cover image Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank

Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank

Eric Orner. Metropolitan, $25.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-250-19158-8

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. (May.)