Eric Orner, the acclaimed cartoonist of one of the country’s most popular and longest-running gay comic strips, The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green, presents his debut graphic novel—a dazzling, irreverent biography of the iconic and iconoclastic Barney Frank, one of the first gay and out congressmen and a front-line defender of civil rights.
What are the odds that a disheveled, zaftig, closeted kid with the thickest of Jersey accents might wind up running Boston on behalf of a storied Irish Catholic political machine, drafting the nation’s first gay rights laws, reforming Wall Street after the Great Recession, and finding love, after a lifetime assuming that he couldn't and wouldn’t?
In Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank, one of America’s first out members of Congress and a gay and civil rights crusader for an era is confirmed as a hero of our age. But more than a biography of an indispensable LGBTQ pioneer, this funny, beautifully rendered, warts-and-all graphic account reveals the down-and-dirty inner workings of Boston and DC politics.
As Frank’s longtime staff counsel and press secretary, Eric Orner lends his first-hand perspective to this extraordinary work of history, paying tribute to the mighty striving of committed liberals to defend ordinary Americans from an assault on their shared society.
Orner (The Completely Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green) makes his graphic novel debut with an astute, richly detailed profile of political and gay rights icon Barney Frank. Frank emerged from humble beginnings to become a long-serving Democratic Massachusetts congressman. Though often gruff and impatient—adviser Jimmy Segel once said, "You gotta love Barney Frank to like him"—Frank was a passionate advocate for working-class people throughout his career, and popular enough to weather a sex scandal in 1989, during which he finally came out publicly as gay. Orner was Frank's former press secretary, and he leverages this insider access to paint a witty, empathic portrait of a brilliant but lonely and conflicted politician who finally learns to reconcile his professional and personal lives, achieving something of a state of grace through coauthoring the landmark Dodd-Frank Act of 2010—and marrying his partner, Jim. Orner has a gift for capturing a sense of place, be it the halls of Congress, Boston streets on a sultry summer's evening, or a depressed whaling town, all rendered in archly funny, colorful cartooning. He also clearly takes pleasure in caricaturing political villains, as in his deconstruction of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Orner achieves an exceptional balance of poignant biography, warts-and-all character study, and salty political satire. Political bios don't get much better than this.