Lenore: Wedgies (Titan Books)

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Roman Dirge's cult classic "cute little dead girl" returns in a series of sturdy hardcovers.

 

128 pgs. full color; $17.95 hardcover
(W / A: Roman Dirge)
 
Most single issue comic books have an extremely short shelf life. If a comic is going to sell, most likely it’s going to do so during its first week of release, and certainly only a handful of copies (if any) will trickle out after a month has passed.
 
I worked at a comic shop for about a year and a half back in college, and that conventional wisdom held for nearly every comic in the store with two notable exceptions: Jhonen Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Roman Dirge’s Lenore. The books never exactly flew out the door, but they were consistent sellers: we’d get in a dozen or so copies, and one would go out the door every week or two until it was time to order more. This would happen perpetually, and I assume in more stores than just ours because the individual issues went into fourth, fifth, eleventh printings, etc. (Johnny’s first issue is up to a mind-blowing twenty-sixth printing), even with collected editions readily available. The ongoing popularity of these two series and their warped sense of humor in single issue form is, quite simply, staggering.
 
So just what kind of “warped sense of humor” are we talking about here? Well, the third story in Lenore: Wedgies (entitled “Foo Foo”) shows the Easter Bunny happily hopping along with a basket full of eggs for all the good little boys and girls…until, that is, he lands on the business end of a bear trap. “ARGHHHH! I can’t feel my legs!” he screams, dragging his bloody, mangled body with his front paws until he lands in front of Lenore, our creepy little dead girl heroine who, naturally, planted the trap. (She hoped to catch a monkey.) Putting on a bunny costume, Lenore hops around delivering eggs to grateful children...at least they’re grateful until Lenore informs them that the real Easter Bunny is “dead, rotting in a bear trap by my house. I’m just a little dead girl delivering eggs. Here ya go!” In the final panel, Lenore hops away from the children bawling their eyes out in the background, a creepy smile plastered across her pale face as she concludes “It feels so good to help people.”
 
Wedgies is packed with such misadventures, including “The Day Mr. Chippy Walked” (the hamster mounted on Lenore’s wall comes back to life, so Lenore gives him a Barbie doll’s legs so he can walk again), “Bloaty the Frog” (Lenore tries to nurse a dead frog back to health), and “The Thing What Came from the Poopy Chair” (self-explanatory, really). Most stories cruise in at two to six pages, with even the longest landing around fourteen, and are intercut with single-page gags (e.g. “5 Reasons Not to Blow on Your Kitty’s Tummy”), short embarrassing autobio stories called “Things Involving Me,” and twisted fables told in Dr. Seussian rhyme. Despite the wide range in material, the tone remains consistent throughout: you either “get” Dirge or you don’t, but if you do, you’ll be chuckling at nearly every page in this collection.
 
Wedgies is the second in a series of three hardcovers collecting Lenore, originally published in single issue form by SLG Publishing from 1998 to 2007. Though it collects issues #5-8 of the series, there’s no need to have read the first collection, with the only hint that you may have missed something coming from Lenore telling another character “Again?! But you were just in the last issue.” in the very first story in the book. Given the series’ vignette nature, you can start with any book in the series, or any story within each book, and pick it up as you go along.
 
Titan has gone all-out on this new edition by colorizing all of Dirge’s artwork, and while the black, white and gray of the original editions better suits the art’s cartoony, bug-eyed simplicity, the washed out pinks and purples provide a nice contrast to Lenore’s pallid complexion. But with all the effort that was put into adding color onto every page of Wedgies, it’s somewhat frustrating that the lettering didn’t get a similar upgrade, as there are several obvious typos that survived the transfer as well as a few stories that use the most dreaded font of all, Comic Sans. Given both the more attractive computer fonts used elsewhere in the book and Dirge’s pleasingly quirky hand lettering, the use of Comic Sans in the first place was perplexing enough, but the fact that it was kept after ten years’ worth of advances in computer lettering is nonsensical. The book also adds three bonus stories, two adapting well known parables—“The Fugly Duckling” and “There Was an Old Woman” (as in “…who swallowed a fly”)—and the funniest “Things Involving Me” of the whole book, plus a pair of Lenore pin-ups by Emi Lenox (EmiTown) and Eric Pigors (Toxic Toons) and an intro by Nivek Ogre of the band Skinny Puppy.
 
With the timeless twisted-ness of Dirge’s sense of humor, it’s easy to see why Lenore has been so perpetually popular. Whether you’ve never had the privilege of reveling in her dementedness or you just need a sturdy replacement to your dog-eared single issues, this little dead girl is definitely worth digging up. | Jason Green
 
For a brief preview of Lenore: Wedgies, visit http://titanbooks.com/lenore-wedgies-colour-edition-4244/. To learn more about Roman Dirge, read new Lenore comics, or see animated versions of the comics in this collection, visit www.spookyland.com.

 

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