Priming the Pump

Last week I decided it was time to refurbish the Portfolio section of my web site, which I’ve allowed to languish un-updated for the last, oh I dunno, dozen years.

I’ve plugged the update everywhere I could think of (Facebook; Twitter; Tumbler; etc.) in hopes that I could lure art directors who might be inclined to use goofy drawings like mine to have a look at it. And since I’ve been thinking about reactivating this blog anyway, I figure why not take this occasion to see if I still know how (or can figure out how, through trial and error) to use WordPress. Some of WP’s tools have changed since I was posting here before the Big Interruption, and since I’ve never been able to wrap my head around HTML coding, I feel like a toddler just learning to walk (for a second time).

We’ll see how it goes, as Donald Trump likes to say. Meanwhile, if any of you folks out there reading this happen to be pals with any of the shrinking number of art directors who take it for granted that a cartoonist with forty-plus years of experience should be paid professional rates for humorous illustrations that can jazz up their magazines, books, ads, and bubble gum wrappers, how about passing this link on to them.

Getting some humorous illustration gigs would add some welcome juice to the bank account here in HowardCruseLand.

Until my next blog post, thanks.

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Yoo-hoo! It’s me again!

I’ve been thinking of re-activating this blog, which has been inactive since 2013. But first I have to figure out whether I still remember how to post things.

Hence this more-or-less token entry to test the WordPress waters. More later, maybe.

Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!
Click a cover below to learn about my two self-published books.
…and click here to visit my
Cruse Goodies merchandise shop
A Note to Those Who’d Like To Keep Up With This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my "Blog Alert" list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.

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Lair Fare

Hey, folks,
I’m putting this blog on hiatus for a while
after this installment.

Don’t take it personally; I just need some uncluttered time for thinking. And I’ll probably still pop back into view once in a while, given my usual inability to be totally resolute about anything. Those of you who’ve asked to be on my "Loose Cruse Blog Alert" subscription list, of course, will be the first to know if, like Brigadoon, my blog materializes abruptly from the mists.

Meanwhile, I’m just giving myself permission to let the whole blogging thing slide for now without feeling like a slacker.

That said, I hereby return you to our regular programming.

What Goes On In My Lair?

My husband Eddie often refers to my studio downstairs as my "lair," since I tend to retreat into it for long periods of time only to emerge glassy-eyed and distracted, with little to share about whatever mysterious activities I’ve been involved in while hidden from view.

As you may have heard, the print media that spent several decades providing the bulk of my freelance income have been consumed by a collective death rattle of late. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not an overstatement to say that markets for my drawings that pay anything like a professional rate have been dwindling to a dribble of late. This may lead you to wonder exactly how I go about venting the ol’ creative impulses while I’m down in my lair these days.

With rare exceptions, the answer is: drawing (and sometimes writing) what I please whether or not there’s pay involved. While not lucrative, there’s something to be said for this lifestyle. It’s fun and it’s comparatively relaxing. It basically amounts to a version of semi-retirement, except that I spend my time wielding a pen instead of the traditional fishing rod.

True, this state of existence has descended on me uninvited, but I’ve more or less made peace with it and am enjoying its benefits. When I draw something that pleases me, I share it with my friends on Facebook, so my inner entertainer doesn’t have to experience an undue degree of audience deprivation.

So here’s how you can picture me spending my time
during periods when my blog reports are scarce?

When I’m seized with the impulse to draw an actual comic strip, the Occasional Comix section of my web site is always there to accommodate me.

Sometimes random goofy images pop into my head just begging to be drawn and colored — like the two examples below.

This is not to suggest that I’ve turned my back on black-and-white (see below).
Sometimes I amuse myself by adding color to old drawings from my distant past, like the Christmas card art below, first drawn 1978 but recently colored on a whim using Photoshop, or "Stop Playing, Grandpa," a nightmare image that I originally drew sometime in the early ’80s (I didn’t date my art in those days, stupid me) for an art portfolio that never saw publication.

Occasionally I apply additional old artwork from my archives to my CafePress merchandise, or make a greeting card out of it for my online Greeting Card Universe shop.

Books In The Pipeline

A strange Barefootz story from 1974 that until now has never before found its way into a book collection ("Mamasoyboyvuumulukrishkrosh and a Pox On Your Panty Hose," to be specific)
is part of The Best of Comix Book, just released by Dark Horse.

My three-page Blondie spoof, "Coming Out With The Bunksteads," is part of Qu33r, the new LGBT anthology that Rob Kirby has assembled.

The main reasons to keep an eye out for The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story this month are (a) the gorgeous illustrations by Andrew Robinson; (b) Vivek J. Tiwary‘s lyrical scripting; and (c) the cool Kyle Baker section that’s thrown in for spice). If you do give this book a look-see, however, you may spot the brief statement I was invited to write endorsing the partnership between the Fifth Beatle‘s creators, its publisher, and Freedom To Marry.

Other Miscellaneous Emanations From The Lair

I’m periodically called upon to create, revise, or update one of my slideshows, like the one I presented for a Writers Read event in Lee, MA, last April. Another one is in the pipeline for 2014. I also create theater art every now and then, like the CD package design I did this year for the cast recording of Chip Deffaa‘s latest musical, Theater Boys. (Sorry I can’t show you that here; Chip isn’t giving the go-ahead for posting it until the CD is released). Also embargoed for now is the drawing I’ve contributed to a projected British anthology called The Mammoth Book of Skulls, edited by Ed Hillyer, that won’t be out until next year. Stay tuned for those.

Finally, I’m not above trying to pull in a coin or two from assorted manifestations of my creative impulses over the years. To that end, I’ve assembled links to all of my income-generating ventures on a single page of my web site, which you can access by clicking on the foregoing link or the graphic below.

That’s all for now, folks. If you’re the sort who goes on Facebook (and I’m not saying you should do that), you’ll be able to keep up with my doings on a regular basis while I’m AWOL from regular blogging. And if you’re a Facebook holdout, don’t despair. The door to my lair will always be open.

Except when it’s closed, of course.

Happy holidays!

A Closing Note to Those Who’ve Enjoy This Blog: I may be going on hiatus, but that doesn’t mean I may not bubble back to the surface unexpectedly from time to time. So if you haven’t done so already, be sure and send me email while you’re thinking about it asking to subscribe to my "Blog Alert" list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email on the rare occasions when I do upload a new blog post. (And as a special bonus, you’ll get a heads up when I post a new "Occasional Comix" strip, too.)
Posted in Life & Art, Me, Me, Me!, Pure Toontime, Shop Talk | 1 Comment

Men In Trees

Sometimes we hear them splinter and fall, but usually we simply discover them when we step outside for the morning paper.

Dead limbs have been breaking free from their parent trees and dropping on our lawn during storms ever since we moved to Williamstown in 2011. This has led us to regularly cast worried eyes at some of the trees that are particularly close to our house. We wonder about their health and wonder if our home is safe.

Finally we decided to ask the folks at Main’s Tree Care to undertake a careful walkaround to assess the likihood that someday some really large and heavy chunk of wood might come plopping down onto our roof and, in the worst case scenario, wreak havoc on life, limb, and our living space.

Consider the giant overhanging branch in the photograph below — the one with a man barely visible in its upper reaches.

Calling it a mere “branch” seems like a misnomer; it’s actually more like a second trunk, since it’s fully half of a formidable tree that forks only a few feet from the ground. That man you can barely see at treetop is Danny Main, who showed us the indications of weakness that are visible where the trunk divides.

Small plants have taken root in the internal rotting wood. The companion portion of the tree that rises up toward the sky is healthy enough to last quite a while, in Danny’s opinion, but gravity is likely to tug on the less healthy portion that already leans too precariously for comfort. A future Hurricane Irene, or even a lesser storm with unusually strong winds, is likely to split the leaning half of the fork away from its stump. Unfortunately, our house will be directly underneath it, waiting to absorb the blow.

None of the other trees in our yard represent quite that level of threat, but several of them that have limbs overhanging our roof have already shown themselves to be disturbingly brittle. So Danny and his crew have been spending several days identifying the especially problematic limbs and climbing up to cut them down before they can do any damage.

And boy, can those guys climb trees!

Colleagues on the ground work with the chainsaw-wielding fellow above to make sure that each limb that gets cut away is guided with ropes so that it falls safely where they want it to fall.
Below: a long shot of the experts in action.
Smaller limbs are brought down before the larger ones are tackled.
These guys take care that the debris is cleared away.
A truck carts off the leafy brush. Thicker portions of the limbs and trees will be split and stacked for later use in our fireplace.

The climber shown below is amazingly agile. Sometimes he swings between branches like Tarzan with his heavy chainsaw dangling, always near at hand when it’s needed. No acrophobia in evidence here! Eddie and I are glad he keeps himself tethered to a safety harness for good measure, though.

The smaller limbs get trimmed away from the central branch that looms over our house.
Then the core branch is cut down bit by bit, in segments…
…until the job is finished….
…and abundant fireplace logs are ready for next winter’s fires.

Jekyll & Hyde: The Body Art

Fourteen years ago I was asked to contribute a drawing based on some work of literature to a web site devoted to similar drawings by a wide range of artists. I chose to use Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as my jumping-off place. You can see the full set of drawings that resulted from this solicitation at the colorfully named site Hey, Oscar Wilde! It’s Clobberin’ Time.

I enjoyed doing the drawing, but I certainly didn’t imaging that it might eventually have an afterlife as an adornment to someone’s canvas of flesh. So I was surprised and flattered when Adam Nagy of the B’Z Ink Tattoo Shop in Troy, MI, wrote to ask my permission for him to adapt my 1999 drawing as a tattoo design.

Naturally I said yes, amazed as I was that anyone would feel like mimicking one of my crosshatched extravaganzas with such a different set of skills and tools.

But Adam is nothing if not visually ambitious, as you can see from the many examples of his work displayed on his Facebook page.

Dog News

Piper Jacobs (seen in the striped pants below) and her family brought the family dog Jax (seen in the red collar below) over recently to share a play date in our back yard with our canine family member Molly (seen in the barely perceptible blue collar below).

The two dogs ran and ran and ran and ran. They also romped and romped and romped and romped in between running jags. The rest of us watched and watched and watched and watched.

The dogs also relieved themselves a time or two during all the running and romping, but I refrained from documenting that aspect of their yardplay time out of respect for their privacy. No paparazzo am I, as tempting as it might be to sell photographs of their less dignified moments to the National Enquirer!

Above: I almost got a shot of Jax and Molly running, but I missed it.

And while I’ve got dogs on my mind, I’ll indulge in a moment of nostalgia for our dear, departed Foxy, who succumbed to cancer a decade ago and who was the only one of Eddie’s and my three canine companions who went in for three-way kisses (see below).
Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!

Click a cover below to learn about my two self-published books.

…and click here to visit my

Cruse Goodies merchandise shop

A Note to Those Who Enjoy This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my “Blog Alert” list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.
Posted in A Tip o' the Hat, Family & Friends, Home Life, Yesterday & Today | 1 Comment

Chillin’ With B.J. in the 1980s

Bazooka Joe Gets Booked

As some of you know, I contributed cartoons to a variety of bubble gum-related novelties produced by The Topps Company in Brooklyn back in the 1970s and ’80s. Along with stickers and trading cards depicting assorted licensed characters, I drew a few dozen installments of the famous Bazooka Joe series of miniature comic strips that were printed on waxy paper and packaged with the company’s chewing gum.

I didn’t create the characters (that legacy belongs to Wesley Morse, who launched the series under the guidance of Topps Product Development head Woody Gelman decades before I entered the picture); and other people wrote the gags that I was assigned to illustrate. But I did have the honor in 1983 of providing re-designs of the characters that ushered them from their longstanding status as tykes into rock-‘n-roll-loving adolescence.

Because of that I have a passing presence in Bazooka Joe ands His Gang, the newly-published and lavishly illustrated book that chronicles the full life of the series from its creation in the 1950s to its widely-noted exit from the stage last year.

Above: Mort’s temporary turtleneck makeover (as manifested in 1983 on the left and after the neckline’s1988 restoration on the right).

When Charles Kochman, who edited the book for Abrams Comic Arts, asked if I could recount an anecdote from my Bazooka Joe days for the book, what came to mind was the tale of a mutating turtleneck. To quote myself:

When I was asked by Len Brown at Topps in 1983… to re-conceive Bazooka Joe as a teenager and provide him with a new teen “gang,” the only holdover from the earlier tykes who had served as his supporting cast was the weird sidekick who wore a turtleneck pulled up to his eyes.

Len and Art Spiegelman, who was consulting for Topps at the time, thought the ultra-lengthy turtleneck was a bit (in fact, was literally) over-the-top, though. So for my first series of strips the sweater’s collar was brought down below the Mort’s chin where one would think a sweater’s neckline should be.

Apparently this change disturbed some unnamed traditionalists, however. So when I was hired to draw a second batch of strips in 1988, the turtleneck was restored to its original position just under Mort’s eyes.

Interesting historical perspectives are provided, alongside hundreds of reprinted strips and drawings, by way of essays by Jay Lynch, R. Sikoryak, Bhob Stewart, Morse’s son and daughter-in-law and others, including the guy who hired me, Topps’ former Creative Editor Len Brown.

The book is bound to catch your eye in bookstores, being cleverly designed to simulate an oversized package of Topps gum — right down to the faint image of printed matter showing through from the other side of the "wrapper." If you take the time to remove the dust jacket you’ll discover that this mock-cheesy effect is an illusion, though, since there’s nothing at all actually printed on the back of that paper. Deft touch.

You’ll also notice that the color of the book’s hard cover matches the color of bubble gum exactly.

Make Way For Molly

Molly the Black Lab has been with us for several months now, so it’s past time for me to add a page about her to the "Stuff About Me" section of my web site. I corrected that oversight this week, which means that Molly has now been officially certified as the newest Family Dog in the Cruse-Sedarbaum household.

Meanwhile, you folks who were fond of our previous two dogs shouldn’t feel that your memories are being slighted, though. Their spirits are being kept alive with legacy pages for each of them. Just click on "Remembering Foxy" and "Remembering Lulu" to remind yourselves how lucky Eddie and I have been in the canine department.

A Little Barefootz on YouTube

Most of the Barefootz episodes that I re-drew for my 2001 webcomic experiment Barefootz: The Web Incarnation were adaptations of my comic strips from the ’70s that have been collected in my last book The Other Sides of Howard Cruse.

But a few of the webcomic episodes were created expressly for online viewing — like "The Persistence of Long-Term Memory," which I recently adapted for viewing on YouTube, just for fun.

Solomita’s Back

I’ve touted his books before and I’ll do it again: Back in December my pal Stephen Solomita added another of his riveting tales of blood, lust, and New York City atmospherics to his already impressive lineup of rip-roaring urban police procedurals.

This newest title is Dancer in the Flames, and it introduces us to Boots Littlewood, a baseball-obsessed detective who’s unfazed by murderous doings but gets pissed when anyone uses blasphemous epithets around him, he being a devoted Catholic boy at heart. As hard-boiled, two-fisted investigators go, he’s admittedly an outlier in the realm of noir, but he knows how to get the job done entertainingly, as does Mr. Solomita.

Me on Twitter

Sheer curiosity over what the fuss was about led me recently to set aside my longstanding reluctance and launch a Twitter account.

Once I did so, a number of nice people signed up to "follow" me, which fills me with guilt because I think I’ve "tweeted" maybe a dozen times since then — "then" being January 27, three-and-a-half months ago. This threatens to keep me awake at night. I feel like I’m failing in my duty to be entertaining, tweet-wise.

There’s a vocabulary of terms like "hash-tags" and "re-tweets" that no one has yet explained to me. Frankly I’m afraid to ask, because if I understand the jargon I’ll start feeling compelled to make use of it and that’ll jack my Twitter obligations up to a new level. Meanwhile, I quickly discovered that constraining my communications with the world by the use of no more than 124 characters hobbles my native verbosity to an uncomfortable degree.

There’s no way around it: I’m basically a Twitter-wuss. But hey, maybe I’ll tweet something about this blog entry. That’ll up my participation score to thirteen.

Q&A-ed With The Best

I was complimented when author/blogger Shane Bugbee‘s expressed an interest in tossing questions at me about my viewpoints as a cartoonist first nurtured by the 1970s underground comix movement. My responses can be found in my installment of the interesting "Underground Art Q&A" series he has been running for a while at the CCTRC (Creative Class Trumps Ruling Class) web site.

A side benefit of submitting to Shane’s friendly interrogation was getting to bask in the reflected glory of a raft of the other creative iconoclasts who participated in his inquiry, including a familiar fellow from my generation named R. Crumb.

Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!
Click a cover below to learn about my two self-published books.
…and click here to visit my
Cruse Goodies merchandise shop
A Note to Those Who Enjoy This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my "Blog Alert" list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.
Posted in A Tip o' the Hat, Books in my Bookcase, Home Life, Life & Art, Me, Me, Me!, Yesterday & Today | Comments Off on Chillin’ With B.J. in the 1980s

From Your Inconstant Blogger

I see that I’ve left all of you loyal blog-readers hanging without a single entry since Christmas Day, for God’s sake! Yikes! How have you survived?

Fact is: The blogging branch of my life has simply gotten crowded out lately by other creative priorities. And on top of that, there have been unwelcome intrusions like several weeks of illness throwing me off stride.

Well, the less said about the illness part, the better (don’t worry; I’m all better now) — except for a suggestion I will humbly offer that you avoid bladder infections if at all possible.

My aforementioned creative endeavors were more pleasant experiences, I’m happy to say. Before I got sick I was able to complete a three-page comic strip for inclusion in an upcoming anthology of LGBT comics, scheduled for publication next fall by Northwest Press under Robert (Curbside) Kirby ‘s editorship. Its tentative title is QU33R Comics.

Below: My QU33R strip is a lighthearted parody (with a gay angle, of course) of a famous mainstream comic strip. The panel below may give you a clue which one.

I’ve also been adapting an episode from Stuck Rubber Baby for inclusion in a slideshow I’ve agreed to present on May 1 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Dog News

Molly the Lab, the newest addition to our family, is becoming nicely sturdy as her days of ill-fed homelessness recede into the past. She is adjusting well to life in the Cruse-Sedarbaum household, albeit in somewhat idiosyncratic ways.

I say she’s adjusting "idiosyncratically" because of certain lingering psychological scars she carries with her from her pre-rescue days as a worm-ridden stray. For example, she accepts affection warily, is loath to snuggle, and prefers to retire at nighttime to the solitude of our guest room (which we have begun referring to as "her apartment") instead of hanging out with us in our bedroom overnight, as the late Lulu the Dalmatian preferred to do.

Molly was so timid when she first arrived that she didn’t even bark for the first two weeks she was here. This was concerning to us; indeed, we were beginning to fear that some vile previous owner had had her surgically "de-barked." But eventually, to our relief, she finally began to take advantage of her in-born rights as a canine to vocalize. Now she keeps us duly apprised with fervent woofs of any bicyclist or jogger she spots on the street or sidewalk in front of our house.

We’re hoping that Molly’s overall comfort level in our home will continue to strengthen over time in response to our persistent offerings of affection. And in the meantime, despite some residual disorientation, her essential doggy sweetness comes through loud and clear.

Eddie’s Eyelid Adventure

For quite a while last year Eddie’s vision was increasingly hobbled by a condition that doctors call ptosis and everyday people call "droopy eyelids." It wasn’t exactly impossible for him to open his eyes fully, but doing so for an extended stretch of time required sustained, conscious effort. The result: eyestrain and an overabundance of tears while reading.

Imagine trying to enjoy War and Peace while peeling onions and you’ll understand why this was a problem — especially for a guy who has always loved recreational reading. Scanning the pages of a book or magazine for any length of time was becoming increasingly difficult, what with those pesky eyelids constantly creeping downward uninvited. Who could concentrate on literary narratives with the upper portion one’s field of vision being obscured and the remaining portion being rendered blurry by a persistent coating of salty moisture?

Ophthalmological assistance was clearly called for, so that’s what Eddie sought. Fortunately, surgery that could address the problem was available in Springfield and it’s a procedure that’s covered by Medicare.

So Eddie went under the knife in January and a happy resolution to his problem can now be reported.

Below: Closeups of Eddie’s eyelids before and after his surgery.

Lookee! Two Reviews!

My most recent book (The Other Sides of Howard Cruse, published last summer by Boom! Studios) continues to vie for the dubious honor of being my least reviewed book ever. Howzzat for a literary distinction?

The handsomely produced tome’s standing in that regard has been chipped away at recently, however, by two thoughtful assessments that have been posted online. Shall I share?

To be specific, the ever-insightful François Peneaud has offered his thoughts about the collection in a review (see above) posted at The Gay Comics List.

On top of that, Jason Sacks provides his own perspective over at the Comics Bulletin site (see below).

My observation: Invisibility has its charms in the realm of fantasy, but when you’ve put a lot of work into getting a book out into the world, it’s definitely a drag for it to be widely ignored.

So many thanks to you both, François and Jason. The spotlights you’ve thrown on my work are very much appreciated.

Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!
Click a cover below to learn about my two self-published books.
…and click here to visit my
Cruse Goodies merchandise shop
A Note to Those Who Enjoy This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my "Blog Alert" list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.
Posted in Home Life, Life & Art, Me, Me, Me! | Comments Off on From Your Inconstant Blogger

Yule Log

Well, here we are, winding up December’s batch of holidays and entering into unknown territory with a new year that promises ever-more-breathtaking governmental outrages. What is American politics if not, uh, riveting?

At least things are quiet here on the Sedarbaum-Cruse home front. We have a toasty fire in the fireplace…

…and Molly the newly adopted Lab is gradually acclimating herself to our patterns of home life.

We hope all of you have better things to do than read blogs, of course, as the holiday season peaks. But for those of you loyal enough to be reading this despite the allure of eggnog and tree baubles, I’ll note a few passing events and then leave you to roast your chestnuts in peace.

When Bad Photographs Happen To Good People

Question: Why are our author/illustrator friends John Seven and Jana Christy (often known jointly by the pseudonym John & Jana) disturbingly out of focus in the picture below? Answer: Because I have yet to master the art of taking photos with my new iPhone.

But I’m still posting the photo here because it gives me an excuse to praise John & Jana’s new children’s book, A Rule Is To Break, that was being featured at the book-signing my fuzzy photograph documents. (By the way, shouldn’t such images be called iPhonographs when they’ve been taken with an iPhone? I’m just asking.)

Eddie and I have become personal friends with this North Adams-based husband-and-wife creative team since we moved into the area. But even if I didn’t know them from Adam and Eve I would be a fan of this book, whose illustrations are charming to look at and whose words are bracing in their unsentimental championing of individualism in childhood.

Additional Nice Things

The issue of the classy British magazine Man About Town that contains “The Stage Direction,” an eight-page comic strip I was feverishly working on a couple of months ago, has now gone on sale. It’s called “The Gay Issue,” which may give you a clue to why they thought of inviting me to contribute.

Although this bi-annual magazine will be easier to pick up if you live in the U.K. (or have a means of teleporting yourself there to shop for reading matter), I’m told that it can be purchased in American Barnes & Nobel Bookstores and is also purchasable online. To be exact, my comic strip is in the Fall-Winter issue, #11.

Also, author/podcaster Bob Andelman has honored me with a third opportunity to do a video interview on his fascinating Mr. Media web site. Our conversation this time around is occasioned by the publication this summer of my most recent book, The Other Sides of Howard Cruse, but our exchanges range far and wide to include covering everything from my struggles with Zipatone (which I recounted in a 2009 blog post) to my unlikely status as a two-time grandfather.

That’s it for now, folks. I leave you to tune in for your two-hundredth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, or alternatively to simply bathe in a warm bathtub with the red-nosed quadruped of your choice.

Happy New Year!
A Note to Those Who Enjoy This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my “Blog Alert” list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.
Posted in A Tip o' the Hat, Books in my Bookcase, Family & Friends, Home Life, Me, Me, Me! | Comments Off on Yule Log

Thanksgiving and Onward

Shall we take a look at how things transpired at the Cruse-Sedarbaum homestead during our recent Thanksgiving fest?

Gluttony was indulged, naturally, but that goes without saying on this particular American holiday. Of more importance was the pleasure derived from spending mellow time with friends. Corny, for sure — in the best sense of that word.

And Molly Makes Three

Joining in the Thanksgiving fun (without actually being allowed a place at the table) was Molly, the coal-black Labrador retriever (seen with us below) who is the newest member of our family. While the sting of losing Lulu the Dalmatian last month is still keenly felt, Molly has stepped in to soften the blow and reduce the anguish that comes with dog-deprivation.

None of us know what Molly’s early life was like, but as you can see from the distressing photo on the left below, she had endured tough times of late. In perilous health when she was rescued from strayhood in North Carolina, she was plucked from from the jaws of impending euthanasia and brought north to Vermont by the North Star Labrador Retriever Rescue, where she was cleansed of parasites and nursed back to health, first by North Star itself and subsequently by our friends Brian and Leanne, who provided nurturing foster care until she was strong enough for adoption by Eddie and me.
Above: Molly’s progression from frailty to robustness.

Molly, by now a lot sturdier, is in the process of acclimating herself to new home territory. She is getting less shy by the day and exhibits increasing independence as she explores the expansive back yard once patrolled by her predecessor Lulu.

Molly’s age has been estimated to be between five and six years by her caregivers to date. The vet at Mount Greylock Animal Hospital in nearby North Adams who oversaw her first physical exam since she joined our family thinks it’s closer to six.

Convening In My Work Space

It’s been three years since I bowed out of my teaching career at MCLA, but I got a pleasant reminder of those days in mid-November when that school’s Visiting Associate Art Professor Laura Christensen brought her Intermediate Art Lab students over for a visit to my studio. That’s Laura sitting behind the young folks near the center of the photo below.

Convening on Norman Rockwell’s Turf

Ever notice that some images are so naturally iconic that they beg to paid tribute to (or parodied) by other artists?

Like f’rinstance: "Whistler’s Mother" (well, technically that painting’s title is "Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother," but who can remember all of that?); da Vinci’s ever-intriguing "Mona Lisa," and good old "American Gothic" (which morphed into science-fictional form in The Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Among these memorable images is Norman Rockwell’s "Triple Self-Portrait," which was nicely referenced in Matthew Handfield‘s logo for the recent one-day comics festival at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. And as you can see from the assemblage below, I myself was not above including a grungy variation on Rockwell’s theme in the final panel of my 1999 comic strip, "My Life As a TV Pundit."

All of the above came to mind as I headed down to Stockbridge on the l7th of November to join several fellow comics pros who reside in nearby communities who were invited to be guests at the event. The mini-con was hosted by the museum as an adjuct to its "Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross" exhibition, now enjoying a three-month run there.

Aside from an afternoon’s worth of enjoyable encounters with visitors to the museum, a lot of the fun for us professionals came from simply hanging out with colleagues and talking shop.

Above: Maria Held alongside her husband, artist Bryant Paul Johnson; Peggy Twardowski alongside her husband, comics creator Sean Wan; and Colin Panetta co-creator (with Mark Velard) of Mysterious Transmissions.

Below: Illustrator/Graphic Designer George Amaru with his son Orin.

Below: It was a real pleasure to re-connect at last with Jerry Craft, creator of the comic strip Mama’s Boyz, who I hadn’t seen since we met at another comics convention a scary number of years ago.

Before leaving I was invited by cartoonist and min-comic cheerleader Marek Bennett to a lower level of the museum where he had spent the afternoon mini-comic newbies to grab drawing tools and explore their creativity with abandon. The room’s walls were festooned with the fascinating results of Marek’s mentoring.

Below: Scans of Marek’s recent book, Nicaragua: Comics Travel Journal, plus a couple of his mini-comics. (Since I forgot to bring my camera with me while Marek was showing me the fruits of his mini-comic workshop, I’m sneakily substituting a snapshot of the two or us that was taken at the Rockwell museum in 2007. Don’t tell.)

Book Promotion News

The release last summer of my latest book The Other Sides of Howard Cruse prompted comics journalist Tom Spurgeon to invite me over to his Comics Reporter blog for what turned out to be a lengthy interview not only about that book but about the comics industry in general.

Which reminds me that, December being the kind of month it is, I should assist the gift-givers among you with a few…

Holiday Gifting Tips

Naturally I’d love to have the aforementioned Other Sides of Howard Cruse considered for possible holidays gifting — as long as the projected recipient is over 18 and relatively unshockable. I include the "unshockable" caveat because a number of my old adults-only stories from underground comic books are included between this handsome, hard-bound book’s covers, which probably means it’s not a good bet for Little Jimmy or Grandma, unless Grandma was a crazy hippie in her wilder days (as I was).

On a more specialized note: if you’d like to see the eyes of one or more of your gay friends light up with glee, may I nominate From Headrack To Claude, the complete collection of all the specifically gay-themed comics (other than Wendel and Stuck Rubber Baby) that I drew between 1976 and 2009. (This one has underground stuff in it, too, so the same cautionary note applies.)

From Headrack To Claude, by the way, is the first of my books to be available, thanks to Northwest Press, as an iPad-appropriate e-book app as well as in conventional soft cover book form. You can click either cover in the graphic below to see how to get it in the format you suspect your giftee will like best.

Hey, I Can Do "G-Rated," Too!

While my satirical book Felix’s Friends: A Story For Grown-ups and Unpleasant Children has a mischievous edge, there’s not a whit of unsavoriness in it…

…and my illustrated adaptation of the late Jeanne E. Shaffer’s fable The Swimmer With a Rope In His Teeth has a special place in my heart. (A quick side note: for some reason the description of Swimmer at says it’s intended for ages 12-15. That is so not the case! Jeanne’s allegory about missed opportunities may indeed be a bit dark for non-precocious kids under twelve, but beyond that it should be thought provoking and fully worthy of the attention of adult readers.)

And meanwhile, at my CafePress Cruse Goodies online merchandise shop, you’ll find plenty of thoroughly family-friendly mugs, tee shirts, mouse pads and the like for sale, all decorated with colorful drawings by yours truly that are appropriate, as they say, for children of all ages.

And before I go…

Happy Hanukkah for now…

…and then brace yourself
for the Santa Claus deluge to follow.

A Note to Those Who Enjoy This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my "Blog Alert" list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.
link to e-book app Link to print edition of From Headrack to Claude
Posted in Family & Friends, Home Life, Life & Art, Me, Me, Me! | 1 Comment

A Dog’s Life — and Onward

Farewell, Lulu.

Lulu the Dalmation left us on Friday. She joined the Cruse-Sedarbaum family eleven years ago and we’ve had a lot of good times since.

Eddie and I are adjusting to our beloved pup’s absence gradually. Yesterday I finally summoned the will to remove her water bowl from its place of honor in the kitchen and wash it. Soon our reflexive impulse to summon her up onto the couch to watch television with us will begin to abate, I trust.

Buffer Paragraph

How does one segué from a death in the family to more normal blogging matters? Well, one way is to insert a buffer paragraph like this one. I’ll wait a moment now for everyone to take a moment of silence to remember Lulu if you knew her and to reflect on mortality if you didn’t. Ready to get centered?


O.K., Reflection time is over. I’ll now push onward

My Sequential Tart Interview

The publication of my latest collection, The Other Sides of Howard Cruse, has occasioned a lengthy interview that was conducted a few weeks ago by Katherine Keller and posted a week ago at the always-interesting Sequential Tart web site.

Katherine also mentioned that a page of my original art from Stuck Rubber Baby that she purchased a while back is included in an exhibition of comics art that is currently installed at Alternative Reality Comics, the Las Vegas comics shop operated by her husband Ralph Mathieu.

The October 6 opening reception for the show, which in a spirit of irony is called "Seduction of the Innocent" after the book by Fredric Wertham M.D. that scurrilously attacked the comic book industry back in the 1950s, was a benefit for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. On display are "images and materials from the height of the comics self-censorship era."

Although that show’s opening reception has passed by now (which doesn’t mean you can’t still make a contribution to the valiant and valuable CBLDF), if you’re in Vegas and can break away from the casinos for a few hours, you’ll still be able to view the exhibition until its run ends on November 28.

They’ll sell you some comic books, too, if you ask politely.

Of course, purists may quibble that Stuck Rubber Baby doesn’t really hail from "the height of the comics self-censorship era." But I don’t feel like an interloper in the "Seduction" exhibit since I can nevertheless take pride in the number of times my graphic novel has been targeted by censors over the years (and hooray for the nation’s librarians who have resisted excluding it from their library shelves in almost every instance). During the most recent Banned Book Week, in fact, it made the Queery blogs list of the ten books that the book-banners consider "Way Too Gay To Read."

Election Day

O.K., forgive any gloating tone that’s discernible in the following statement of fact, but on behalf of the Cruse-Sedarbaum household I’m delighted to announce that:

Our Gal Won!!!!!

And furthermore, the Eddie Sedarbaum half of the household served as a full-time volunteer for the four months leading up to Election Day helping to make that desirable outcome come to pass, as this North Adams Transcript article about our neighborhood volunteering efforts makes clear.

I voted for Elizabeth, naturally. But Eddie did much, much more.

Below: Eddie prepares to head for the Elizabeth Warren campaign office in North Adams during the final days before the election.

Above: Volunteers keep the phone banks humming.

Below: Eddie gives last-minute tips to a volunteer who’s about to go canvassing.

Above, from left to right: Field Organizer Owen Davis; my husband Eddie; and volunteer Nick Edwards pause for a snapshot during the final Election Day push.

Below: If you click on the photo below you can view a portion of our new Senator’s acceptance speech.

And by the way…

Obama won, too. Yay!!!

Going To Be In Stockbridge, MA Next Saturday?

There will be an all-afternoon (1 PM-5 PM) "Mini-comic Con Event" at the Norman Rockwell Museum. It’s in connection with the current Alex Ross "Heroes and Villains" exhibition, which would be well worth spending a day looking at during its November 12-February 24 run with or without the added attraction of a mini-con.

But hey, if you can be there at 2 PM on the 17th you can break away from admiring Alex’s artistry in order to see and hear me giving a slideshow about my work. And when I’m not doing my presentation, I’ll be hanging out at a table waiting to visit with you all afternoon, and at nearby tables you’ll find cartooning colleagues of mine like Jerry Craft, Sean Wang, and Greg Ruth.

Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!
Click a cover below to learn about my two self-published books.
…and click here to visit my
Cruse Goodies merchandise shop
A Note to Those Who Enjoy This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my "Blog Alert" list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.
Posted in Family & Friends, Home Life, Life & Art, Me, Me, Me! | 1 Comment

Catching Up

Me In The U.K.

Except for posting a few of my "Occasional Comix" online, I’ve been forced to play hookey from blogging for quite a while due to the unusually heavy demands involved in writing and drawing a new eight-page comic strip that was commissioned by Man About Town, the twice-yearly magazine from the United Kingdom.

The new strip will appear in issue #11, which isn’t out yet but should be out soon. The link above connects you to the video promo for issue #10, the magazine’s most recent edition, "Barking Mad: the Dog Issue," which came out in June.

From the video I’d say it looks like a jazzy, nicely produced periodical.

And Speaking of Video Promos…

…Another project that took up a bunch of my time this month was putting together a YouTube video trailer plugging my latest collection The Other Sides of Howard Cruse. Take a gander at it if you’re in the mood.

Me in Book Land

Moving on from videos, let’s catch up on some of my contributions this year to several old-fashioned, printed-on-paper-type books.

When my friend Allen Young, the journalist, essayist, and longtime political activist, was preparing his newest compilation of writings earlier in the year, he asked me to design the book’s cover.

The collection is called The Man Who Got Lost: North Quabbin Stories, and here’s the design I came up with.

Now if you happen to find the published book in your hands, you’ll notice that it looks slightly different from the image above since, presumably for budgetary reasons, the printer chose to go with a black-&-white version of the design rather than my color one.

I’m sympathetic with that decision, since my design’s color scheme as submitted was intentionally muted enough for not a lot to be lost by shifting to grayscale.

But muted or not, I’m still fond of the design’s form as originally envisioned, so I’m exercising my blogger’s privilege of showing you both versions.

Next in line is No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, the much lauded collection edited by Justin Hall, which aside from honoring me by including some of my own work, gave me an eye-opening look at a lot of talented LGBTQ cartoonists whose comics I haven’t been exposed to before.
And finally there’s Stripped: The Story of Gay Comics, a volume fresh out of Germany that’s edited by Markus Pfalzgraf. This is one I’m unlikely to read myself, since I’m never learned Markus’s language and haven’t seen a copy yet, anyway. I gather, however, that my words and images have some kind of presence within its pages.

I also got a modest royalty check this week from Charles "Zan" Christensen at Northwest Press, which was good news since it means that some readers have begun catching up with the e-book version of my 2009 book From Headrack to Claude, which Zan himself has adapted for iPads and other mobile devices and is available from iTunes.

As you’ll see from the iTunes listing, the app even includes Sean Wheeler’s video documentary about me as part of the package.

Zan says that the eBook division of his publishing operation has been slowly but surely gathering steam, as more and more folks who are interested in LGBTQ comics and graphic novels are discovering the ever-widening range of Northwest’s lineup.

Today’s Quiz:
Which is scariest?

(A) Halloween monsters who’ll be lurking in the dark next Wednesday;

(B) The alarming news forecasts about the massive so-called "Frankenstorm" currently lurking off the Atlantic coastline; or

(C) Mitt Romney, who continues to lurk disturbingly close to the U.S. Presidency?

In the long run I’d say it’s (C), but (B) ain’t chopped liver. As for (A), I’ll always have a warm spot in my heart for monsters. It’s my legacy of growing up amid the boom in cheesy horror films (and occasional good ones) that made Saturday double-features such fun during the 1950s.

My Wish For You Next Wednesday

May any trick-or-treaters who arrive at your doors be treats themselves.

Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!
Click a cover below to learn about my two self-published books.
…and click here to visit my
Cruse Goodies merchandise shop
A Note to Those Who Enjoy This Blog: Given how irregularly I manage to add entries, you may wish to send me email asking to subscribe to my "Blog Alert" list. That way you’ll be among the first to get notified by email whenever I add a new blog post.
Posted in Books in my Bookcase, Family & Friends, Me, Me, Me! | Comments Off on Catching Up