Howard Cruse

Last updated

Howard Cruse
Loz howard cruseDSC00473.jpg
Cruse in 2014
Born(1944-05-02)May 2, 1944
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
DiedNovember 26, 2019(2019-11-26) (aged 75)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
Area(s) Cartoonist
Notable works
Gay Comix
Stuck Rubber Baby
Awards Inkpot Award, 1989 [1]
United Kingdom Comic Art Award,
Prix de la critique (France), 2002
howardcruse.com

Howard Cruse (May 2, 1944 – November 26, 2019) was an American alternative cartoonist known for the exploration of gay themes in his comics. First coming to attention in the 1970s during the underground comix movement with Barefootz, he was the founding editor of Gay Comix in 1980, created the gay-themed strip Wendel during the 1980s, and reached a more mainstream audience in 1995 when an imprint of DC Comics published his graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby.

Contents

Early life

Cruse was born on May 2, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama and raised in nearby Springville, [2] the son of a preacher and a homemaker. His earliest published cartoons were in The Baptist Student when he was in high school. His work later appeared in Fooey and Sick . He attended high school at Indian Springs School in (what is now) Indian Springs, Alabama, and college at Birmingham-Southern College, where he studied drama.

Cruse worked for about a decade in television. In 1977, Cruse moved to New York City, where he met Eddie Sedarbaum, his life partner, in April 1979. Sedarbaum founded the New York activist group Queens Gays and Lesbians United. [3] They married after moving to North Adams, Massachusetts. [4]

Career

Cruse's cartooning first attracted nationwide attention in the 1970s, when he contributed to underground comix publications. His best-known character from this period was Barefootz, the title character of a surreal series about a good-natured, well-dressed young man with large bare feet. Although dismissed by many underground fans as overly "cutesy", others found it a refreshing change of pace from "edgier" comix.

Cruse depicts himself in the story "Death", from Eclipse Magazine issue 1, May 1981, displaying both his "cutesy" style (the Barefootz cover) and the mid-range cartoony style typical of most of his work before Stuck Rubber Baby. Panel from "Death" by Howard Cruse.png
Cruse depicts himself in the story "Death", from Eclipse Magazine issue 1, May 1981, displaying both his "cutesy" style (the Barefootz cover) and the mid-range cartoony style typical of most of his work before Stuck Rubber Baby.

Cruse had been open about his homosexuality throughout the 1970s, but aside from having a gay supporting character (Headrack) in Barefootz, did not acknowledge it in his work. This changed in 1979, when publisher Denis Kitchen asked him to edit Gay Comix, a new anthology featuring comix by openly gay and lesbian cartoonists. [5] For much of the 1980s, he created Wendel, a strip (1–2 pages per episode) about an irrepressible and idealistic gay man, his lover Ollie, and a cast of diverse urban characters. It was published in the gay newsmagazine The Advocate , which allowed Cruse substantial freedom in terms of language and nudity, and to address content such as AIDS, gay rights demonstrations, gay-bashing, closeted celebrities, and same-gender relationships, with a combination of humor and anger. Two collections of these strips have been published, as well as an all-in-one volume.

Cruse spent the first half of the 1990s creating Stuck Rubber Baby, a 210-page graphic novel commissioned by editor Mark Nevelow for his DC Comics imprint Piranha Press but eventually published by DC's Paradox Press. It is the story of Toland Polk, a young man growing up in the American South in the 1960s, and his growing awareness of both his own homosexuality and the racial injustice of American society. The book features Cruse's most detailed and realistic comics art and his most serious and complex storytelling. It received numerous awards and nominations.

Cruse briefly wrote a column in a comic book review magazine, Comics Scene, under the rhyming masthead "Loose Cruse".

Cruse contributed to the queer comics anthology series Juicy Mother, edited by Jennifer Camper, which first appeared in 2005 and then in 2007.

In August 2009, Howard Cruse self-published From Headrack to Claude, a collection of all his gay-themed strips accompanied by commentaries on his career and life, including the never-reprinted 1976 Barefootz story where the character Headrack came out, and some unpublished stories.

On March 17, 2010, an original one-off titled Lubejob penned by Cruse was published in Nib-Lit comics journal. [6] In 2011, Cruse's The Complete Wendel was republished by Rizzoli's Universe Books imprint. [7]

Cruse was chosen as a keynote speaker, alongside Alison Bechdel, for the inaugural Queers & Comics conference in 2015. [8]

Howard Cruse died on November 26, 2019 from lymphoma in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. [9] [10] Shortly before, it had been announced that a 25th anniversary edition of Stuck Rubber Baby was scheduled for publication from First Second Books. [11]

Publications

Contributions

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kim Deitch</span> American cartoonist

Kim Deitch is an American cartoonist who was an important figure in the underground comix movement of the 1960s, remaining active in the decades that followed with a variety of books and comics, sometimes using the pseudonym Fowlton Means.

<i>Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary</i> 1972 graphic novel written by Justin Green

Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary is an autobiographical comic by American cartoonist Justin Green, published in 1972. Green takes the persona of Binky Brown to tell of the "compulsive neurosis" with which he struggled in his youth and which he blamed on his strict Roman Catholic upbringing. Green was later diagnosed with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and came to see his problems in that light.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kitchen Sink Press</span> American comic book publisher

Kitchen Sink Press was a comic book publishing company founded by Denis Kitchen in 1970. Kitchen Sink Press was a pioneering publisher of underground comics, and was also responsible for numerous republications of classic comic strips in hardcover and softcover volumes. One of their best-known products was the first full reprint of Will Eisner's The Spirit—first in magazine format, then in standard comic book format. The company closed in 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jerry Mills</span> American cartoonist

Jerry A. Mills was an openly gay cartoonist known for his comic strip Poppers, which is credited as one of the first comic strips to develop multi-dimensional gay characters. Scholars have stated that while earlier comics had relied on stereotypes such as the nelly queen or muscleman, Mills presented his characters with lives beyond the stereotypes. His work is also credited as having helped shape comics for the LGBTQ+ community and its members.

<i>Stuck Rubber Baby</i> 1995 graphic novel

Stuck Rubber Babyis a 1995 graphic novel by American cartoonist Howard Cruse. He created his debut graphic novel after a decades-long career as an underground cartoonist. It deals with homosexuality and racism in the 1960s in the southern United States, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. While the book is not autobiographical, it draws upon Cruse's experience of growing up in the South during this time period, including his accidental fathering of a child, as referred to in the title.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trina Robbins</span> American comic artist

Trina Robbins is an American cartoonist. She was an early and influential participant in the underground comix movement, and one of the first few female artists in that movement. Both as a cartoonist and historian, Robbins has long been involved in creating outlets for and promoting female comics artists. In the 1980s, Robbins became the first woman to draw Wonder Woman comics. She is a member of the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.

Robert Kirby is an American cartoonist, known for his long-running syndicated comic Curbside – which ran in the gay and alternative presses from 1991 to 2008 – and other works focusing on queer characters and community, including Strange Looking Exile, Boy Trouble, THREE, and QU33R.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johnny Ryan</span> American alternative comics creator,writer and animator (born 1970)

John F. Ryan IV is an American alternative comics creator, writer, and animator. He created Angry Youth Comix, a comic book published by Fantagraphics, and "Blecky Yuckerella", a comic strip which originated in the alternative newspaper the Portland Mercury and now appears on Ryan's website. He also created Pig Goat Banana Cricket, a TV show made jointly with Dave Cooper that Nickelodeon picked up. He was the story editor for Looney Tunes Cartoons. In a throwback to the days of underground comix, Ryan's oeuvre is generally an attempt to be as shocking and politically incorrect as possible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Denis Kitchen</span> American underground cartoonist and publisher

Denis Kitchen is an American underground cartoonist, publisher, author, agent, and the founder of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jennifer Camper</span> Artist

Jennifer Camper is a cartoonist and graphic artist whose work is inspired by her own experiences as a Lebanese-American lesbian. Her work has been included in various outlets such as newspapers and magazines since the 1980s, as well as in exhibits in Europe and the United States. Furthermore, Camper is the creator and founding director of the biennial Queers and Comics conference.

<i>Gay Comix</i> Underground comics series

Gay Comix is an underground comics series published from 1980–1998 featuring cartoons by and for gay men and lesbians. The comic books had the tagline “Lesbians and Gay Men Put It On Paper!”

Robert Triptow is an American writer and artist. He is known primarily for creating gay- and bisexual-themed comics and for editing Gay Comix in the 1980s, and he was identified by underground comix pioneer Lee Marrs as "the last of the underground cartoonists."

Nib-Lit is a weekly comics journal edited by Mykl Sivak and published both independently in an electronic format as well as running as a two-page section in Southern News, the student newspaper of Southern Connecticut State University. The journal features original and syndicated strips by a wide range of international cartoonists, both established and up-and-coming. It features a number of comics formats from single panel comic strips, to multi-page graphic short stories, to serialized graphic novels. The journal also prints comics related columns and criticism by writers from within and outside of the comics world. Nib-Lit also regularly releases a podcast featuring interviews with creators from across the comics world.

Carl Vaughn Frick – often credited as Vaughn Frick or simply Vaughn – is an alternative cartoonist known for the exploration of gay, environmental, HIV/AIDS awareness, and radical political themes in his comics. His Watch Out! Comix #1 (1986) was an influential gay-themed comic, one of the first by an openly gay male cartoonist. His work was also included in issues of Gay Comix,Meatmen, Strip AIDS, No Straight Lines, and So Fey, a collection of Radical Faerie fiction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rupert Kinnard</span> American cartoonist

Rupert Kinnard also credited as Prof. I.B. Gittendowne, is an American cartoonist who created the first ongoing gay/lesbian-identified African-American comic-strip characters: the Brown Bomber and Diva Touché Flambé. Kinnard is gay and African American.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joe Johnson (cartoonist)</span> American cartoonist

Joe Johnson was an American gay cartoonist, whose Miss Thing and Big Dick were among the first ongoing gay comics characters, appearing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The characters were featured in single-panel humor cartoons originally published in The Advocate.

<i>No Straight Lines</i> Anthology of queer comics

No Straight Lines is an anthology of queer comics covering a 40-year period from the late 1960s to the late 2000s. It was edited by Justin Hall and published by Fantagraphics Books on August 1, 2012.

Andrea Natalie is an American cartoonist. She is the creator of the Stonewall Riots collections and founded the Lesbian Cartoonists' Network.

Burton Clarke is a gay African-American alternative cartoonist. He is known for his contributions to the rise of LGBT comics and his focus on representing gay men of all races and classes in his art, using a mix of realism and fantasy to tackle complex issues such as internalized racism and homophobia.

Angela Bocage is a bisexual comics creator who published mainly in the 1980s and 1990s. Bocage was active in the queer comics community during these decades, publishing in collections like Gay Comix,StripAIDS USA, and Wimmen’s Comix. Bocage also created, edited, and contributed comics to Real Girl, a comics anthology.

References

  1. Inkpot Award
  2. Sandomir, Richard (December 4, 2019). "Howard Cruse Dies at 75; His Cartoons Explored Gay Life". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  3. Andy Humm (January 21, 2010). "The Beat of a Different Dromm – Gay City News". gaycitynews.com. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  4. Howard Cruse, "Stuff About Me" Archived January 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine , Howard Cruse website
  5. Hall, Justin (December 2, 2019). "Howard Cruse 1944-2019". Comics Journal. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  6. "Nib-Lit". nib-lit.com. Archived from the original on October 14, 2017. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  7. Beth Scorzato (February 22, 2011). "Rizzoli To Reprint Howard Cruse's 'The Complete Wendel'". www.publishersweekly.com. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  8. "Queers & Comics: The LGBTQ Cartoonists and Comics Conference |". May 18, 2015. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  9. "Howard Cruse, Pioneering Comic Book Author, Dies at 75". The Hollywood Reporter. November 26, 2019.
  10. "Howard Cruse, Whose Cartoons Explored Gay Life, Dies at 75". The New York Times . December 4, 2019.
  11. Samantha Puc (September 30, 2019). "First Second to publish 25th anniversary edition of Howard Cruse's STUCK RUBBER BABY". www.comicsbeat.com. Retrieved January 24, 2020.

Sources