10 Mood Swings

I worked out a careful timeline for the story to make sure that it was reasonably consistent internally (plotting is not my strong point) and didn't conflict with any major real-world events. By the time I had pulled together various strands of information, I not only could tell you on what day of the week any event in the book took place (the chart above reveals that Toland came out to Ginger on Friday, April 3), butl I was pretty sure I even had the phases of the moon drawn correctly whenever it happened to be visible in the sky. Some might view this latter concern a symptom of obsessiveness. They would probably be correct.

One challenge in constructing my chronology was to dodge the two big events of 1962-63: the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of President John Kennedy. Neither of these national traumas had any relevance to the themes of my novel, but by virtue of their historic importance they would have required strong responses from my characters, which means that precious pages would have been drained from my story. So I constructed the pivotal incidents in Stuck Rubber Baby so that they could all occur between the Cuban crisis and the assassination (except for the final scene, which leapfrogged over Kennedy's death by several months).

LETTER TO KINNY AND ALASTAIR (November 21, 1990)

… I can’t say much about how the graphic novel is going. I go through drastic mood swings about it. Some days I seem to be producing something coherent; other days the themes I’m trying to deal with seem beyond my ability to dramatize.

I’m nervous about people having outsized expectations. Mark Nevelow says that the scuttlebutt in the DC sales department is that it’s going to be "the gay Maus." And a gay friend totally unconnected with DC came up with the same phrase. That makes me nervous. I’m not Spiegelman and this book will not be Spiegelmanlike, and I definitely don’t want to be perceived as trying to ride to commercial success on Spiegelman’s coattails! My goal is to try and come up with a modest Howard Cruse story that makes sense and has some emotional authenticity. It may have some historical resonance, but the events in it are not to be compared to those in Maus.

At the moment it’s nothing more than pencil notes on paper. Sweating out the story and getting a first draft of the dialogue is proving to be a painfully slow process. It’s beginning to look like it’ll be a month or two into 1991 before I’ll draw a single line that’ll see print.