Chuck Dixon is well-known for writing the Punisher, Batman, Nightwing, and Birds of Prey, but now he has a new subject: Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Available now, Clinton Cash is a new graphic novel by Dixon and a host of artists including Graham Nolan, Paul Rivoche, Sergio Cariello, and Don Hudson, based on the prose book of the same name by Peter Schweizer. Although you may not see it in your local comic book shop or on comiXology, Clinton Cash has become a genuine hit – hitting #1 on the New York Times best-seller list, and at one point being the fifth highest-selling book on Amazon.
Dixon spoke with Newsarama about Clinton Cash, the controversies of it all, and the other market for comic books outside of comic book stores.
Newsarama: Chuck, Clinton Cash might not be known to many in the comic book community, so how would you describe it?
Chuck Dixon: It’s a graphic novel adaptation of Peter Schweizer’s bestselling expose of the influence of foreign cash on the policymaking decisions of the Clintons. I wrote the script, re-imagining the fact-based book into comics form. A team of artists that included Sergio Cariello, Graham Nolan, Paul Rivoche, and Don Hudson illustrated it.
Nrama: How did you get involved with adapting Schweizer's prose book?
Dixon: Brett Smith, the colorist on the book and the godfather of this project, approached Peter through his publisher and presented the idea of the graphic novel. Brett called on me because he thought I was the only experienced comic writer who would do the book justice.
Nrama: So how did you go about adapting this book?
Dixon: It all came down to the overall approach. The book is a lot of dates, names and places and it’s very compelling in prose form. In comics it would quickly become repetitive if we tried to do a straight dramatic re-telling. I suggested a more satiric approach, something closer to National Lampoon than Mad Magazine. Much of the art would be presented in dramatic fashion with humorous or ironic counterpoint in the dialogue and captions. Much of the book is a parody of various comic genres as well as the antics of the Clinton family.
Thankfully, Peter understood the direction I wanted to take and let us run wild.
Nrama: Did you rely much on outside research for this, or stick to what Schweizer wrote and your own inherent knowledge?
Dixon: There was a lot of additional research that I had to do to create more of a narrative in some sections. The book is peppered with interludes involving a Haitian family struggling to survive following the earthquake in 2010. That material is not in the book. But I wanted to present the cost in human terms of the high levels of corruption evident in Haiti at the time and much of it connected to the Clintons and their cronies. So I need to dig for details about that subject beyond what the book presented.
I also needed to read more on some of the people and incidents in Peter’s book in order to have a better understanding as well as hunting for grist for possible visuals.
And, of course, everyone involved had to hunt for photo references for everything from locations to likenesses.
Nrama: This book is currently the 12th highest selling book on Amazon, and I'm told at one point it was high as #5 -- of all books, not just comic books. How does that feel?
Dixon: Pretty awesome. But we did have the advantage of being topical. It was like every newscast presented new revelations about what is exposed in the book.
Nrama: But for comics fans predisposed to the Big 2 and superheroes, they may have never heard of it. You've been on the inside of that - on the top of it even, for decades. What do you think of this uber-successful comic book of yours working outside the "mainstream" of comic books but in the actual mainstream of English-language readers?
Dixon: There’s two markets for comics material and very little crossover between them. The Venn diagram between Diamond’s lists and the New York Times book list has a very narrow overlap. Most weeks, the list of top ten bestselling graphic novels in the USA have not one single Marvel or DC title. Comic shop retail is so occupied with superhero comics and superhero merchandising that they are more about that single genre than about the medium as a whole. The retail book lists are far more diverse.
Nrama: This book comes at the height of the political season. What do you think of books like these, and the growth of non-fiction political books to break down these sometimes-complicated ideas?
Dixon: Obviously, a reader needs less time to grasp the complicated pattern of outrages when they’re presented in comics form. We worked hard to make Peter’s work accessible and readily understandable. If the reader needs more detail they should read the original book. But you can walk away from out comics version with a clear comprehension of a difficult subject.
Nrama: It seems the comic book "mainstream" leans more to the left than the right, and I know have long gone on your way with more conservative values. What do you think of the "mainstream" comic book industry as it sits - do you want to see more right-leaning comic books?
Dixon: I’d actually like to see more apolitical books. You know, like it used to be when we didn’t know how Spider-Man voted. While I’m certainly willing and able to write comics on political subjects from my point of view, the vast bulk of my work has not included any politics beyond that of the characters themselves. I’m not here to promulgate my views coming from the mouth of Batman or Homer Simpson.
Nrama: Last question, then… do you have more political non-fiction books like this planned given this success?
Dixon: Based on the success of Clinton Cash, I’m getting approached from a lot of authors and publishers for more of the same. It looks like there will be more of this in my future.