It is hard to believe Roman Dirge has been writing and illustrating Lenore stories since the year I graduated from high school and I somehow missed all the fun until now. Created in 1992, the titular character, also known as “The Cutest Little Dead Girl,” is an adorable zombie of sorts, living in a town called Nevermore, having adventures with all sorts of strange friends, including Ragamuffin, Mr. Gosh, Pooty and Taxidermy. Often, those adventures end badly for those around them, especially if they are (or were) alive, but what would you expect from a story whose protagonist and location both take their names from Edger Allen Poe’s The Raven?
For the latest collection of Lenore adventures, marking 20 years of sending her out to inflict entirely well-meaning chaos on the world around her, Dirge chose to stick with the theme of titling his novels after middle-school calamities (previous collections have titles like Wedgies and Cooties) and go with Swirlies. If you have no idea what a swirlie is, don’t worry – I didn’t either, until I looked it up. Turns out, it’s the name for that thing where kids hold each other upside down over a toilet, dip the victim’s head in the water, and flush. While this particular torture doesn’t happen to Lenore, her friends, or any of the children around her, Swirlies does not lack for mischief and mayhem.
Lenore really is the cutest little dead girl, and her friends (who seem to be a cross between toys and monsters) are equally endearing, even when they are floating in pools of pee, tying children (live or dead) to helium balloons at birthday parties, or stealing testicles to make a Valentine’s Nard (which Lenore insists was an honest mistake). While it is all too easy to miss the mark with black humor, mistaking anything with shock value for funny, Dirge walks the line exceptionally well. His characters inflict harm on themselves, each other, and innocents the world over, but they are not truly malevolent and for the most part the things that are supposed to be funny, are in fact funny
Some of Dirge’s stories are several pages, some just a panel. Most center around Lenore and friends, but he also puts in a few stories called “Things Involving Me” that look to be true stories from his own past. Those stories are remarkably close to as bizzare and dark as life in Nevermore.
Dirge’s artwork has a 90s/Tim Burtonesque quality to it that fits the stories perfectly. The variety in length and topic make reading Swirlies a quick and fun task. Several times, I found myself laughing out-loud, even when part of me was cringing in horror. Clearly, Dirge knows and loves his Lenore well and knows how to find the fun in horror and keep things from delving into truly mean-spirited territory.
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (135)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
What we JUST said…
- All the Posts I Meant to Write this Month, Abridged
- Hemlock Grove-A New Guilty Pleasure
- Deborah Harkness and A Discovery of Witches
- Syfy’s Defiance- Hope They Didn’t Blow the Budget on a Song
- Cover Reveal for the New Liz Long Novel Witch Hearts
- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love
- Before the Movie: G.I. Joe Retaliation