Drug Smuggling During Early Years Of AIDS Epidemic Is Depicted In New Graphic Novel


Like a graphic novel companion to the film Dallas Buyers Club, Joyce Brabner’s Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, and Dealers Plotted Against the Plague ($22.00, Hill and Wang) chronicles how an experimental AIDS treatment from Mexico, Ribavirin, was smuggled into New York during the 1980s.

panel pg. 67Brabner, widow to American Splendor legend Harvey Pekar, and artist Mark Zingarelli based their graphic novel on the experiences of Brabner’s longtime friend Ray, a producer of drag shows and nurse, whose smuggling operation — driving an RV with compartments to stash the drugs — was financed by selling marijuana with help from the mafia. It was a pursuit filled with hazards and, of course, friends that depended on its success.

“It was one of the bravest things I had ever seen,” Brabner told the NY Daily News, “and I didn’t want the story to die with Ray,”

panel pg. 34At one point, a gay couple experience a final road trip together during a drug run — it’s a shattering, moving episode.

Although Brabner changed names and details to protect survivors from legal wrath, her otherwise accurate graphic novel offers a rare glimpse into yet another incredible, important, and little-known chapter in the history of the AIDS Crisis. This is a must read.