Howard Cruse (born May 2, 1944) is an American alternative cartoonist known for the exploration of gay themes in his comics. He was the founding editor of Gay Comix, and created the gay-themed strip Wendel and graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby.
|Born||May 2, 1944|
|Stuck Rubber Baby|
|Awards||United Kingdom Comic Art Award,|
Prix de la critique (France), 2002
Cruse was raised in Springville, Alabama, 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, and had a brief career in television. In 1977, Cruse moved to New York City, where he met Eddie Sedarbaum, his life partner, whom he married after moving to North Adams, Massachusetts.
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 had been open about his homosexuality throughout the 1970s, but never acknowledged it in his work. This changed in 1979, when he began editing Gay Comix, a new anthology featuring comix by openly gay and lesbian cartoonists. 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 is a regular contributor to the ongoing queer comics anthology Juicy Mother, edited by Jennifer Camper, which first appeared in 2005 and then in 2007, noteworthy for carrying on the tradition begun by Cruse with Gay Comix.
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.
- Cruse, Howard. (1985) Wendel, New York: Gay Presses of New York. ISBN 0-914017-10-1
- Cruse, Howard. (1986) Howard Cruse's Barefootz: The Comix Book stories, Renegade Press. ASIN B00072X5YY
- Cruse, Howard. (1987) Dancin' Nekkid with the Angels, St Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-01104-0
- Cruse, Howard. (1989) Wendel on the Rebound, St Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-03002-9
- Cruse, Howard. (1990) Early Barefootz, Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 1-56097-052-9
- Cruse, Howard. (1995) Stuck Rubber Baby, Paradox Press. ISBN 1-56389-255-3
- Cruse, Howard. (2001) Wendel All Together, Olmstead Press. ISBN 1-58754-012-6
- Shaffer, Jeanne E. (April 2004) "The Swimmer with a Rope in his Teeth" illustrated by Howard Cruse, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-59102-181-2
- Cruse, Howard. (August 2009) From Headrack to Claude, Nifty Kitsch Press. ISBN 0-578-03251-1
- Robert Kirby and David Kelly, editors, (2008) The Book of Boy Trouble 2: Born to Trouble, Green Candy Press
- Camper, Jennifer, editor (2007) Juicy Mother 2: How They Met Manic D Press. ISBN 978-1-933149-20-2
- Fish, Tim, editor (2007) Young Bottoms in Love, Poison Press. ISBN 0-9762786-7-7 (includes the My Hypnotist short story)
- Camper, Jennifer, editor (2005) Juicy Mother Soft Skull Press. ISBN 1-932360-70-0
- The Comics Journal #111, pp. 64–96, Fantagraphics, September 1986. A long interview of Howard Cruse.
- The Comics Journal #182, pp. 93–118, Fantagraphics, November 1995. A critical overview of Stuck Rubber Baby, with another interview of Howard Cruse.
- I Have To Live With This Guy, pp. 164–177, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-893905-16-0. Eddie Sedarbaum talks about his life with Howard Cruse.