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cover
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solid writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 7
Back Cover
Back Cover
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cosmic capers
Cosmic Capers
REVIEW SCORE 7
Swamp Fever
Only Printing / 1972 / 36 pages / Big Muddy Comics
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I enjoyed Cosmic Capers from Big Muddy Comics and Swamp Fever is another enjoyable (if more peculiar) book. By far the most unique story here is "Split! Splat!" by Ned Dameron. I dare say it's one of the more remarkable stories from the golden age of the undergrounds; an utterly wicked 10 pages of swamp-infested, critter-crawlin', pagan worshipping craziness.

I hadn't heard of Ned Dameron before reading Swamp Fever. Since then, I've learned he's an accomplished science-fiction and fantasy artist who produced cover artwork for many genre novels and illustrated "The Waste Lands," the third volume in Stephen King's Dark Tower saga. He also produced interior illustrations for many Dungeons & Dragons books and Dragon magazine from 1989 to 1999, as well as Wizards and Rogues of the Realms (1995). To my knowledge, he didn't work on any other underground comics, which is a shame because "Split! Splat!" is truly a classic.

The adventure begins with a maniacal hick (who has no name in the book, so I'll call him Snaggletooth) welcoming readers into the story as he pole pushes his tiny boat through a Louisiana swamp. Snaggletooth gives us a little history lesson on this particular swamp, spinning the tale of a local demon who was so evil "that the door down in Hell was slammed in his face." This backwater demon fucked all manner of swamp critters and spawned a clan of misshapen children who still roam the swamps to this day. Sure, the demon himself was long dead now, but a statue in his likeness mysteriously appeared in the middle of the bayou, and Snaggletooth declares that the demon's clan still gathered around it to hold "strange ceremonies."

Enter A.G. Loamers, a half-breed mongrel of a ten-year-old boy who scoots around the swamp like a lizard in his back yard. Snaggletooth spots A.G. in the swamp and wonders what he's up to, but what Snaggletooth doesn't realize is that A.G. witnessed a beautiful young woman dumping the corpse of her rich husband into a pool of quicksand in the swamp.

The lady, going by the name of Miss Seaton, ends up at A.G.'s house with his ma and pa, who believe she got stranded on the side of the road with car trouble. But A.G. knows the truth and he just can't help spilling his secrets at the dinner table, which motivates Miss Seaton to lure the kid into her bedroom, dose him with chloroform, and take him out to the same spot of quicksand she dumped her murdered husband.

Now normally I'm not averse to giving out spoilers in these reviews, but as often as not I'll try to keep the outcomes of good stories a secret, and this is one of those instances. Rest assured, though, it's a humdinger of an ending that proves ol' Snaggletooth wasn't lying!

The rest of the book doesn't quite hold up to the scripting and illustration skills on display in "Split! Splat!" Not that the rest of the drawing is horrible, as there's plenty of good stuff to be found, but "Split! Splat!" is really a tour de force of detailed illustration, from the backgrounds to the characters. The writing does suffer considerably in the rest of the book though, with some weak, disjointed scripts and awkward dialog and context (Sol Wright's work is one of the chief culprits). The last story (by Dany Frolich) is actually pretty good though, about a calvary man (or cowboy or something…he looks like a conquistador) and a Native American locked in a stand-off for the ages, until one finally decides to make a move.

But Swamp Fever is essential reading for one story in particular, and that's Ned Dameron's "Split! Splat!" It's got a bat-shit crazy vibe like the best of the old EC Comics but mixed in with the freedom (and gratuitous nudity) of the underground. It's funny and creepy at the same time and makes me wish Dameron had stuck around the underground for a few years. It certainly boosted the review score of this book by at least a point. And if you happen to like the rest of this book as well, check out Cosmic Capers, where Frolich contributed some solid stories that outperform the lesser half of Swamp Fever.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
It is currently unknown how may copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.
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COMIC CREATORS:

Ned Dameron - 1, 5-14
Danny Frolich - 2-4, 15-21, 29-36
Sol Wright - 22-28