Howard Cruse, Pioneering Comic Book Author, Dies at 75

Stuck Rubber Baby - Publicity - H 2019
Howard Cruse/DC
He launched the anthology 'Gay Comix' in the 1980s to publish work by openly gay creators.

Howard Cruse, author of the acclaimed graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby and founding editor of the anthology Gay Comix, died Tuesday of cancer, Cruse's daughter Kimberly Kolze Venter announced. He was 75.

Cruse came to prominence in the 1970s with the strip Barefootz, which appeared in a number of underground magazines and titles, but it was the 1980s title Gay Comix — an anthology created by Cruse to publish work by openly gay creators — that arguably made his reputation. Wendel, his strip about a young gay man in Reagan’s America for The Advocate during the same period, won him even more acclaim.

In 1995, DC published Stuck Rubber Baby, arguably Cruse’s most significant work. The graphic novel tells the story of Toland Polk, a gas station attendant in the American South of the 1960s who gets caught up in the civil rights struggle of the period as he explores his own sexuality. Published in multiple editions by DC across a 15-year period, it is scheduled for a 25th anniversary release next year from First Second Books.

Cruse continued to work following the success of Stuck Rubber Baby, which garnered multiple awards as it was translated internationally. He illustrated 2004’s The Swimmer With a Rope in His Teeth, and both wrote and illustrated 2008’s Felix’s Friends: A Story for Grown-Ups and Unpleasant Children, in addition to contributing to anthologies including Juicy Mother and Qu33r and overseeing collections of his earlier work.

In addition to his daughter, Cruse is survived by his husband, Eddie Sedarbaum, and brother, Allan Cruse.