31 Days of the Undead: "Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl" | Pittsburgh City Paper

31 Days of the Undead: "Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl"

In honor of Romero Lives!, the city's month-long George A. Romero tribute, Pittsburgh City Paper presents 31 Days of the Undead, a series of reviews and essays about zombie media. Look for new posts going up every day from now through Oct. 31.

"Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl"
"A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young."

It's a tragic tale, the death of young Lenore. Based on the famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe, writer and artist Roman Dirge's dark comic "Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl" follows the adventures of a sweet young girl who "became very sick and then was sick no more," only to return from the dead on the embalming table.

The comic books, first printed by indie publisher Slave Labor Graphics in 1998 and later turned into a series of flash-animated shorts (some of which can still be found on YouTube), were a goth punk's dream come true. Lenore is never specifically referred to as a zombie, but she's the textbook definition: a young deceased protagonist, dressed in a gender-bending black suit dress and skull-shaped barrettes. She's as undead as the zombies that later came in comic books like "The Walking Dead," it's just that she trades eating brains for loving things to death, like her cat, whose eyes she squeezes out of their sockets while embraced in a well-meaning hug. 

She also kills hamsters, a neighbor's kid she's babysitting, and even the Easter Bunny. In one comic, while taking a walk with her dead cat, a woman playfully "gets her nose," so she naturally gets the woman's nose right back, by chopping it off and keeping it in a jar on her shelf. Awwwww.
click to enlarge 31 Days of the Undead: "Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl" (2)
Poor kitty: A panel from Roman Dirge's Lenore
Lenore was born in the age of Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Natural Born Killers. It was all so goth, so unequivocally '90s.

Rereading "Lenore" 20 years after first falling for the cute little dead girl is a lot like stepping into a Hot Topic store as a middle-aged woman. There are still some things that catch your eye — "Can I still pull off a Nightmare Before Christmas T-shirt? Ooooh, a Beetlejuice Funko doll!" — but the thrill you once got from the days of your youth spent picking out Manic Panic hair dyes, wallet chains, and platform boots has been replaced with a desire for more substance and, you know, comfortable shoes.

Dirge isn't without talent — he's skilled at capturing character expressions in his panels, and his artwork begs to be used for tattoos, but he's also not a particularly good writer. The comics are basically plotless beyond Lenore killing basically everything she touches over and over again, and today's over-saturation of pop-culture zombies paired with a culture that demands shock value at every turn has numbed the thrill of a comic book dedicated to the undead.

But it is still cute. And that's what makes it endearing. A quick mind-numbing dive into a simpler time, when the undead were adorable and came without commercial breaks.

Anyone know if Hot Topic sells Lenore shirts?