Cover Image: Smahtguy


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'Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank' with story and art by Eric Omer is a biographical graphic novel about a democratic politician.

Barney Frank started his political career working in Boston for a mayor.  Throughout his career, he fought for those without a voice, including the gay community.  As a closeted gay man, he couldn't dare be outed in his political career.  Eventually, he came out of the closet.  Along the way, he helped Bill Clinton and championed housing bills.

This is a pretty engaging story told by one of Barney Frank's former congressional interns.  There is a lot of story crammed in to a lot of panels over the 224 pages of this book, which doesn't leave a lot of room for art, but I did enjoy this story told in this way.

I received a review copy of this graphic novel from Henry Holt & Company and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you for allowing me to review this graphic novel.
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I received an advanced copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Though Smahtguy didn't stick with the title "Popes and Prostitutes'', it was a fully entertaining, and fully adult graphic novel. Mixing entertainment through language and his art and education of Barney Frank's life and career, Eric Orner draws a vivid picture of Barney Frank as a human being. Someone who throws themselves into things, especially work, to ignore certain realities, in this case his sexuality. Someone who truly wants to better the world for others. From a closeted Jersey boy, to a Harvard graduate running political campaigns while ignoring his thesis, to a happily married and out member of the House of Representatives, it tells a story that is helpful to remember in these times. This graphic novel is a solid story of a man coming to terms with himself behind the scenes and in front of the country while fighting for others.
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4 stars   
I really enjoyed this biography of a hardworking congressional representative dedicated to helping people & fighting for civil rights & good government. Written by one of Barney Frank’s former staffers, the stories & anecdotes are detailed, personal, & authentic. The art’s not bad, neither ;)

[What I liked:]

•I like following domestic US politics, & it was quite interesting seeing the ins-&-outs of local New England (& later on, national) politics in the decades before I was born, & in a part of the country I’ve never lived in. How politicians, activists, journalists, academics, & regular old constituents come together to get stuff done. The difficulties of corruption, corporate lobbying, partisanship, & propaganda were also clearly addressed, but in a way that inspires me to keep fighting at the grassroots level for positive change. Barney Frank’s life and career is a testament that positive change is possible, & that it will take a lot of hard work & cooperation.
•I enjoyed the humorous portrayals of several American political figures such as Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Tip O’Neill, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, & George W. The author nailed both the art caricatures & witty references.

•Barney has had a very interesting & inspiring life. His life story, both personal & professional, was meaningful for me to read—as a Jewish “outsider” working adjacent to the Irish Catholic political machine in Boston, as a closeted gay man in a homophobic era & then a groundbreaking role model when he came out, as a liberal progressive in the neo-conservative dominated DC of the 1980’s, & in general as just a regular dude who worked tirelessly to improve life for his constituents.

[What I didn’t like as much:]

•Sometimes the story got a bit repetitive—endless re-election campaigns, Barney’s workaholic dedication taking a toll on his health, etc. There were enough fascinating anecdotes & political drama to keep me reading, & Barney’s personal story kept me invested too, but the text could’ve been tightened to avoid repetition.

•The text was tiny & therefore hard to read. I had to keep taking breaks due to eye strain & frustration. (I was reading an ebook that didn’t allow me to zoom in on the images/pages; this might not be a problem in print.)

•I wish there was a table of contents for the chapters. (Again, this may be an ebook version/ARC copy problem only.)

CW: homophobia, racism, sexism, anti-semitism, substance abuse

[I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]
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I was given an eArc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

As a queer twenty-something who grew up in Frank's district but wasn't around for any of his big scandals or legislative work, I was quite interested in this title. It did not disappoint. Orner's roots as a gay comic strip artist show through his cheeky artistic style (and liberties he takes with depicting certain figures such as Bob Dole and Ken Starr). Orner somehow manages to make each decade feel unique and reflective of the time despite little discernable change in style. Additionally, he shows intimate familiarity with both the source material and area it takes place (I regularly looked at scenes of Boston and Brookline and was like "Oh I know that building!"). 

While I wish Orner could have been more critical of the Democratic party, he manages to take over five decades of history and tell the story in a way that is not just interesting but at times hilarious. Overall an informative page turner that left me wanting to learn more about Barney Frank.
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Barney Frank, of Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was the first openly gay member of Congress. But before he was that, he wasn't - he was outed in a tell-all by another Congressman saving his own skin and  making some money  off of it. This is the graphic novel biography, written by one of Frank's former interns turned press secretary, that goes from the Harvard kid coming to grips with being gay and vowing never to tell to the Congressman who had the Governor officiate.

Between these two events, this biography chronicles Frank's rise from Boston City Hall to the Springfield State House and Capitol Hill. It focuses on his relationships, both those that would nearly get him censured and those that left him alone, and has cameos from some of the biggest political names of his era. Kenneth Starr as Torquemada is a welcome visual gag addition.
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This is the book that never ends, it just goes on and on and on some more. Something with the formatting of this book mean that it said it was 42 parts, not disclosing that it was 224 pages so you never really knew how far you had gone. It was like it's own weird level of hell.

This was incredibly informative, and I appreciate continuing to be able to learn about the members of the LGBT community that have paved the way to make our lives more openly.

While it felt unending the end was worth it, it was a happily ever after that gave me chills and honestly is the type of thing you only expect in books. But it was enjoyable none the less.
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Barney Frank was the first openly gay member of the U.S. Congress.

But he didn't start out that way. For much of his political career he was very, very closeted.  It wasn't as though he didn't support gay causes, the way some closeted members of congress did. If anything, he championed them. But he wouldn't come out, because he didn't think he could still be effective in politics, or that it would knock him out of office, because, when he started, it was unheard of to have a gay member of congress, the same way it was unheard of to have gays in the military.

And so he stayed in the closet, and did his work, first as a mayoral aid, and then as a member of the state legislature, and then finally as a congressman.

And although he helped Clinton come up with the Don't Ask Don't Tell rule for the military that would allow gays and lesbians to remain, as long as they were discrete, it didn't turn out quite the way he wanted.

This whole graphic novel was written by one of his former congressional interns, who got to hear many of the stories written about, because apparently Barney told them to his staff.

Amazing man, and it is too bad he is not in congress.  I never realized that he left because he got jerrymandered out.  He could have stayed, but figured it just wasn't worth the hassle at that point.

Interesting view of recent history, told from the viewpoint of Barney, and how it affected him, and how he had an effect on it. 

<em> Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review. </em>
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