|As many of you comics insiders may know, my complete Wendel collection Wendel All Together had barely had time after its 2001 publication to garner a few friendly reviews (see excerpts from a few of them below) when Olmstead Press's corporate parent LPC Group declared bankruptcy and tanked.
Contrary to rumors at the time, however, my book did not immediately go down with the ship. After a year of uncertainty during which WAT's availability was severely curtailed by doings in bankruptcy court, the Olmstead Press imprint (and my book along with it) was purchased by Moyer Bell, a small publishing house based in Rhode Island. As a result, Wendel All Together resumed being as potentially as available as it ever was, except that a lot of booksellers have forgotten about it by then.
By now that's all water under the bridge, since Wendel All Together went officially out of print earlier this year. My hope is that the Strawhead and his pals will resurface now that I'm free to court new publishers with better marketing skills. Meanwhile, the memory of Wendel lives on in the hearts of its readers and in some of the reviews my book left behind.
Some excerpts from reviews
At last, a classic gets collected! ... Cruse’s superb comedic sense made “Wendel” funnier than nearly every other gay strip (then and since) and most nongay strips with continuing characters and situations. ... Indeed, one of the strip’s greatest accomplishments was to portray sex as just another component in the lives of characters who do all the other things “regular” people do, albeit more hilariously.
Ray Olson, Booklist
What's not to like about Wendel? ... As Wendel slides past romantic complications, AIDS crises, being picked on and hit on, and constantly stripped of his underwear, you begin to realize that none of these trials and tribulations of his are unpredictable. But so charmingly sketched and ingeniously plotted are they that you just have to keep turning those pages, mouth open and head nodding.
Wendel's world, in some ways, isn't that far off from the one around us. He's got some crazy friends, finds himself getting sucked into the political atmosphere of the times, has increasingly bizarre things happen around him, and a partner named Ollie who he absolutely dotes on. And come to think of it, I think we've all known someone who's convinced that there are Alien Space Pods that show up on a very regular basis to impart some very important messages...
Wendel All Together is, in many ways, a chronicle of gay life in the 1980s. The AIDS epidemic was just entering public consciousness, and the political climate was less-than-welcoming. But through it all, Wendel and his friends manage to keep a stiff upper lip and keep moving, no matter what the world throws at them... even if sometimes it's just a boss who keeps insisting that the Alien Space Pods are out there. It's funny, it's serious, and it's all points in-between. I'm really happy that Olmstead Press has reprinted the entire sage in one volume.
Greg McElhatton, iComics
Wendel is the gay everyman (especially for those who remember the 1980s and the chilling Reagan-Bush presidency). If you need some refreshing as to the birth of "family values" and the so-called moral majority that continues to misdirect American politics, you could find no more digestible reminder than Wendel All Together. ... [But for] all the period politics, Wendel's adventures are as true to gay life today as they were twenty years ago.
Bron Thorson, X-Factor
Topical, touching, funny, artistic, flaming, righteous, humane, idealistic, petty, frustrated, nervous, wacky, political, maturing, insightful, wry. The characters in this collection of Howard Cruse 's Wendel strips are all of these. Even more, though, they are human: the edgy Tina, the optimistic Wendel, the aspiring Ollie, the civic-minded Deb, the irrepressible Sterno -- all are well-rounded mixes of our best and worst. It's a measure of Cruse's skill that we come to know the characters as real people. It's a rare cartoonist whose humor flows naturally from his or her characters, rather than whose characters serve punchlines.
Mark L. Irons
I can't say enough about how good this strip is. It is marvelously entertaining, relevant (for folks of any sexual orientation), original, revealing, and (best of all) consistently funny. The characters are well-rounded, believable people that you care about. ... Situations in the story are exaggerated just enough to make them hilarious, but they never devolve into cheap farce. ...
Few cartoonists, strip or otherwise, have the grasp of sequential art that Cruse does. Hell, few have the grasp of anatomy that he has. He has an organic, cartoony, expressive style that incorporates a lot of detail, and his faces are fantastic. ...
Aviva Rothschild, Rational Magic
Cruse's invites us to interact with a variety of census binarisms -- intersecting through strata rich and poor, lipstick and dyke, gay-traditional and Queer, youth and season, politicos and slugs, the beat, the hip, the smoking, the worn-out-shoes, and the downright square. A cold heart in an amphibian shell, slimy wrinkles drooling down gnashing teeth decayed through speed in the countenance of patriotism, impotent thrusting tongue lapping oil from migrant skull-bowls lined in gilded pennies -- Ronnie Reagan and the technologists of white-power so terrified of their own desires they demanded witch-trials -- burning witches and their faggots. Tied to beeches with their own strands of blood, gays and other cultures in America were expected or at least hoped to asphyxiate on their imagined inhumanity. In the grim battle of positioning in the public imaginary the notion of all subgroup realities of true Being and humanity, Howard Cruse speaks in crystalline threads of Truth, as fine as spider's silk glistening with dew, complicated in the dynamics of chaos and entropy, generously allowing the lives of his/our creations an autonomy only abstracted in real life. ...
Jeremiah Smith, Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture
Everyone loves Wendel. ...
Sir Ian McKellan