learns to flatten her hair to create a more modern look.
  • Face-Heel Turn Though it's debatable if she was a Heel to begin with.
  • Fighting a Shadow: Anya's predicament once Emily turns on her.
  • Fog Feet
  • Foreign Cuss Word: " leg!"
  • Foreshadowing: The cover. At first glance it just looks like Anya with the Emily we're first introduced to, but look closer and you'll see Emily's hairstyle is different. It's the hairstyle she gets when she first begins to reveal her true self to Anya.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Sasha, Anya's little brother. Their family is Russian.
  • Genre Savvy - Siobhan: "Sean from the basketball team? Dude, he's the kind of guy you're supposed to get a crush on in a bad teen movie".
  • Ghostly Goals: Emily claims to be a type 1.
  • Glowing Eyelights of Undeath
  • Go Into the Light
  • Gym Class Hell
  • Hair Decorations: Siobhan wears two hair clips.
  • Heel Realization: Arguably from Anya in the last third of the story.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Invoked: Anya is of average weight, but diets stubbornly and sees herself as obese.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Again, Anya. For a curvy, fresh-faced young girl, she's pretty convinced that she's unattractive.
  • If I Can't Have You: Emily's decision after catching her crush with another girl.
    • As well as when Anya refuses to aid her.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Emily explicitly expresses the wish to upgrade her turn-of-the-century jumper, but she's apparently stuck with it. Played with later as she learns to change her poofy hair into a more modern style, Foreshadowing her shift out of the 'innocent victim' persona.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Anya admits that's she's no different from Emily in some similar traits, she's right to point out Emily more than had her chance when she was alive and her dilemma is the result of her own rash actions and failing to grasp their consequences.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Anya herself. See Anti-Hero above.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Anya explains how she got bullied for many years for her accent, weight and clothes.
    "People might think five-years-olds can't be cruel, but I have some strong evidence to the contrary."
  • Kirk Summation / Shut Up, Hannibal!: Anya's last argument with Emily.
  • Love Makes You Crazy / Love Makes You Evil: Emily's excuse for burning a couple alive.
  • Love Martyr: Elizabeth. See Alpha Bitch.
  • MacGuffin: The finger bone.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Emily's Evil All Along reveal.
  • Messy Hair: Emily's is described as 'dandelion-like.'
  • Nice Guy: Sean. Subverted at Matt's party.
  • Noodle People
  • Non-Human Sidekick
  • One-Winged Angel: A mild form of this at the climax, when Emily hauls her bones up from the well in a last-ditch attempt to kill Anya. She looks like a ghostly silhouette with a tangible skeleton underneath.
  • Ordinary Highschool Student: Anya, Siobhan and their classmates. Evidently, Emily wants very badly to be one.
  • Panty Shot: Anya gets one when she trips and falls in the middle of a run in gym class.
  • Product Placement: A boy throws a can of Crush soda down the well where Anya is trapped, which alerts her to call for help. This probably wasn't intentional though.
  • Prophet Eyes: Emily.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: How Emily originally died. After burning the couple, she fled from authorities and fell in the hole, killing herself in the process.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Emily convinces Anya to dress up and go to Sean's party. This is the result.
  • Shown Her Work: Vera Brosgol knows how to investigate old newspapers using microfilm, and she will make damn sure you do too when you've read this. With four pages, and a diagram. (Oh, and by the way, Anya's right: it will hurt your eyes. Don't do this for too long wearing contacts; and if you tend to have seizures, don't look at the screen while fast-forwarding or rewinding).
  • Shout-Out: A girl named Emily who comes back from the dead involved in a love triangle and a popular blonde girl named Elizabeth...where have we seen this before...
    • Anya has a Domo-kun plushie in her bedroom. It can be seen on pages 41 and 93.
    • A girl who falls down a well and becomes a ghost. Sounds familiar. The reference is made pretty explicit when at the end, Emily claws her way up the well and crawls out of it, head slumped downwards.
    • Anya has posters of various alternative/indie groups like Weezer, Belle and Sebastian, and Camera Obscura in her room.
  • Smoking Is Cool
  • Soul Jar: Of a sort. Emily can't move very far from her skeleton, so Anya ends up carrying a bone from her little finger so they can move about together.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: A sad variation. After Anya talks Emily out of her stubborn rage, Emily's skeleton falls apart and she evaporates in order to 'move on'.
  • Unfinished Business: A rather selfish example of this trope.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Emily.
  • The Unpronounceable: Anya's last name is Borzakovskaya.
    • Anya's mom makes syrniki cheese dumpling/pancakes for breakfast. They're never referred to as anything but сы́рники, making them look unpronounceable.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Siobhan is Anya's best (human) friend... She just has a funny way of showing it.
    • Anya's got a funny way of showing it too.
  • Wham Line: Two in a row:
    Dima: We're looking for a murder by a person named Emily Reilly, right?
  • Who Dunnit To Me: How the story seems to initially go. Subverted however, Emily's death was caused by her own accident. And even then, she was the villain.
  • Yandere: Arguably subverted. Emily didn't 'help' Anya for her sake, she did it because she wanted to make Anya live the life she couldn't have.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Almost said word-for-word when Emily crawls out of the well, bones and all, to try and drag Anya down with her. But it's obvious it's taking all she has just to move her remains. Her apparent weakness and anguish make this scene a bit of a Tear Jerker.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Emily.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: In her school uniform, Anya's stockings are between Grade B and Grade A.

Alternative Title(s):

Anyas Ghost