Kickstarter: Scarfff!!! A newspaper comic anthology

Scarfff!!!

Scarfff!!! is a new comix anthology and currently has a Kickstarter campaign running up to January 1, 2020. The free newspaper comics anthology as we know it goes back to the sixties underground comix. Many cities had or currently have such a publication. Consider it a sign of a healthy subculture. It’s a great venue for young cartoonists who are just starting out or perhaps not-so-young cartoonists still loyal to a bohemian spirit. In a typical free comix paper, you tend to find work that is more experimental and more provocative. A subversive sensibility is baked into comix. No one is expecting to make money from it or even gain notoriety. There is this love/hate relationship with the possible or perceived audience at large. Just ask R. Crumb. Some cartoonists find a way, some don’t and some don’t care and are more than happy to jump off a cliff in a fit of rage. Or so it may seem. All in all, a typical comix rag is always fascinating on some level. This one is called, Scarfff!!!, and that should tell you something right there. Or maybe it has to do with it being a food theme. In that case, I have no idea what the actual name of the newspaper is and perhaps they should adopt that name. Why not? Well, that’s my suggestion. You’re welcome. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what they come up with over the course of their run. This newspaper comix anthology features artists from Seattle and San Francisco. Members of this group are coming together for the first time to present their work. Be sure to visit the Scarfff!!! Kickstarter campaign right here.

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Review: COOL VALLEY by Craig Frank

Cool Valley by Craig Frank

Craig Frank’s new graphic novel, Cool Valley, published by Fahrenheit, provides an intimate look at childhood with a masterful command of the comics medium. Frank has a zeal for storytelling that is rooted in his background in animation and his overall passion for creative pursuits. In fact, the reader will see Frank’s first stir of interest in comics and drawing within the pages of his new book. I was completely won over by Frank’s debut graphic novel from a few years ago, the quirky and surreal, JFK: Secret Ops. Read my review here. This new book shares a similar live wire sensibility, set in a small town in Missouri in the 1970s, packed with an uncanny amount of vivid details.

Cool Valley by Craig Frank

There’s a bit of Huck Finn mixed in this series of vignettes interlaced together building up to a sobering existential assessment. Along the way, there are more than some touches of the supernatural too. Actually, it may have been helpful to bring the supernatural elements to the forefront due to their compelling thematic strength. What is intriguing, and deliciously spooky, is how Frank ultimately approached things by having all the scary stuff gradually emerge! So, it’s something of a toss up. You can start in with a story already with built-in expectations or you can surprise an audience with unexpected material. Going in, the reader does not know to expect anything about demons. That said, the reader quickly picks up from the first few pages that there’s a melancholy and strange tone brewing.

Cool Valley by Craig Frank

Demons aside, young Frank is jumping from one misadventure to the next. While talk of demons is only one aspect to this narrative, that eerie sense of dread is woven throughout, especially since it involves a series of tragic events that gradually, then suddenly, take over amid a narrative that includes both sorrow and joy. Frank does a wonderful job of presenting this tableau of light and dark, always wondering about meaning, always daring to express frustration with elusive answers. This is a mature work for all ages that thoroughly respects and rewards the reader. It’s a great work for young adults and older adults alike.

Cool Valley by Craig Frank

Craig Frank has taken a very original and idiosyncratic path with his comics–and that is where the most authentic comics come from. It’s great for a budding cartoonist to follow an influence and emulate his or her favorite artist. We can always have yet another cartoonist who echoes the cool vibe of Daniel Clowes. That’s a tall order and to be applauded when it works. However, it’s even better when you develop a style and vision all your own and that also takes time and dedication. And another thing, sometimes the next graphic novel is the one that catches on and lifts up the one that came before. I think Cool Valley is definitely a perfect entry point to Frank’s work. Then make your way over to his hilarious JFK: Secret Ops and then…well, we’ll just have to see what Craig Frank comes up with next!

Here is a book trailer for Cool Valley:

And here is a panel discussing the relationship between comics and animation at SPX this year that includes Craig Frank:

Cool Valley is published by Fahrenheit.

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NYT Opinion: Impeach Trump. Save America.

King Trump Confronts American Presidents. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Newspaper headlines and editorials still matter even if Donald Trump will dismiss it all as “fake news,” except for news from his base. Thomas L. Friedman, three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, offers a powerful and sobering editorial, much of it simply recapping facts, on the real need to impeach Trump and remove him from office. You can find the link here and the editorial is posted below. It is the duty of every American who knows and understands to speak out in whatever way they can. Republican senators are reading and listening:

Impeach Trump. Save America.

It is the only thing to do if our country’s democracy is to survive.

By

Opinion Columnist

Impeaching a president is the most consequential thing our Congress can do — other than declaring war. So, after great consideration, I say: President Trump not only should be impeached, he must be impeached if America’s democracy is to remain intact.

Why? Because the facts here are not in doubt — indeed Trump’s allies in the media and Congress have largely given up disputing them: Trump held up congressionally directed taxpayer funding to strengthen Ukraine’s military against Russia until the new Ukrainian president agreed to do what Trump called a “favor” — announce that Ukraine was investigating Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden, and his son, who was involved with a Ukrainian gas company. Trump apparently thought that just the announcement of such an investigation would kill Biden’s campaign in its crib.

Generally speaking, I believe presidents should be elected and removed by the voters at the polls. But when I hear Trump defenders scream, “Impeachment subverts the will of the people,” I say: “Really? What the hell do you think Trump was doing in Ukraine?” He was subverting the will of the people by scheming to use our tax dollars to knock out his most feared opponent in the coming election — rather than trusting voters to do that.

The only reason the plot was aborted was that a whistle-blower from the intelligence community drew attention to the president’s plan, forcing him to release the money to Ukraine — moments before his shakedown exploded into public view. Trump was like a bank robber with a gun to a teller’s head, who suddenly heard the police sirens approaching and ran off before he could stash the money in his bag.

President Trump spoke to reporters before boarding Marine One last month. Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

So while the founders wanted to reserve removal of a president for elections by the people, they understood that there could be situations when removing a president might be necessary to protect and preserve our very framework for holding free and fair elections. That framework is the Constitution and the rule of law — and this is one of those situations.

If we say, as Republicans do, that what Trump did is not an impeachable offense, we are telling ourselves and every future president that — in direct contradiction of what the founders wrote in the Constitution — it is O.K. to enlist a foreign power to tilt the election your way. Can you imagine how much money candidates could raise from Saudi Arabia or China to tilt a future election their way, or how many cyberwarriors they could enlist from Russia or Iran to create fake news, suppress voting or spur outrage?

Trump was like a bank robber with a gun to a teller’s head, who suddenly heard the police sirens approaching and ran off before he could stash the money in his bag.

The integrity of our elections would be shattered, and we would never again have a legitimate president — a president, who, whether or not you liked him or her, was at least seen as legitimately elected. That would be a prescription for permanent political chaos, as no future presidents’ authority would be respected if they were elected on the basis of foreign interference.

But that is what Republicans are courting by blindly defending Trump’s indefensible enlistment of Ukraine’s help to take down Biden and by echoing Trump’s conspiracy theory — originated by Russian agents — that it was Ukraine that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails in 2016, not Russia. They also argue that the D.N.C.’s server was shipped off to Ukraine before the F.B.I. could look at it.

This is right out of “The Twilight Zone.”

Folks, can you imagine what Russia’s President Putin is saying to himself today? “I can’t believe my luck! I not only got Trump to parrot my conspiracy theories, I got his whole party to do it! And for free! Who ever thought Americans would so easily sell out their own Constitution for one man? My God, I have Russian lawmakers in my own Parliament who’d quit before doing that. But it proves my point: America is no different from Russia, so spare me the lectures.”

If Congress were to do what Republicans demand — forgo impeaching this president for enlisting a foreign power to get him elected, after he refused to hand over any of the documents that Congress had requested and blocked all of his key aides who knew what happened from testifying — we would be saying that a president is henceforth above the law.

We would be saying that we no longer have three coequal branches of government. We would be saying that we no longer have a separation of powers.

We would be saying that our president is now a king.

If we do that, the America you studied in history class, the America you grew up knowing and loving, and the America that the rest of the world has so long admired as a beacon of democracy and justice will be no more. Oh, how we will miss it when it’s gone.

At a time when virtually every Republican lawmaker and Fox News have chosen to prostitute themselves for Trump, I do see one glimmer of hope hiding in plain sight.

This is right out of “The Twilight Zone.”

Folks, can you imagine what Russia’s President Putin is saying to himself today? “I can’t believe my luck! I not only got Trump to parrot my conspiracy theories, I got his whole party to do it! And for free! Who ever thought Americans would so easily sell out their own Constitution for one man? My God, I have Russian lawmakers in my own Parliament who’d quit before doing that. But it proves my point: America is no different from Russia, so spare me the lectures.”

As The Times reported last Saturday, incumbent presidents almost always benefit from a strong economy, and right now job growth is robust and average hourly earnings are up — but Trump’s poll numbers are not: “Instead of enjoying anything close to overwhelming popularity because of the economy, Mr. Trump’s national approval rating has remained low, dropping about two percentage points to 41 percent since the Ukraine story broke.’’

“Stock Markets Up Record Numbers,” Trump tweeted on Friday, adding, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Yes, it’s the economy, stupid — when you have a president who is not violating his oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. But if you read today’s poll numbers alongside the economy numbers, it turns out that more than a few Americans are saying, “It’s the Constitution, stupid — and unlike you, Mr. Trump, we value some things more than money.”

We care about having a president who does not lie 20 times a day. We care about having a president who does not demean his opponents and mock their physical appearance. We care about having a president who does not take the word of Russia’s president over that of his own intelligence services. We care about having a president who is not caught up in conspiracy theories, which he then makes everyone around him chase. We care about having a president who values our nonpartisan public servants. We care about having a president who wants to be the president of the whole country, not just his base.

And most of all, we care about having a president who takes seriously his oath to preserve and protect our Constitution. Without that, we will end up one day morally and financially bankrupt. How many Americans will still feel that way on Election Day remains to be seen and will also depend on the Democrats’ alternative. But for now, it’s good to know that it’s a significant number — that despite three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, the country still has a civic pulse.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist. He joined the paper in 1981, and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award. @tomfriedman Facebook

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Review: DYING IS EASY #1 (of 5)

DYING IS EASY

Joe Hill, #1 New York Times Bestselling author, is the current go-to creator for a certain quirky brand of horror. Head over to DC Comics and you’ll find he’s been set up with his own fiefdom, Joe Hill Presents Hill House Comics. In there you’ll find such tasty treats as the series, Basketful of Heads. Over at IDW, Joe Hill offers up a five-part miniseries, Dying is Easy, which sets his sights on the often turbulent world of stand-up comedy. It might be fun for you as an audience member but it’s not so easy up on stage, even if you get some laughs. With art by Martin Simmonds, this is a comic that brings on the atmosphere and authenticity of what’s it like to struggle as a comedian. Bad enough that it’s a rough business but it can always gets worse.

On point art by Martin Simmonds.

Our story focuses on an ex-cop comedian who somehow gets in over his head when he finds himself thrust into a blood feud. In the capable of hands of Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds, this first issue sets the tone for what promises to be a satisfying crime thriller. If I was a betting man, which I am on occasion depending upon who is asking, I would place my bet on this comic. Give it a solid 10/10 rating.

Dying is Easy is published by IDW Publishing and is available as of Wednesday, December 11, 2019.

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PAUL IS DEAD, new Beatles Graphic Novel by Image Comics, April 2020

PAUL IS DEAD

I have people ask me all the time if I know of any new comics based on their favorite pop culture. Some are asking about The Twilight Zone or Star Trek or even Logan’s Run, for all you true believers. Perhaps the all-time biggest request is for something new about The Beatles. That makes sense. We’re talking about The Beatles, right? Even the youngest among us know we’ve entered into some transcendent territory shared by only a select number of pop culture icons. And so, without further ado, here is something very special on the way…Paul is Dead, a magnificent work of speculative fiction as a graphic novel published by Image Comics coming out April 2020! Press release follows:

PORTLAND, Ore. 12/10/2019 — Creators Paolo Baron and Ernesto Carbonetti team up for a speculative fiction graphic novel steeped in music history and Beatlemania in the forthcoming Paul Is Dead. It will be available from Image Comics this April.

Set in London, November 1966, this new graphic novel retells the most popular conspiracy theory in music history and, in a sense, showcases the very first “fake news” of the entertainment world.

John Lennon can’t speak, he can’t take his eyes off a photo of a car in flames with the body of Paul McCartney inside. His friend is no longer there, and that means the Beatles are no longer there, either. But John wants to know the truth, and with George and Ringo, he starts to re-examine the final hours in Paul’s life.

Set in the magical atmosphere of Abbey Road Studios during the writing sessions for Sgt. Pepper, the definitive version of the legend of the Paul McCartney’s death.

Paul Is Dead original graphic novel (ISBN: 978-1534316294) will be available on Wednesday, April 22 and in bookstores on Tuesday, April 28. It can be pre-ordered at your local comic book shop on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound, and Indigo.

Paul Is Dead original graphic novel will also be available for purchase across many digital platforms, including the official Image Comics iOS app, Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, comiXology, and Google Play.

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Interview: Bob Eckstein and EVERYONE’S A CRITIC

Everyone’s a Critic by Bob Eckstein

Bob Eckstein is an award-winning writer, New Yorker cartoonist, cartoon editor, and author of The New York Times bestseller Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores. His cartoons, OpEds, and short stories appear regularly in The New York Times, New York Daily News, MAD magazine, Barron’s, Readers Digest, The Spectator, Prospect, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Atlas Obscura, LitHub, among many others. He was a columnist for The Village Voice, New York Newsday, and TimeOut New York. He has been interviewed in over 100 TV, radio and magazine spots including Good Morning America and People magazine. He was selected Erma Bombeck Humorist of the Month. It was a pleasure to get to chat with Bob about his “series of happy accidents” that have led him to such a multi-faceted career.

New Yorker cartoon by Bob Eckstein

Becoming a regular contributing cartoonist to The New Yorker was a fluke at first. It all began while Bob was in the process of gathering up New Yorker cartoons having to do with snowmen for his book, The History of the Snowman (2007). This led to having lunch with legendary New Yorker cartoonist Sam Gross. At the lunch, Sam encouraged Bob to visit the office and submit a batch of ten cartoons for Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff to look over. At first, Bob was hesitant but he finally warmed up to the idea. As it turned out, one of his cartoons was accepted. It was something of a miracle, beginner’s luck, and it would take many months before another cartoon was accepted but the die was cast. Bob Eckstein had embarked upon a career as a gag cartoonist at a time when there were still plenty of magazines accepting gag cartoons.

New Yorker cartoon by Bob Eckstein

Fast-forward a few more years, Bob Eckstein has moved on to creating books. In recent years, he has created Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores (2016), The Illustrated History of the Snowman (2018), The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons (2019), and Everyone’s a Critic: The Ultimate Cartoon Book by the World’s Greatest Cartoonists (2019).

The Illustrated History of the Snowman by Bob Eckstein

Postcards inspired from the book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores.

From Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein

Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein

Bob Eckstein spent seven years traveling the world researching and attempting to answer the age-old question, Who made the first snowman? and is the world’s leading snowman expert. He has spoken publicly on the subject at many venues like The Grolier Club, Milford Theater and the Cooperage Theater.

Bob Eckstein

It’s no surprise that a quest to understand the snowman would take a circuitous path. In Bob’s case, it somehow led him to becoming a cartoonist for The New Yorker! And then there’s Bob’s love of independent bookstores. That journey led him to not only create a New York Times bestseller, Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores, but it also led to him editing what has become a series of New Yorker cartoon books. As Bob told me, the idea behind both The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons and Everyone’s a Critic: The Ultimate Cartoon Book is to present the very best cartoonists. Themes are important but, in the end, it’s all about the quality, the artistry, and a certain sensibility. Mr. Eckstein has done a wonderful job of showcasing that magical blend of talent.

You can listen to part of our conversation by clicking the link below:

Be sure to visit Bob at his website right here.

Follow Bob on Twitter at @BobEckstein, Facebook Bob Eckstein and Instagram at bob_eckstein.

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Review: SWIMMING IN DARKNESS by Lucas Harari

Swimming in Darkness by Lucas Harari

Swimming in Darkness, by Lucas Harari, published by Arsenal Pulp, is an exceptional graphic novel on so many levels. It manages to get you to see comics in a totally refreshing way. This is certainly no easy task to accomplish, especially for the serious comics reader who is perhaps a little too primed to expect the unexpected. As for me, I am in a privileged positon as a reviewer that folks in the comics industry keep up with. As another year comes to a close, one that leaves us without Tom Spurgeon, one of our beloved leaders in the comics world, I feel all the more determined to pick my comics wisely and keep to meaningful reviews, upholding a standard carried forth by my trailblazing colleagues like Rob Clough, Frank Santoro, and Johanna Draper Carlson, just to name a few. All this comes to mind as I contemplate this book. This is what comics is all about and, if I was to choose just one book to represent what is possible within comics, no one would fault me for choosing this one. It is utterly stylish, graceful, and packed with a finely-tuned sense of suspense.

Pierre is odd man out.

Any good story needs to hook you in and, with this tale, there are plenty of hooks. We begin in Paris, as a downpour compels a man to seek refuge in a tavern. The reader is quickly swept up with intriguing stories, and legends, within other stories, and bits of speculation, hosted by one narrator upon another. We begin with the ghostly narration of presumably the author of the book himself as he kicks off a tale he heard from his father, Harari, the elder, as it were. It’s the father who stumbles in out of the rain and encounters Pierre, our protagonist. It turns out that Pierre was a student of Harari. Pierre had shown great promise during his formal study of architecture up until he abruptly left school. Harari is curious about what became of Pierre’s dazzling academic work. But enough about Harari. Our story quickly takes off to the Swiss Alps as Pierre is determined to make up for lost time.

A mystery daring to be solved.

Pierre is marching off in search of the legendary Vals Thermal Baths, designed by the famous Swiss architect Paul Zumthor, ensconced deep within the bowels of a delicate and rarefied resort hotel cradled within the mountain range. It’s been said that a secret passage connecting the thermal baths to the heart of the mountain lures a foreigner to his death every hundred years. Enter Pierre! This is such a finely drawn work that compliments, stroke for stroke, such a tightly woven narrative. And then there’s that meticulously modulated color scheme of blue and red maintaining a steady balance, or delicious imbalance of cool and warm. As I’ve said before, here is a prime example of what I believe to be an ideal graphic novel: a highly compelling work created by a cartoonist auteur that is a stand-alone book of about a hundred or so pages. There are so many fine examples and this is absolutely, without a doubt, one of them.

The secrets lie within plain sight.

Swimming in Darkness is a 152 page hardcover, in duotone, with a new English translation by David Homel, published by Arsenal Pulp. For more details, visit Arsenal Pulp right here.

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Review: THE CRIPPLER’S SON by Max Riffner 

The Crippler’s Son by Max Riffner

From time to time, I like to go back and explore work. The Crippler’s Son, is a short graphic novel quite worthy of a revisit. It is by Max Riffner, published by Fantagraphics, and available as a digital comic at comiXology. What strikes me as interesting about this book is the attention to character development and a strong consistent look throughout. Riffner favors a classic indie style (James Sturm, Daniel Clowes), very clean lines, understated tension. He puts his considerable talents to use here in the service of a story about, James, a young man at a crossroads. James is drifting, a diffident individual trapped in banal settings. He has a life but he’s not flourishing. On the first page, we get a clue as to what preoccupies James: the lackluster career of a pro wrestler known as, The Crippler.

The Crippler’s Son by Max Riffner

Aside from that seemingly obscure interest in pro wrestling, James is a medical student and he has a lover, Mike, who he struggles to emotionally connect with. As we progress, we discover just how important pro wrestling is to James. As it turns out, pro wrestling is at the nexus of James’s existence. There’s a significant family connection that has the potential to empower or destroy James. This is quite a quirky premise and my hat goes off to Riffner for pulling it off. Lots of fun action to boot. Riffner brings the scene to life with plenty of kayfabe! 

The Crippler’s Son by Max Riffner

The Crippler’s Son, by Max Riffner, is highly recommended. Now, just a few more words about the creator. As all of us cartoonists know, there is no guaranteed financial gain from the act of creating a work of comics. You do it because you love it. If you get good at it, it will show and demonstrate that you take your art seriously. Such is the case with Max Riffner. I think he’s found a wonderful balance between following one’s passion and making a living that fits and compliments it. Be sure to visit him and learn more at his website right here. And pick up a digital copy of The Crippler’s Son at comiXology right here.

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Trump Impeachment 4 December 2019: Some Visual Storytelling Notes

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Prof. Jonathan Turley says that there might indeed be a case to be made for impeachment but that the process is moving too quickly. That’s definitely a big takeaway and speaks to the highly partisan nature of the house hearings. Turley also pointed out that it takes time for the public to catch up. If that is the best argument against pursuing impeachment, it certainly begs the question, How can abuses of power really be ignored?

Prof. Noah Feldman

Today’s hearings offer a great amount of historical information and insights. The four constitutional scholars who testified today: Noah Feldman, Pamela S. Karlan, Michael Gerhardt, and Jonathan Turley.

Prof. Pamela S. Karlan

Three professors came out in full agreement that President Trump has abused power and that it reaches the level of impeachment. Prof. Turley disagreed only to the extent that the process of impeachment is running too quickly.

Prof. Michael Gerhardt

If you were looking for something that might hit you in the gut with a common sense approach, Prof. Karlan offered this analogy: “Let’s say there’s a state dealing with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina and the governor is on the phone with the president. What would you think if the president tells that governor that he will get federal aid but, first, he has to do him a favor and dig up dirt on his political rival?”

Prof. Jonathan Turley

It’s not easy keeping up with the news. And the impeachment hearings are incredibly worthy of the public attention. Prof. Turley is saying that the public needs time to finally pay attention. It’s an argument that Republicans are willing to accept. Only time, precious time, will tell if that argument is enough.

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Howard Cruse (1944 – 2019)

Howard Cruse

Howard Cruse, a pioneer in the LGBTQ cartooning movement and the author of Stuck Rubber Baby, an award-winning graphic novel about the intersection of race and sexuality in the South, died on Tuesday, November 26. He was 75. Howard was one of those essential artists who contributed work that touched, saved and transformed many lives. Thanks to his groundbreaking work as the founding editor of Gay Comix, which began in 1980, Howard Cruse was instrumental in getting underground comics — and later mainstream comics — to address LGBTQ issues. Take a look at the video below for a panel discussion with all the editors of Gay Comix:

A very informative obituary, compiled by Richard Goldstein and Jay Blotcher, follows, along with selected related images.

Stuck Rubber Baby, 25th anniversary edition, published by First Second Books

Pioneering Gay Cartoonist Howard Cruse Dies at 75

(WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS., Nov. 26) — Howard Cruse, a pioneer in the LGBTQ cartooning movement and the author of Stuck Rubber Baby, an award-winning graphic novel about the intersection of race and sexuality in the South, died on Tuesday, November 26. He was 75.

His husband of 40 years, Ed Sedarbaum, said that Cruse succumbed to complications from lymphoma at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA. Cruse, who lived in Williamstown, Ma., had been diagnosed in August.

Cruse’s masterwork, the bold graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, was published in 1995. It was based on Cruse’s interior struggles as a closeted gay man during the civil rights era of the 1960s. Widely translated, Stuck Rubber Baby has won numerous awards, including a critics prize at the Angoulême International Comics in France, the Harvey Award, Eisner Award and United Kingdom Comic Art Award for Best Graphic Album.

Stuck Rubber Baby will be reissued in a 25th anniversary edition by First Second Books in May 2020.

Howard Russell Cruse was born May 2, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama, as the younger of two sons born to Clyde and Irma Cruse. The family moved to Springville when his father, a photojournalist, was ordained as a Methodist minister and assigned to Springville Methodist Church. Cruse’s creative talents were encouraged by both his parents. His first published work was a 1959 comic strip called “Calvin” in the St. Clair County Reporter. Young Cruse also had cartoon art published in the humor magazines Fooey and Sick. He was mentored through an ongoing correspondence with famed cartoonist Milton Caniff, the creator of “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon” newspaper comic strips. At age 16, Cruse was invited to visit Caniff in New York City.

Howard meets Milton Caniff in 1961 at Sardi’s in New York City

At Birmingham Southern College, Cruse became involved in the theatre program, designing sets and appearing In several productions. He wrote and directed his own play during his senior year. For the college literary magazine, Quad, Cruse satirized the conservative organization the John Birch Society. The controversial work appeared in print, but the faculty advisor insisted on running a full-page disclaimer.

After graduating from BSC in 1968, Cruse joined Birmingham’s WBMG-TV as art director and a puppeteer on “The Sergeant Jack Show.” He became romantically involved with a man, Don Higdon, for the first time. During this time, Cruse created “Tops & Button,” a cartoon panel about two squirrels, which ran daily in The Birmingham Post-Herald from 1970 to 1972. He also created the subtly subversive “Barefootz,” which debuted in the University of Alabama’s newspaper Crimson White. “Barefootz” would appear in several Birmingham-area publications during the decade, and later in underground comic books. In 1977 Cruse relocated to New York City to make cartooning his full-time profession. In 1979, he met Eddie Sedarbaum and they moved in together. The couple was married in 2004. Cruse’s career reached a personal and professional breakthrough in 1980 when he was founding editor of Gay Comix, an underground anthology for lesbian and gay cartoonists. Cruse’s own work, exploring his conflicted childhood and repressive Southern upbringing, appeared in these comic books.

Wendel comic strip

In an era before the formal passage of LGBT rights, these frank cartoon explorations of gay culture, politics, sex, and camp had a huge influence on young people in the closet. During the four years of his editorship, Cruse received letters of gratitude from readers all over the country, many who had considered suicide. During this period, Cruse did many pro bono illustrations to support fledgling LGBT organizations, as well as mentoring of young queer cartoonists. Cruse created a high-profile poster about gay male safe sex practices in 1985 for New York City’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Cruse’s profile as a cartoonist grew with the debut of “Wendel,” a comic strip about a gay everyman, his lover, friends and family. It appeared in the national newsmagazine The Advocate from 1983 to 1989. He also contributed frequently to The Village Voice. Cruse and Sedarbaum became active in LGBT and AIDS grass-roots politics, joining the direct-action organizations ACT UP and Queer Nation. Cruse and Sedarbaum left New York City in 2003 and moved to Western Massachusetts, settling first in North Adams and then Williamstown.

Stonewall illustration for The Village Voice, circa early 1980s.

Cruse frequently appeared at comic book conventions over the decades, and was the guest of honor at academic and fan conferences, especially those addressing the subject of queer comic art. His final published comic work appeared this year in Northwest Press’s horror anthology “Theater of Terror: Revenge of the Queers.” Cruse was among LGBT cartoonists and illustrators appearing in the documentary “No Straight Lines,” scheduled for a 2020 release.

Stuck Rubber Baby

Cruse’s work has been collected in several books, among them, Barefootz Funnies (Kitchen Sink, 1975-79), Wendel (Gay Presses of New York, 1986), Dancin’ Nekkid with the Angels (St, Martin’s, Kitchen Sink, 1987) and Wendel on the Rebound (St. Martin’s Press, 1989).

In addition to his husband Ed Sedarbaum, Cruse is survived by his daughter, Kimberly Kolze Venter, and his brother, Allan Cruse.

Donations in his memory can be made to New York City’s LGBT Community Center, the Queers & Comics Conference, and Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County.

Memorial services, open to the public, will be held in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and New York City in the near future. Exact information will be posted on howardcruse.com/

  • Obituary compiled by Richard Goldstein and Jay Blotcher

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