Joe Paradise was introduced to Joe Exotic the same way everyone else was.
Paradise, a lifelong local artist and illustrator, satisfied a craving for what he playfully called “trash TV” with a two-night binge watch of the five-hour, 17-minute Netflix documentary series “Tiger King.”
Not much later, his phone rang.
And the bizarre reality story surrounding big cats, roadside zoos and colorful characters became even more real for Paradise, who previously lived on Locust Street and is well known for running a caricature booth at Philadelphia Phillies games for the last 15 years.
Paradise was hired to illustrate a 22-page biography comic book called “Infamous: Tiger King” by TidalWaveProductions. It will be released in June.
“The show was completely bonkers,” Paradise said. “What we’re trying to do is give a little supplemental background info because, yeah, these are crazy people but there’s this whole horrible industry that they are a part of.”
The comic is a flip-style book, telling two origin stories that circle around Oklahoma zoo operator Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, better known by his stage name “Joe Exotic,” and Florida nonprofit animal sanctuary owner and animal rights activist Carole Baskin.
“Joe Exotic is going to be a blast to draw,” Paradise said. “He’s a gay, meth-head Yosemite Sam. He’s a walking cartoon.”
Aside from the TV show’s outrageous but true plot lines that include a murder-for-hire scheme, and the mysterious disappearance of Baskin’s husband, the comic book will focus on the injustices to wild animals in captivity.
“There’s a lot of endangered animals that are being hurt,” Paradise said. “We can shine a bit of a light on that and tell people not to support these places and don’t give them your money. If you want to help tigers, there are better places to go than these zoos.”
The comic received approval from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“PETA is excited that TidalWave Productions will reveal some of what ‘Tiger King’ left out,” said PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet, who appears in the Netflix series. “When readers learn how exotic animals suffer when they’re snatched away from their mothers as babies and exploited for photo props, they’ll despise ‘Doc’ Antle, Tim Stark, Jeff Lowe and anybody else who profits from breeding and abusing these wonderful animals in shady, money-making schemes.”
Upon completion, print versions of the comic book will be available for purchase on Amazon and in comic book stores. Pre-order are available now at ComicFleamarket.com. Digital versions will be sold on iTunes, Kindle, Nook, ComiXology, Kobo and wherever e-books are sold. The print version will have two collectible covers, drawn by Paradise and Jesse Johnson.
The comic book was written by Michael Frizell, who previously paired up with Paradise on several other projects. The pair are the creative force behind the “Political Power: James Comey” and “Female Force: Stormy Daniels” comic books. Paradise has drawn several political powers in former publications. They include Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Paradise’s art career can be traced back even further, as a teenager at Six Flags Great Adventure, working as a caricature artist.
“I had the good fortune of growing up in Jackson, New Jersey, where Six Flags would recruit art students out of Jackson High School,” Paradise said. “I was a Mad magazine fan as a kid, and I’ve always been into caricatures and drawing funny pictures.”
Paradise said he hopes to be back to business soon, as the independent contractor has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Once lockdowns are lifted and normalcy is returned, Paradise can be hired for private parties, weddings, office parties and more by contacting him through his website www.ArtByJoeParadise.com. Until then, he continues to offer most of the same services digitally.
He hopes baseball season returns soon, too, and he can continue sketching fans behind Section 119 at Citizens Bank Park.
“This is my first summer off, although not for the best of circumstances, unfortunately,” Paradise said. “Hopefully, I’ll be back there soon because, normally, I’d be out at the ballpark right now.”