Tags: Clinton Cash | Schweiser

'Clinton Cash' Takes On a Graphic Role

By    |   Tuesday, 16 August 2016 12:50 PM

Comics strips and comic books are inventions as American as jazz or the cheeseburger. For well over 100 years print cartoons have enjoyed a humble and sometimes powerful place in our popular culture.

John T. Hoffman became New York’s governor in 1869. But the true reins of power were handed to a former volunteer fireman named William “Boss” Tweed, a fixer out of a political machine based in Tammany Hall in lower Manhattan.

The infamous "Tweed Ring" ran a network of corrupt city and state officials out of Tammany Hall. Tweed controlled politicians from both parties through threats, favors, and money; astonishing amounts of money bilked from city and state treasuries. The fortune amassed by the ring came from phony bills for construction projects, equipment, and services that existed only on paper.

Though Tweed and his cronies had a cozy relationship with many of the city’s major newspapers, one weekly tabloid stood against them. Harper’s Weekly took a firm stand against the Tammany Tigers, as they would later regret calling themselves.

But it was not Harper’s scathing editorials and exposes that eventually brought down the Tweed Ring. It was a series of cartoons, often featured on the cover, by a German immigrant illustrator named Thomas Nast.

Nast was already known to readers — he popularized the elephant and donkey as the symbols of the Republican and Democratic Parties as well as Uncle Sam and the depiction of America as a valiant, graceful woman in flowing robes and tiara. He would go on to create what would become the traditional image of Santa Claus in a collection of Christmas books.

In a series of devastating caricatures, Nast went to war against the Tweed Ring. Such was the power of Nast’s images that he was offered as much as half a million dollars to leave the country. When bribery didn’t work, Nast and his family were threatened. Not even that stilled Nast’s pen.

His images of Boss Tweed as a furtive figure behind the throne, a school house bully taking books from children, and a cruel Roman emperor watching with glee as Lady Liberty is clawed by a tiger, were a major factor in the serious defeat of many of the ring’s pet politicians in 1871. These setbacks weakened the hold of Tammany Hall and led to indictments, convictions, and prison for many of the cronies including Bill Tweed himself.

Tweed managed to escape prison and fled for Europe. In Spain he was recognized by police by, you guessed it, his caricature in a Nast cartoon. He was extradited back to the United States where he spent the remainder of his days in a cell.

Comics, cartoons or, as they are now branded, graphic novels, have had a persuasive impact on public opinion as well as pop culture. Because of their perceived lowbrow or trivial quality they have always been able to fly beneath the radar of truly “serious” scrutiny. Though seen by millions, they are invisible. And often, they are populist, even subversive, in nature.

Popeye, and after him Superman, was a character who represented and stood up for the little guy. Often these characters' foes were cheating landlords or scheming politicians. A brand new kind of parody was born with the creation of Mad Magazine. And the underground cartoonists of the 1960s openly challenged authority and broke societal taboos in every panel.

It’s in the rowdy spirit of those that came before us that a half dozen famous cartoonists and I adapted Peter Schweizer’s "Clinton Cash" into comic book form. The original book, with its meticulous deconstruction of the Clinton Foundation and the influence of foreign money on Hillary Clinton’s decision as a senator and secretary of state, has had an unquestionable impact on this election cycle and political discourse in general.

With the graphic novel treatment, we’ve added the powerful persuasion of parody, satire, mockery and caricature to the subject matter. Our effort will reach a new group of readers who might not have been keen to pick up a nonfiction book about politics.

Open to any page and there’s a four color assault on the senses that makes Schweizer’s premise clear and, more importantly; funny. Appalling, but funny.

That’s the power of comics. An exaggeration of real life that carries truth with it. A static image that stays with you long after a stump speech is forgotten.

As Boss Tweed said to his henchmen when confronted with yet another image of himself bilking the public trust, “Stop them damn pictures.”

Chuck Dixon is a veteran comic book writer with thousands of titles to his name, including a record run on Batman at DC Comics (where he co-created the villain Bane) and seminal work on Marvel’s "The Punisher." He adapted J.R.R. Tolkein’s "The Hobbit" into one of the most successful graphic novels in publication. He is also the author of the best-selling SEAL Team 6 novels from Dynamite. Chuck currently writes the monthly "Winterworldcomic" and the upcoming "Joe Frankenstein" for IDW as well as as working on new entries in the "Bad Times" and "Levon Cade" series.

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A half dozen famous cartoonists and I adapted Peter Schweizer’s "Clinton Cash" into comic book form.
Clinton Cash, Schweiser
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 12:50 PM
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