20 Distant Wars

I was highly conscious of how long SRB was forcing me to stay out of public view. The situation was aggravated when a California gay paper confused me with my pal and fellow cartoonist Jerry Mills (creator of the comic strip Poppers) and published an obituary for me after Jerry succumbed to AIDS.

I composed a stock sentence that I could offer in response to the occasion inquiries from journalists curious about where the hell I had disappeared to: "Howard Cruse is currently working on a graphic novel about racism and homophobia in the Deep South during the Sixties." It oversimplified what Stuck Rubber Baby was all about, but at least it gave me something short and sweet to say when asked.

LETTER TO KINNY AND ALASTAIR (September 26, 1992)

… I’ve just finished chapter twelve, which ends with page 103, which just happens to be the exact halfway point of my novel. So I have as much drawing yet to do as I have already done. That’s daunting, but also reassuring. If I have done it once, I should be able to do it again.

I see that I haven't written you a real letter since last December, although we've gotten several letters and post cards from you. Please don’t give up on me and please don’t take it personally as seasons wax and wane, holidays and birthdays pass, and there is nothing but silence from Howie. Think of me as having been drafted into the army, sent off for years to fight the graphic novel wars in some land so distant that there are not even any camels or carrier pigeons to transport mail back to the home front. I originally thought that my tour of duty would be finished in December of this year, but I’ve since learned that there's no hope of discharge before March or April of 1994. The book simply insists on taking whatever time it must take. It will not be rushed.