One of the greatest cartoonists of his generation, Howard Cruse is also considered “The Godfather of Queer Comics.” His graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, set in the South during the early 1960s, was honored with a 25th anniversary edition in 2020.
“Stuck Rubber Baby” calls attention to the scale of systemic, endemic racism — from the horror of lynching, a devastating, recurring event in the book, to Jim Crow to the ingrained bigotry of ostensibly well-meaning white families like Toland’s. From the outset it also interrogates the very act of seeing, and specifically the visibility, and invisibility, of Black death. It is aware of its own ability as a book of images to show and to withhold.
Previously, Cruse created the 1970s strip Barefootz, which appeared in a number of underground comics, and was founding editor of the acclaimed 1980s anthology Gay Comix. He also created the groundbreaking comic strip series, Wendel, originally in The Advocate, and widely considered the first nationally published gay comic strip.
The graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby won Eisner and Harvey Awards in the U.S., a Comics Creators Award in the U.K., a Luchs Award in Germany, a 2007 Saló del Còmic de Barcelona Award in Spain, and a 2002 Prix de la critique at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in France. The Comics Journal also included Stuck Rubber Baby among its listing of the “100 Best Comics of the Century.”
The 25th anniversary edition was released in late July 2020 to more rave reviews and includes a new introduction by cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel and letters from family.
Howard Cruse lived the last decades of his life in the northern Berkshires with his husband Ed Sedarbaum. Howard died in late 2019. Those who got to know him are lucky folks. As you can read in virtually every obituary dedicated to him, from The Washington Post to The New York Times, Howard Cruse was both a skilled, influential cartoonist, and a kind, generous, curious, and humble friend.
Howard’s vast and entertaining website is a work of art itself and includes a comics vault, biographical pics, stories behind the strips, strips you may not have seen, and more. Prepare to delve deep and feel delighted and moved.
At San Diego Comic-Con International in 2020, Howard Cruse was inducted into the Eisner Professional Cartoonists Hall of Fame. From that convention, you can watch a panel discussion on Howard’s life, work, and his impact on the growth of queer comics.
Find your own copy of the Stuck Rubber Baby 25th Anniversary Edition online HERE.