I picked up a set of Lenore comics for peanuts (I think it was all three for 1$) at a garage sale recently. They were selling the Lenore figurines too, and I was immediately attracted to their cutesy morbidity, so I planned on buying them. But when I asked what they were, simply out of curiosity, I was directed to the bagged and boarded comics – which I simply had to have!
I knew nothing of Lenore before that fateful Saturday morning.
And I wish I never had. And I am SO very pleased to have made that discovery. Not only does it fall in line with Tim Burton-esque fun and my cherished Addams Family, but I discovered that Roman Dirge has been instrumental in the development of ‘Invader Zim’, a show that I’ve been a fan of for years. Squee!
What ‘Lenore’ is is a series of slightly nutty books that explore the dynamics between “Cute Little Dead Girl” Lenore and her friends. Sometimes they have to contend with threatening individuals, such as a mortician or a lovelorn stalker, but mostly it’s just crazy talk and much silliness. In fact, the books have a random quality to them that is absurdist and provide much of the humour.
Since these are single issues, I’ve decided to group them into one big review. After all, there’s only so much that one can say about 18-page shorts. I figure that grouping them is equivalent to commenting on a trade paperback edition, which would pretty much compile all of these anyway.
#1. The Macabre malevolence of Mortimer Fledge
Lenore’s origin is explained here. The story is kind of boring and it’s mired by poor dialogue and frequently unfunny gags. That’s the first 16 pages. The rest of the book is padded with a short called The Parasol Princess, a one-page Lenore strip and a sneak preview of Samurai Sloth. Ho hum. 6.25
#2. Where the flutter ends
A twisted little story of obsessive love featuring Mr. Gosh, who actually doesn’t realize that he’s being a creep. It starts off a bit slow, but it’s quite an enjoyable read in the end; there are some hilarious moments along the way. I found this one very ‘Invader Zim’, stylistically. This one includes two one-page strips and a poster. 7.75
#3. Where Pooty at?
A silly story. Pure fluff. It starts off in a lame way, as though Dirge was trying too hard to be offbeat and missed his mark. Then it has a looooooong stretch of nothing happening (Dirge killed much time by having the characters walk ceaselessly ), but it’s quite amusing in the end. This one also includes two one-page strips plus a poster. 7.5
The thing that bothers me the most about the books are their brevity. And I don’t mean by this that I simply can’t get enough. Actually, the stories are remarkably short. So one single issue feels partly insubstantial in that you can read it in about 5 minutes – if you’re taking your time. And then the rest of the book is filler, such as ads or other such nonsense.
On the flip side, what you do get is a whole heck of a lot of fun – if one has a twisted sense of humour, that is. And the books have their fanbase, that’s for sure: as I was reading issue number 2 in the bus, on my way to work, some high school kid asked me on a couple of occasions if he could take pictures of the artwork; he said that his gf was a huge fan. Obviously I indulged him on both counts; it’s always nice to spread the love.
The art, indeed, has a kooky quality to it that is immediately pleasing to the eye. It’s sloppy at times, but when Dirge pores over it, such as when he does backgrounds, you can see a lot of talent going into it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made most of his money hawking merchandise featuring his art on it, instead of with the books (in fact, based on the amount of stuff he has on offer and the amount of peddling there is in the books, that’s a likely hypothesis).
In the end, though, what makes it work is its demented nature, from the characters, to the stories, to the visual stimulation. If someone likes twisted things such as ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, zombie bunnies and Charles Addams’ oeuvre, they’d also likely get a kick out of ‘Lenore’. In fact, I think that I might even pick up past issues and explore Dirge’s world some more.