Monday, January 18, 2016

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom
by Tim Byrd
Illustrated by Gary Chaloner

Reviewed by
Anthony Servante


Tim Byrd

Tim Byrd lives with his adventurous son, a treacherous cat, and a hapless dog in Decatur, Georgia. He is often barefoot, prone to irony, and interested in everything. He has been a soldier, game designer, independent filmmaker, and outdoor guide. He knows how to tie a tie, but doesn't care to.

To the world at large, Doc Wilde and his family are an amazing team of golden-skinned adventurers, born to daring escapades and globetrotting excitement! Join them as they crisscross the Earth on a constant quest for new knowledge, incredible 21st-century thrills, and good old-fashioned adventure!

Now, with adventurous Grandpa Wilde missing, the Wildes confront the deepest mysteries of Dark Matter, penetrate the tangled depths of uncharted jungles, and come face to face with the likely end of the world in the clammy clutches of an ancient amphibian threat... THE FROGS OF DOOM!

I don't get tongue-in-cheek literature. I read The Frogs of Doom, I read all 32+ reviews of the book, and researched the books that this book apparently parodies (or perhaps "emulates" might be a better word). I researched Doc Savage and Robert E. Howard to try to understand how this book reaches the plateaus of those literary icons. I couldn't find the same parallels that those wiser and better informed critics found when they wrote their four and five star reviews.

This is what I found.

This is a comic book with more words than illustrations. If there were more illustrations and the words were in balloons, I could call Frogs of Doom a graphic novel. But this is a novel with pictures. And what pictures! The illustrator is named Gary Chaloner. Wow. His work is amazing. I visited his website and found more stuff there. He draws, lives and breathes comic book art. He makes this book come to life. And the book is so rich with his work, that I couldn't wait to turn the page just to see another of his illustrations.

Let me be clear here. I did not grow up on pulp fiction. I grew up reading the comic books by Atlas. Amazing Adventures. Tales to Astonish. Strange Tales. Tales of Suspense. You know, those comics that turned into Marvel Comics with Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Thor, Captain America. Those guys. It was a period of comic books with an amazing transition, from monsters to superheroes. Well, Chaloner captures the feel of that era. He echoes Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers, Jack Kirby. And he does so on his own terms, making the story his own. I repeat: He "echoes" the greats but ultimately creates his own universe for Doc Wilde and family. 

Now, I'm sure you're waiting to hear about Tim Byrd. Well, here it is. Tim is the architect. He designed and developed the storyline, the characters, the series. He chose to "emulate" the pulp books that he obviously admires. And I'm sure those who grew up with the pulps find very much to enjoy when reading the words of Tim Byrd. I enjoyed the story and the telling, but I didn't get it. It's like I enjoyed the Jazz concert, but I couldn't find the melody. Without Chaloner's artwork, it's all Jazz to me. And good for you folks who love Jazz. Apologies for the analogy. 

But I love comic books. On that level, Frogs of Doom worked as 1950s comic book universe. It was a few illustrations short of being a classic right there along with Fantastic Four #1. But it sufficed for a good read. I even went back just to look at the drawings again. And again. 

Now, on my agenda, I've got to read "DEAD FOLKS" by Tim Byrd, which I just purchased from Amazon. That doesn't have any illustrations (unless you count the little skulls operating as hashtags). I'll be glad to leave a review once I've gone through it. I can't wait to dig into Byrd's prose without having to do any research to understand it. 

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