Saturday in Northampton

Hey, I’m being censored!
(And it’s being done with my full cooperation)

There they are — a dozen pages of my underground comix material printed with all the dirty words, drug references, and selected body parts blacked out with little black boxes!

What I’m talking about is a slim but nicely packaged comic book called The Censored Howard Cruse, which has been issued by Boom! Town, the publisher of my soon-to-be-released book The Other Sides of Howard Cruse, in cooperation with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Other Sides will have 228 pages of my stuff and will cost money, I should note. But you can probably get a copy of Censored Howard Cruse **for free** next Saturday (May 5) if you show up at a comic book store in your locality that is participating in this year’s Free Comic Book Day giveaway extravaganza.

In fact, if you show up at Modern Myths at 34 Bridge Street in Northampton between 2 and 5 PM that day, you can not only get the comic for free but I’ll be there in the flesh ready to sign it for you.

Now, sifting through annoying little censorship boxes is actually no way to enjoy my comics. For that you’ll have to go to Other Sides (which is for adult readers, by the way, so tread with caution), in which nothing is too outrageous to be fully viewable.

The boxes in the comic book are there to make a point about how fortunate we are to live in a culture that doesn’t try to control what we say, write, read, or draw.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t forces in our society that would like to change that, as we all know. All the more reason to support civil liberties guardians like the ACLU, PFAW, and if you’d like to make sure that comic books stay free, too, the CBLDF.

Let’s Take a Pie Break!

David Bordelon’s Take on SRB

When Associate Professor David Bordelon brought me to Ocean County College in New Jersey to talk about Stuck Rubber Baby a couple of years, he described a projected essay about my graphic novel that he was already in the early stages of composing.

College teaching takes a lot of time, so it’s taken a while. But lo and behold, David told me recently that his essay has finally been completed. In fact, it is included in Crossing Boundaries in Graphic Narrative, a new collection of essays edited by Jake Jakaitis and James F. Wurtz.

David’s insightful essay isn’t available in its entirety online, so to read the whole thing you’ll have to chase down the book. Meanwhile, if you’re curious to know what angle David has taken in writing about SRB, fhe has granted me permission to share his official academic abstract for the essay, which will give you the gist of his analysis.

Picturing Books:
Southern Print Culture in Howard Cruse’s
Stuck Rubber Baby

Widely recognized for exploring racial, sexual, and political emancipation in the Civil Rights era South, Howard Cruse’s graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby provides a visual and textual map of the period. Through the gradual awakening of the narrator, Toland Polk, it also describes the emancipation of a Southerner learning to question the prevailing cultural attitudes and actions of his community.

Key to this awakening, both for the South and more specifically for Toland, is reading. From the Jet Magazine on page two to Toland’s book filled apartment at the end of the novel, images of reading, periodicals, and books act as metaphors, talismans of a world beyond the narrow prejudices of the South, or in the case of the fictional newspaper The Dixie Patriot, a grim reminder of the “silent majority” that agreed with its segregationist stance. Indeed, the Patriot becomes a central plot device, providing the impetus that leads to the murder of the openly gay Sammy Noone, and eventually leads Toland to openly acknowledge his own homosexuality.

The chapter explores how images of books, serials, and reading in the novel either amplify the prejudices of the period or offer an alternative way of thinking. I argue that they reveal the duality of reading and knowledge in the South; in the hands of Toland and others, they provide a way out of the social restrictions and limitations of the Jim Crow South. In the hands of the prejudiced majority, they serve to legitimatize and reify the prevailing segregationist social codes.

More broadly, my essay illustrates how graphic texts work. Less intrusive than blocks of descriptive text in a novel or short story, the images of books and reading function similar to the background set in a film or props in a play, adding a layer of meaning beyond the action or dialogue on the film or stage. Moving them to the center of discussion illustrates how “things” in a graphic text – in this case, a neatly ordered book case, a newspaper headline, a book cover – provide contextual information to understanding the story as well as a window into the medium itself; they show how picturing books can be more effective than describing them.

Meanwhile, In a Galaxy Far Away…

This one was drawn way back for Starlog. I’m not sure what year.

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
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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.
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