From Headrack to Claude: Collected Gay Comics by Howard Cruse (Nifty Kitsch Press)

Buy It Now at Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon via The Dreamwalker Group

Howard Cruse didn’t invent gay comics, but it’s hard to imagine gay comics—or underground comics, period—without him. Since the mid-‘70s Cruse has been creating stories that are textually and visually rich as well as homopolitically fearless. This wonderful volume brings together his Gay Comix stories as well as miscellaneous work he’s done for the Village Voice and other markets.

Don’t look for Cruse’s Wendel strips from The Advocate here, because they have been collected in their own volumes. Instead, expect a mind-boggling survey of gay history and culture, packed into a mere 100 pages.

Realizing that not all of us have been along for the whole ride, Cruse gives helpful commentary on some minor and major figures—for example, Ron Reagan (the president’s son), George Segal (the sculptor), and Jesse Helms (the asshole). And he gives real insight into the challenges he’s faced. For example, how do you introduce the topic of AIDS in comics? Answer: with compassion, truthfulness—and, yes, humor.

What a long, strange trip it’s been—and how lucky we’ve been to have Cruse as one of our countercultural gurus. And there’s more good news: a new edition of his beloved graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby will be coming out next June. Another reason to look forward to the balmy days of summer.

Reviewed by Wayne Courtois

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