Wendel on the Horizon

My advance copy of The Complete Wendel, the new compilation of my 1980s comic strip in its entirety from the first episode through the last, arrived in my mailbox just in time for Christmas—and it really looks handsome. Universe, an imprint of Rizzoli New York, is the publisher and they’ve put together a package to be proud of.

It won’t be officially released until April, but some friends from thither and yon have emailed me to point out that some online retailers are already taking pre-orders. That’s exciting. (Yes, I admit that I’ve never become too jaded to be excited at the prospect of a new book coming out.)

Without suggesting that you should be similarly a-twitter, I’ll satisfy any curiosity you may have about what the new cover will look like by posting it here (see above). Besides all the strips and special features you’d expect from a volume with the word Complete in its title, this collection will contain two items no one’s ever seen before: a new introduction by Alison Bechdel and my newly-drawn two-pager, "Where Are They Now?"

Me, The Caricature

Above: Me in my youth as seen through the eyes of Michael Willhoite.

I’ve always been fascinated by good caricatures, and my greatest regret about never starring in a show on Broadway is that I never got to be drawn by the great Al Hirschfeld. What in the world could I have been thinking when I decided at a tender age not to go into showbiz?

Even though I never made it onto Hirschfeld’s radar, I did attract the attention back in 1990 of the multi-talented author, artist, and excellent caricaturist Michael Willhoite, who has many credits to his name but who gained his greatest notoriety (and most memorably roiled the nation’s homophobes) in 1991 by writing and illustrating the groundbreaking children’s book Daddy’s Roommate.

In those days Michael regularly graced the pages of The Advocate (home of my comic strip Wendel, referred to earlier in this blog post) with his caricatures of individuals who were making themselves conspicuous in the LGBT world. Since my cartoons were placing me in that category at the time, I suppose it was logical for his insightful pen lines to be applied to my visage eventually. Still, nobody had warned me and I didn’t see it coming.

I was honored, of course, and I have always loved Michael’s drawing. It’s just so damned interesting to occasionally see yourself as others see you. And for those of you who know me as I am now and are grumbling that "Howard doesn’t look anything like that!" — just take a look at the photo Michael was working from (at left) and you’ll see that his rendition of me was pretty close to the mark based on the evidence the caricaturist had in hand.

Michael and I had never met when he drew his caricature, so he had to work from whatever photographic documentation of my appearance he could get his hands on. So it takes nothing away from his skills for me to acknowledge, in the interest of full disclosure, that that photo was already pretty far out of date by the time Michael used it for reference.

In reality, a skilled professional photographer named Wolff Bachner had captured the image way back in 1978 in exchange for some of my artwork. It took a dozen years thereafter for Wolff’s portrait to fall into Michael’s hands, and while I would love to believe that I still looked as fresh and youthful in 1990 as I look in Wolff’s time capsule from twelve years earlier, I would be deluding myself to think so.

Winter Life

Excerpts from notes written on
Monday, December 27

I’m distracted by the blizzard that has descended upon us (and most of the rest of the northeast) this morning. At the moment the snow’s depth must be around 18 inches, judging by the measurable slices of the white stuff that have piled up on narrow flat surfaces like our porch rails and the top of our backyard fence.

Actually, what we’re experiencing here in northern Berkshire County isn’t technically a blizzard, since our wind levels are moderate. We’ve just got major quantities of the blizzard-borne snow that’s burying the parts of the region immediately south of us, being on the upper fringes of the genuine blizzard conditions that are currently barreling across Connecticut and the southern counties of Massachusetts.

It’s fortunate that neither Eddie nor I have any need to drive anywhere today, since our Buick and Subaru, parked in the lot across the street, have been transformed into vague mounds of white that are recognizable as vehicles only because experience tells us that’s what they are.

While Eddie prepared breakfast I had a go at my morning ritual of retrieving our morning newspaper, on the questionable assumption that our carrier had been hardy enough to attempt the usual round of deliveries despite the storm conditions. Newspaper deliveries in years past have been erratic even when the weather was fine, but our present carrier has been admirably diligent during this last year, which makes it conceivable that she would confront the elements bravely even on a day like today in order to fulfill her daily mission of having our copy of the day’s Berkshire Eagle waiting for us no later than 7 AM at the foot of the wooden steps that ascend from the street to our front yard-level.

We won’t know for a while whether or not her work ethic was that extreme this morning (or whether her delivery vehicle was any less incapacitated than ours), since a lot of snow can fall between 7 and 8 AM during a snowstorm. Once I bundled up in parka and snow boots and waddled through the almost knee-deep snow to reach the top of our stairs, any newspaper that may have been waiting down at street level was buried and invisible.

I could have gone down and burrowed around to see if I could find any trace of journalism, but I thought better of even trying, since so much snow had fallen on the staircase that it could be taken as a smooth white slope undivided by discernible treads and risers. One could imaging sledding down the slope, but the powdery slow would give way quickly and lead to a very bumpy ride down.

I went back inside. We ate fried eggs and drank coffee while watching CNN’s dramatic coverage of the blizzard. The zipper at the bottom of the screen made brief mention of lynchings in Haiti, but of course there was no time available for more detailed coverage of that. Not when there were hours of falling snowflakes, car wrecks and closed airports to document.

Eventually there will be much shoveling to do.

Excerpts from notes written on
Tuesday, December 28

With great effort Eddie and I succeeded in digging one of our cars (the Subaru) out of yesterday’s thigh-deep snow. The Buick is a hopeless case for now; not only did the storm leave it imbedded as deeply as the Subaru in snow, but digging out the Subaru could only be accomplished by piling hundreds of shovelfuls of snow against the Buick in addition to what was already there. Since the Buick has only two-wheel drive to work with as opposed to the propulsion provided by the Subaru’s four-wheel variety, we’ve learned from experience not to count on much help from the car when it comes to plowing through residual snowdrifts that haven’t already been thoroughly dug out to ground level.

As I write this, the sun is shining, which means that yesterday’s fluffy snow is even now being converted into blocks of ice that nothing short of a pickaxe will be able to dislodge from around the car’s wheel wells. In other words, the Buick is likely to stay where it is for some time until nature and a few rains have a chance to soften the snowdrifts’ hold.

Meanwhile, we have cleared no pathway at all yet around the house to the stairway leading up to the tenants’ upstairs apartment.

Somehow I managed not to aggravate my bad back with yesterday’s grueling labor. Shoveling a path around the house should be nowhere near as difficult as yesterday’s project; hopefully my back will be up to the task.

Eddie just walked in to ask, “Do you think there’s any chance at all that we could just barrel backwards through the snowdrifts to get the cars out?”

I told him I was not at all optimistic. I think my exact words were, “Not a chance.”

“We could probably dig it out,” said Eddie.

My back groaned at the very thought of being asked to endure another couple of hours of lifting and heaving, particularly since today’s snow if going to be a lot less light and fluffy than yesterday’s. But Eddie says he is going to go down and see what can be done, and since it’s incumbent upon me to be a loyal helpmate in times of difficulty, I will now interrupt this journal entry to see what help I can offer.

EPILOGUE: Both cars were eventually freed from their premature burial after much heaving and groaning; the new tenants’ apartment (Yes, we finally rented it! Yayyy!!) is once again accessible; lots if not all of the holiday snow has melted; and both of our lower backs are, shall we say, holding up reasonably.

And for those of you who were left concerned by my last blog post, my left knee has been behaving itself.

Toland Brushes Up On His Italian

Probably inspired by last summer’s release by Vertigo of it’s new edition of Stuck Rubber Baby, the Roman publisher Magic Press is announcing today the upcoming re-release of its Italian translation of my book, Figlio di un preservativo bucato, which was first published in 2001. The very conscientious Enrico Salvini did the translating.
Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!
Click a cover below to learn about my latest books.
…and click here to visit my
Cruse Goodies merchandise shop
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About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
This entry was posted in A Tip o' the Hat, Home Life, Life & Art, Me, Me, Me!, Yesterday & Today. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Wendel on the Horizon

  1. Robert William Wolff says:

    Congratulations, Howard!! I can’t wait to see how this publication differs from Wendel Alltogether, which I continue to enjoy! As I think Mitch L, and Martha Thomases are suggesting above, why not revisit the Wendel crowd, perhaps as “men of a certain age”. It is somewhat more laid back to appear in each issue of The Advocate.

  2. Mitch L says:

    Yes, YEs, YES! Looks like a beautiful new edition Wendel, which I’m sure the Easter Bunny will leave for me in April. (I’ll order one just to be safe.) And Martha’s idea is great: revisit the bunch; hey, Armistead did it for his gang.

  3. So excited by new Wendel! I think you should re-visit the characters and let us see what they’re doing now.