Chapter 1 of “Who Killed Luke Mandrake?”

dollheads Rebecca Migdal
• The Goddammerung, Book I: Who Killed Luke Mandrake? Vol I: Famebeau •

Back in the day, if memory serves me right, life was one big party
where every heart gaped wide, where all wines gushed forth.

One night, I took Beauty on my knee. –And I found that I was sick of her.
–And I cussed her out.

I armed myself against justice.

I hit the road. O witches, O misery, O hatred, you can keep the jackpot!

–A Season in Hell, Arthur Rimbaud


March 31, 1994 –Portland, OR

Luke stroked the burlwood stock of the Remington Model 11 twenty gauge shotgun with his fingertips. Freedom from all physical limitations, that was the blessing he imagined his death would confer upon him. Freedom from pain at least, he was guaranteed that, he supposed. Either way, he had understood the deal he was making, when he set out on his drug-fueled sprint to stardom. From the start, his own untimely demise had loomed ahead with inevitable finality.

With its dainty bullets, auto-loading feature and low recoil, the Remington was a sensible choice. A classic, highly collectible and suitable for small game hunting, it was the gun for a sportsman who was also a showman, and a favorite with taxidermists and museum specimen collectors. Not your weapon if you wanted to make a Grand Guignol statement by leaving a messy headless corpse, but certainly the instrument of choice for a suicidal rock star with angelic good looks. Administered by mouth, the gunshot would leave the face perfect and the body easy to identify.

But suicide was not what Luke Mandrake had been thinking about, when he added the Remington to his collection of firearms.

Still, he had arranged for a friend to make the purchase. There was no point in Charity or his Mom catching wind of it. They would only object, even though he had already explained to them repeatedly that his arsenal was essential for the protection of home and family.

Home was the 5000-square-foot chalet overlooking the Willamette River that he and Charity had recently purchased. The nostalgic quaintness of its mullioned windows and solid, half-timbered architecture had charmed Charity, his antique-obsessed wife. The built-in oak gun cabinet with its advanced thumbprint-activated lock was what had sold Luke on the place.

Luke worried about intruders. Paparazzi, thieves, crazed stalkers, presumptuous fans, uninvited salesmen and renegade drug dealers–they clustered around him like flies. It was one of the consequences that ensued upon achieving worldwide fame. Yet Luke could not bring himself to hire handlers. He wanted his real friends to feel comfortable visiting him, wanted privacy for himself and his family. More to the point, he disliked and distrusted police, soldiers–anyone whose philosophy of life veered toward the martial end of the social spectrum. Why would he want bodyguards shadowing him twenty-four hours a day? The last thing he needed was a bevy of hired thugs hanging out in the laundry room, or in the hall by the door, or somewhere around the back of the shed. This was not a way of life, to Luke Mandrake’s mind, that was worth the fantastic quantity of money it would have cost him.

Constant vigilance was the price he paid for his stubbornness.

Within days of closing on the house, Luke had begun to feel trapped there, pacing the carpets as if he were locked in a luxurious cage. His fame, like the bars in the leaded windows, separated him from the society of fellow miscreants and weirdos, from the liberty and the anonymity that had once been his own.

He had to do it. He had to set himself free.

Charity believed in reincarnation, and although Luke was skeptical, when she described to him her vision of the place where souls gathered between lives, it was the very picture of a lost paradise. Maybe he really was on his way to that lush and fruitful garden, over which a female deity presided, wrapped in a radiant aurora.  If God were a woman, then surely the afterlife would be a haven for lovers, a place for reuniting, a land of peace where wholeness and tender fellowship were bestowed upon all gentle spirits.

Luke raised his head and gazed out over the Willamette, but he didn’t see black water dimpled with moonlight. All he saw was a window on oblivion.

He closed his eyes, and prepared himself for the shot.

Zombie Punk comic, Page 1

Zombie Punk By R. L. Migdal page 1

Death, drugs and rock and roll! World-wide fame did not save the life of this anguished punk rocker. Perhaps celebrity was the last thing he really needed…or even wanted.

The black-and-white art was created in 1996, and first colored digitally in October of 2008. The retooled, full-color version of the comic finally came out in October 2015.

To create the painting I drew upon photos that came out in the media at the time of Kurt Cobain’s death, combined with reference photos I took of a model, posed in the position in which I supposed the body may have been.

In the roman à clef, the character based on Cobain is called Luke Mandrake. In the comic, his name is “Nurdt Nobrain.” Not long after, I came across another parody comic about Kurt and Courtney that used the last name Nobrain. It depicted Courtney at Lollapalooza, suddenly realizing that she didn’t know where Frances was, and then finding her at the grocery store on the checkout conveyor belt, like Maggie in The Simpsons.

Nobrain has become a fairly common term used by detractors to refer to Kurt. I have never considered myself a detractor, but sometimes people assume that my comic is meant to poke fun at him in a cruel way. I hope as you read the pages the true sensibility will come through. It is derived from that of the punk scene at the time: searing honesty, and self mocking-humor mixed with genuine compassion.

If you can’t wait to read the whole thing, the comic book is currently available for purchase on Indiebound.

Zombie Punk Cover Art

The picture that started it all, created in February 1996 for my editorial portfolio. Researching the “humorous” portrait of the late Kurt Cobain, I became inspired to create the comic.

The art was created first as a black-and-white painting, which I had laser-copied onto heavy card stock. This copy was then colored using wax resist.

Visit Me on Patreon

The first novel in The Goddammerung series, Who Killed Luke Mandrake?, is written! It is divided into two volumes, Famebeau and Funeral For a Zombie.

The comic book it’s based upon is currently available for purchase on Indiebound. You can subscribe to my Patreon feed to read both the comic and the novel in weekly installments. Each installment ofWho Killed Luke Mandrake? features a brand-new illustration like the one above.

There’s even an audiobook version available–it’s worth listening to it just to hear Andy Laties’ shakuhachi transitions.

A picaresque, supernatural journey through a 90’s sub-pop-culture of fame, sex, drugs, music and gender identity, Zombie Punk is the opening act of my epic series, The Goddammerung. Drawing upon archetypal figures, the novel explores how the dynamics between culture and the realm of the subconscious reflect the evolution of sexual identities, artistic expression, social realities and the potential of the human spirit to move toward love.