18 Tin Cup Time

The less said the better about the embarrassing hoops I had to jump through to scrape together enough money to finish SRB. I don't feel like I can avoid mentioning this side of things entirely, though, because so many people were aware of it and because my anxiety-ridden quest for bucks became such an ironic counterpoint to the exhilaration of creating the book itself.

It wasn't the fault of DC Comics. Mike Friedrich, my agent, negotiated in my behalf what would have been a perfectly reasonable deal had I not been pathetically wrong in my original estimate of how long the book would take to complete.

A paper trail exists to document the incremental slippage in my predictions of when the book would see print. My author's bio in Early Barefootz asserts that my "current project is a graphic novel scheduled for publication in 1993." In Comic Book Rebels I tell interviewers Stanley Wiater and Stephen Bissette that "I expect it will be out in 1994" -- followed by the crucial qualifier "...unless it's further delayed by problems with raising money to have the time to draw it."

When Art Spiegelman was smiled on financially by the Guggenheim Foundation and thus allowed to concentrate fully on completing Maus, I first drooled in envy and then set about composing the first of my three annual Guggenheim-related exercises in futility. I also lobbied the New York Foundation for the Arts to revise their rules for fiction so that graphic works would not be automatically ineligible. (Ever try to double-space a comic book page?) They ultimately saw the light and began including a graphic-fiction exception to their submission specifications, but they still wouldn't give me a grant.

Before this financial horror show was over a number of friends and fellow professionals had stepped forward in various ways to help me see Stuck Rubber Baby through. They are thanked by name in the book's Afterword and I thank them here once again.

EXCERPTS FROM A FUNDRAISING LETTER (Summer 1992)

Dear ---

Enclosed is a full-sized reproduction of a page from Howard Cruse’s graphic novel in progress, Stuck Rubber Baby.

Howard's book, the first graphic novel by an openly gay artist to be commissioned by a major American comics publisher, will be released in 1994 by Piranha Press, a division of DC Comics established expressly to stretch the boundaries of the comics form. …

Creating a graphic novel is a time-consuming undertaking. … And unlike many mainstream comics projects, Stuck Rubber Baby involves no collaboration with other artists. It’s all Howard’s "baby," and he anticipates that creating it will have taken three years of full-time drawing.

An unusually generous advance from Piranha underwrote two of those years, but additional funds are needed to complete the work. Several friends who have seen the original artwork for early chapters have suggested a unique way for others to support this groundbreaking project. We propose that Howard sell the original artwork for the book in advance to raise money to complete it. …

BLAH BLAH BLAH

(EXCERPT FROM ONE OF MY FUTILE APPLICATIONS FOR A GUGGENHEIM FELLOWSHIP)

… I believe that this book will further broaden the horizons of the graphic novel form, a form that is still in its infancy in America but that has already demonstrated, both in the U.S. and abroad, its potential for the telling of meaningful stories in uniquely accessible ways. … I hope that your judges will look at my track record, consider the seriousness with which I approach my work, and view Stuck Rubber Baby as a project worthy of financial support. …

[No dice. ]

FROM COMIC BOOK REBELS, by Stanley Wiater and Stephen R. Bissette

CBR: How do you deal with the idea that you're writing a graphic novel, while the industry – and most of the public – perceives the comic medium as basically telling tales in a periodical, short-story format? What changes do you see necessary for a comic creator to take on a project this ambitious, and still be financially able to work on it full time, as most successful prose novelists are able to do?

CRUSE: Well, that’s certainly the sixty-four million dollar question, isn’t it? …