PRESS RELEASE
Gay Comix Founder to Release
New Collection of Gay-Themed Comics

North Adams, MA - July 24, 2009 - A new trade paperback will be released this week compiling 24 gay-themed comic strips and stories drawn by cartoonist Howard Cruse between 1976 and 2008.

The book is available through the print-on-demand technology of Lulu.com. Its title, From Headrack to Claude, refers to characters featured respectively in the book’s oldest story, originally published in 1976, and the most recent one.

Seven books by Cruse have been issued since 1985 by traditional mainstream publishers such as St. Martin’s Press, Prometheus Books, and DC Comics, among others. The author’s 1995 graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby won both Eisner and Harvey Awards in the U.S. and, in translation, went on to garner similar honors in Germany, France, and Spain.

Recently, though, Cruse has become intrigued by the increasing simplicity of on-demand publishing. “Digital publishing based on the print-on-demand model has reduced the up-front cost of putting out a book yourself amazingly,” he explains. “And the risk that you’ll end up with a hundred cartons of unsold books piled up in your living room is totally eliminated.”

Self-publishing makes sense for collections like this one, in Cruse’s view. Several stories were originally drawn for underground comic books sold only to adults, where the matter-of-fact mingling of sexual imagery with political satire and social commentary was commonplace. “I’m proud of this material,” Cruse says, “but I recognize that most big publishing houses are likely to balk at a book this uninhibited. Yet my history as a cartoonist tells me that there’s still an audience for it, and P.O.D. technology gives me a shot at reaching that audience.”

Cruse has drawn comics on many subjects beyond gay ones during his 40-year career, but it’s indisputable that his best-known and most groundbreaking work has drawn on his perspectives as a gay man. He was the founding editor in 1980 of Gay Comix, an underground comic book series published by Kitchen Sink Comix that invited lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cartoonists to reflect their lives straightforwardly in the comics medium. Cruse subsequently wrote and drew the popular comic strip Wendel, which was a regular feature in the LGBT newsmagazine The Advocate during the 1980s.

Cruse broadened his audience further with Stuck Rubber Baby, which was set in the American South during the Civil Rights era and explored the nuances of racism with which Cruse became familiar as a white Alabama native raised in a segregationist culture. But gay themes were not absent, since the racial conflicts dramatized in that novel ran parallel to the struggle of a closeted gay man to find his authentic self in the face of homophobia.

But more than Stuck Rubber Baby—and more even than Wendel—the comics collected in From Headrack to Claude place the particulars of gay experience front and center. Not every straight reader will feel at ease in this environment, and a “mature readers only” label on the cover acknowledges the book’s inappropriateness for children. Yet LGBT readers will recognize their world in its pages and gay-friendly heterosexuals will appreciate the opportunity to better understand their gay friends’ perspectives.

From Headrack to Claude will be available from high-profile online book retailers such as Amazon.com as well as from Lulu.com. “People won’t accidentally discover From Headrack to Claude on a bookstore’s shelves, though,” Cruse warns. “The book literally won’t exist physically until someone goes to an online retailer and orders a copy. Hopefully members of its intended audience will learn that it exists and will make a point of seeking it out.”

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