Comics Review: POLITICAL POWER – STORMY DANIELS

POLITICAL POWER: STORMY DANIELS (TidalWave Productions. September 19, 2018 release date)  “Stormy’s Coming”.  Writer: Joe Paradise.  Artist:  Joe Paradise.  Editor: Darren G. Davis.  Editor: Michael L. Frizell.  Main cover by Joey Mason. Alternate covers by Joe Paradise.

     Previous entries in the POLITICAL POWER biographical comics series from TidalWave have featured stories on prominent contemporary political figures. To date, there have been more than 25 titles focused on  Presidential candidates, past Presidents, the increasing role of women in powerful political positions, senators, judges, Democrats, Republicans, generals and even influential political commentators and reporters.  This latest edition focuses on a person who is neither a politician or newsperson.  Which brings up the question: What broke the template? 

     The answer lies in the role that Stormy Daniels a.k.a. Stephanie Clifford has played in current Presidential politics – – – and has yet to play as the full story of her alleged relationship with President Trump and the 2016 pre-election hush money scandal is made public.  Will the potential public outrage be enough to discredit the President and force Congress to act?  Will it matter?  That remains to be seen.  Yet, Stormy Daniels has already been established as a feminist icon.  If her disclosures don’t impact current politics, they will surely have an impact on future political affairs. The #MeToo Movement is not going away.

Written and drawn by Joe Paradise, and featuring cover by famed comic book artist Joey Mason, this 24-page book is available both digitally and in print and can be found on multiple platforms. In print on Amazon and are available on e-readers from iTunes, Kindle, Nook, ComiXology, DriveThru Comics, Google Play, Overdrive, IVerse, Biblioboard, Madefire, Axis360, Blio, Entitle, EPIC!, Trajectory, SpinWhiz, Smash Words, Kobo and wherever eBooks are sold.

      POLITICAL POWER: STORMY DANIELS details some of Stephanie Clifford’s early life, her involvement in the pornography industry, and her eventual meeting and encounter with Donald Trump lending with her decision to defy the $130,000 contractural agreement and come forward with the details.  As revealed in the story, it was the Access Hollywood tape that created enough outrage in Daniels to prompt her to take action. So, the sexist boasting of a misogynist Trump captured on videotape that failed to discredit his candidacy might end up discrediting his capabilities and continuance as President. Irony and perhaps, justice. 

   The timing is perfect for releasing the comic biography, as Stormy Daniel’s tell-all memoir is scheduled to arrive in bookstores in October.  In the comic’s details on the TidalWave website, writer/artist Joe Paradise explains his interest in the story:

     “I didn’t know much about Stormy Daniels going into this project, but as an 80’s kid from a family of New Yorkers I’ve been hearing about Donald Trump my entire life. He was always showing up on tv, he was on the radio with Stern all the time, you couldn’t escape the guy.

      In the years between he had become a bit of a joke in NYC but back then, he was extremely popular. Kids wanted to grow up and be just like Donald Trump and one of the main reasons was Trump constantly surrounded himself with gorgeous women.

      So, when the story first broke that Trump had cheated on his third wife with a porn star I didn’t think anyone would bat an eye. Then the hush money story came out. Then the accounts of threats on her life and her daughter’s life came out. All while Trump is on TV denying any of this ever happened. 

     That was the moment that inspired me to write this story. Why on earth is Donald Trump, of all people, trying to hide an extramarital affair? The man who brags about grabbing women by their private parts, because he can, because he’s a famous celebrity. 

     Between the ludicrous denial of the Daniels affair and the accounts of what’s contained in the steel dossier I started to think there might be something else going on”.

     Throughout the comics biography, Paradise utilizes captions, text and actual quotes from news sources to recap what’s known and then speculates on what’s unknown. No one was in the hotel room with Daniels and Trump to record what was said, yet the dialogue that Paradise uses seems authentic enough that it could serve as the actual conversation. 

     Regarding the art, there are some jokes included and funny sexual innuendos to go along with Paradise’s light, humorous touch on the black and white illustrations. Yet, despite the caricatures and comedic panels the contents never lapse into outright parody.  Reminiscent of the best artwork from Mad Magazine, Paradise inserts humorous asides in the background details, especially in the crowd scenes. One of my favorite panels shows a campaign podium with an ad for the Mar-A-Largo Resort directly below the Trump 2016 placard.

     The story adds some lesser known facts about Daniel’s/Clifford’s background, including her early passion for horse riding and veterinary ambitions and her introduction to the porn industry via a popular actress she met while working at strip clubs. 

     Paradise wisely spares us the details of what happened after the Trump-Daniels dinner encounter.  Instead, he uses some captions in white text over a black panel to speak to the speculation:  “The details of what happened next are only allegations. . . . . A quick and unremarkable sex session with the future President ensued . . . “

    However, he does include a clever artistic interpretation of Trump’s alleged Russian hotel encounter featuring some funny scenes involving French maid cosplay. 

     I had an opportunity to interview Paradise about POLITICAL POWER: STORMY DANIELS and learned more about the project . . .

NAMELESS DIGEST:  Whose idea was it to devote a Political Power issue to Stormy Daniels? 

JOE PARADISE:  The book was my idea, and it was a radical departure from TidalWave’s standard operating procedure. Usually these books are designed to be straight down the middle, completely unbiased. As Darren says, we don’t want the reader knowing how we vote. We don’t want to be accused of pushing an agenda.

      But when I saw Trump calling Stormy a liar, the whole “what’s he hiding” interlude played out in my mind.  French maid scene and everything.  And, after I finished barfing, I immediately texted Darren.  (Editor’s Note: Darren refers to Editor/Publisher Darren Davis).

     And it was going to be pro-Stormy, anti-Trump, and I didn’t care because it was funny.  Took no small amount of convincing, but I was able to sell it. 

NAMELESS:  From a text pitch?  He must have been already familiar with your work, and knew the person who was making the request.

PARADISE:  Darren was familiar with my work from Rock N Roll Comics back in the ’90’s.   I did books on The Ramones, Elvis, Pee Wee Herman, Dead Kennedys and more.

     He and I connected in 2015 as he was getting ready to produce books for the Presidential primaries.  I did books on Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and James Comey.  We’ve been regular collaborators since.

NAMELESS:  How much research were you able to do?  Did you have an advance copy of Stormy’s book?  Were you able to interview her, or speak with her attorney?

PARADISE:  My research consisted mostly of published interviews, like the catch-n-kill InTouch interview initially buried by Michael Cohen – – that finally got released when the story went public. 

NAMELESS:  About the dinner conversation = are those the actual words or similar words that were used?  Is it your speculation how that conversation might have gone, or did you have actual transcripts or documentation from Stormy?

PARADISE:  I never got to interview Daniels or her lawyers, or anything like that.  I did research that anybody else with a computer and an Internet connection could perform.

     But I did my best to tell an interesting story that contains the truth of what happened, even if it doesn’t contain the exact words that were spoken.

    In the interviews I read she says that they discussed business, that he dangled a potential spot on Celebrity Apprentice in her face, he asked her what working adult films was like . . . . beyond that, writing the dialogue was kind of like acting – – it’s an improv sketch on the page. 

NAMELESS:  You did a fantastic job with that.  It was convincing, really sounds like Trump.

PARADISE:  Thanks.  I’ve heard Trump talk about women a million times when I would listen to him on the Howard Stern show, and I stand by my characterization.  That’s exactly the kind of things he would say  – – he was a total pig given to completely unsubtle sexual innuendo. 

NAMELESS:  The images of the Russian hotel encounter that Trump had are so funny.  I assume this is all speculation as to what happened, just like all the talk show hosts speculate.  Or do you have some sort of inside information?

PARADISE:  All speculation.

     I was watching Trump and his aides CATEGORICALLY DENY anything ever happened, and “Daniels was a liar”, and basically everything they’re saying about Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers right now . . . . “She’s just trying to get publicity, etc.”

     I’m watching this and thinking this is the guy who used to talk openly about his infidelity like it was an achievement.  Who does he think he’s fooling?  Why is he even bothering?  Not like his supporters will care  – – – they’ll high-five him with one hand and crucify Bill Clinton with the other.  That got my imagination going, and that’s when the problems start!

NAMELESS:  Are you anticipating any feedback from the Trump organization?  Ready to be called a liar?  Do you think there might be any legal action threatened?

     I can just hear Trump now:  “I’m going to appoint a committee to investigate comic books.  Disgraceful and sad!  Corrupting our youth, etc . . .”

 PARADISE:  I will not consider my career anywhere near successful until I see a Trump tweet calling me The Worst Artist Ever.

NAMELESS:  Thanks for your time, Joe!  One final question:  Is Joe Paradise your actual name, or a pseudonym?

PARADISE:  Joe Paradise is my real name.  Although for my ancestors in Italy it was “Paradiso”.  But I get that question a lot. 

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