Cruse in Control

COMIC: Stuck Rubber Baby
Howard Cruse

Paradox Press

Howard Cruse's graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby is not an autobiography, but it doesn't feel far off. The book's central character, like Cruse, grew up amidst the tumultuous civil rights era of the 1960s in the American South, and, like Cruse, had to learn to accept and process the reality of his own homosexuality. I suspect Cruse's main purpose in writing a piece of fiction similar and yet separated from his own life was the freedom to tweak characters and relations for dramatic effect, and to place his character in more pivotal and volatile situations than most people would have ordinarily found themselves in.

These are just my own suspicions, however. As a piece of fiction, Stuck Rubber Baby feels a little bit like made-for-TV fare, albeit fairly good made-for-TV fare with an honesty more apt to appear on PBS or cable than the networks. As a work of comic art, however, this is fairly new ground to cover, and Cruse gives the reader a sense of being enriched with a sense of a particular time and place, as well as a timeless sense of what it is to be a young adult at odds with oneself and one's place in the world.

Cruse's art (which, to be honest, I really was not familiar with before this book) has previously been somewhat-to-very cartoonish. Here, his characters still have a certain rubbery quality, and to almost a one, feature Leno-esque oversized chins, but Cruse covers every page with such fine, almost pointillistic crosshatching that gives his art a lush weight that anchors his places, characters and things in a believable world.

It's clear that this was a labor of love for Cruse. Evidently it took him 4 years to create, and it shows.

Crosspost Classic!  08.14.2007

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