I’ve never had reason to wonder about the spiritual or existential concerns of frogs before I stumbled upon the graphic novel by Jon Lewis, True Swamp: The Memoirs of Lenny the Frog. And of course these concerns turn out to be strikingly similar to our human ones: the meaning (lessness) of life, love troubles, friendship, guilt, responsibility, the afterlife, and the existence of higher beings. It reminded me vaguely of a slime-covered, foul-mouthed My Dinner with Andre.
Basically Lenny and his friends meet up, wander around, meet other crazy lower vertebrates, and try to avoid being eaten, all while having clever and oddball chats. At times, it does read a bit like a semi-autobiographical 20-something raw first work by a horny geek, but for the most part it transcends that. Here are some favorite quotes.
"I don’t know…every time I start to get some good thinking done, I almost get eaten.”
Question: “What’s your subject?”
Answer: “Killer herptiles, but my other obsession is with great human thinkers...Raposo, Mark Fidrych, Lionel Stander, Kinski, Rosemary Clooney…”
“When that slug hits that knothole, I’m leavin’…I wonder if I’m somebody’s timepiece without knowing it? Like, when I finally get my s___ together, they’ll go have lunch…They’ll probably starve to death.”
I enjoy strange and quirky folks, but quirky doesn’t quite do this group justice. This is a seriously messed up cast of characters. There is Lenny, our neurotic, depressed hero; Hale, a cuss-spewing marmot; Starah, the love-interest, a ridged lizard; the fairies, not your standard sweet things by any stretch of the imagination; and don’t get me started on Spore, a bizarre fungus boy, and his roommate Seteph the gecko who believes he is a radio.
This guy is nuts. Lenny the frog, yes, but I’m actually talking about Jon Lewis. I can’t decide if Lewis is a genius or completely off his rocker. Probably both. He’s written and illustrated a number of other things, none of which, unfortunately, are owned by the library system. If you don’t mind lots of profanity and have a severely warped sense of humor then you may get as big a kick out of Lenny and company as I do. If not, steer clear.