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Review – Infamous Tiger King (TidalWave Comics)

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  • Writing - 7/10
    7/10
  • Art - 3/10
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  • Overall - 5/10
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Infamous Tiger King

Writer: Michael Frizell
Artist: Joe Paradise
Colors: Pablo Martinena
Letters: Ben Gilbert
Maturity Rating: Not Rated, but due to mature subject matter, we can’t recommend it for anyone under 14
Publisher: TidalWave Comics
Release Date: June 2020

Infamous Tiger King Chapters 1 and 2 build on a story that fits perfectly in the budding dumpster fire that is the year 2020. But did we really need it in comic-book form?

 

Infamous Tiger King – Is “Internet Famous” Anything but Infamy?

Chances are, you’ve seen or heard about the explosive absurdity of Tiger King on Netflix. Infamous Tiger King Chapters 1 and 2 build on a story that fits perfectly in the budding dumpster fire that is the year 2020. Amidst a global pandemic, racial injustice, murder hornets, and Saharan dust clouds, doesn’t a tale about a flamboyant and often-livid gun-toting zookeeper and his menagerie of associates, both human and animal, seem at home in the crazy world we’re living in?

Infamous Tiger King (TidalWave Comics) Calvin and Hobbes homage variant cover by Joe Phillips
Infamous Tiger King (TidalWave Comics) Calvin and Hobbes homage variant cover by Joe Phillips

I found Netflix’s Tiger King docudrama highly watchable and yet also difficult to get through at the same time. The slick production of the many episodes spanning a story that is, in a word, bonkers, is hard to look away from. It’s mesmerizing. But when you start to read between the lines, you see the exposé is focused more heavily on the people involved than the animals who suffered.

But Did We Really Need a Comic Book?

Make no mistake, in the Netflix series, we never fully lost sight of the poor treatment of these animals. But it often takes a backseat to the inherent ridiculousness of the lives of the people perpetrating said acts. When you look beyond the methamphetamine use, the multiple marriages, the tattooing, the lawsuits, and the murder-for-hire, you’ll want to remember there are tens to hundreds of animals who have suffered as a result of various persons’ greed. The comic continues in this vein. The animals here are merely set-dressing, situational, and the people again take center stage.

Writing

Infamous Tiger King, written by Michael Frizell, doubles down on the life and times of Joe Exotic in Chapter 1. He covers Carole Baskin in Chapter 2. Presumably, the stories here come from fresh interviews with both Joe and Carole, among others, circa April 2020. As a result, we’re treated to some morsels that didn’t make it to the Netflix show. I cannot say if Frizell took any artistic liberty—it reads as more a dramatization of past events, repugnant as they were.

Art

The art by Joe Paradise (w/colors by Pablo Martinena) is where I have issues with Infamous Tiger King. This is really rough stuff. In a Sunday edition’s funny papers, the style wouldn’t seem so out of place, but for a “comic book” the art is highly cartoony, basic, and rushed. Even so, this might not be so much a problem, more a stylistic choice. But, damn, there’s a severe disconnect between the subject matter and how the artist has presented it here. Imagine reading “Garfield” with art by Jim Davis…but written by Jerry Springer, with a dash of America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries thrown in for good measure.

If I didn’t know better, at a glance I’d say this comic was for children. It looks whimsical, goofy. The subject matter, however, delves into child molestation, prostitution, rape, and alleged murder. Nothing is explicit, thankfully, but it’s certainly present, all the same.

Possibly, a time-crunch is to blame for the choice of art style and how hurried it seems. Netflix’s Tiger King was hot earlier this year. Then the Coronavirus struck and illustrators and comic publishers were hit hard by a work stoppage. Before the meme-ability of Tiger King faded from the public mind, TidalWave likely had to work quickly to get this out, and here we are.

Overall

Come the conclusion of the Netflix series, I felt the story of Joe Exotic and Company was adequately covered up to the present day. However, I started hearing about how there was more—in some cases much more—that either landed on the cutting-room floor or wasn’t filmed at all. It seems this is what TidalWave is working with here. Yes, this well still has water, but it’s not potable. I’m not sure if we needed to go any deeper on this particular story. PETA assisted with the creation of this book, and we definitely need to root out animal abuse, including exotic animal abuse. However, here, in these pages, we’re simply reintroduced to Joe and Carole’s rather sordid backstories. I know for many, the Netflix series provided more than enough of that retrospective.

No, Probably Not.

Possibly, TidalWave or another publisher could have gone a completely fictional route for Infamous Tiger King, portraying Joe Exotic as some over-muscled warrior riding a tigrine steed into battle against a hooded, scepter-wielding Carole Baskin. It might have made for a more exciting, truly out-there comic that departed from what’s otherwise a depressing and worrying reality. Instead, we have Tiger King 2: A Little More Crazy. I’m probably not alone in saying that I’ve reached my fill of crazy for the year by now, thank you. Did we need this? This comic is only a recommend if you’re really, really desperate for another dose of Tiger King’s arguably-compelling concoction of sadness and silliness.

 


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