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Howard Cruse – RIP

Cartoonist Howard Cruse has passed away.

Howard Russell Cruse
May 2, 1944 – November 26, 2019

 

Howard’s daughter shared on Facebook earlier today:

With sadness I share that my birth father passed this afternoon after a too short battle with cancer, with his dear friend Pam and loving husband Eddie by his side, among other friends. He is one of the kindest person(s) that I know. May God bless and take care of Eddie, his lifelong partner, Allan Cruse, his brother and all their extended family and friends in Williamstown and North Adams, MA. He left a legacy with his artwork and was a trailblazer in this time. I’m so proud of him and so blessed he was in my life. Rest in Peace Howard and I’ll see you again one day.

Condolences and memories have poured onto Kimberly’s Facebook page,
and onto Howard’s Facebook page.

From the obituary:

Howard Russell Cruse, 75 of Williamstown, MA died of cancer Tuesday November 26, 2019 at Berkshire Medical Center.
He was born in Birmingham, AL on May 2, 1944 son of Clyde and Irma (Russell) Cruse.
Howard was a self-employed cartoonist and writer all of his life. He notably founded the gay comics movement in 1980 and published the novel, “Stuck Rubber Baby” that won awards worldwide. He moved to the Berkshires in 2002.
Survivors include his husband of 40 years, Edward P. Sedarbaum and one daughter Kim Venter of Atlanta, GA.
Services for Howard Russell Cruse will be private. A memorial service is being planned for later in the winter.

Lambiek’s Comiclopedia has a brief biography.

I became aware of Howard Cruse in the mid-70s with his contributions to underground comix such as Snarf, Bizarre Sex, Dope Comix, and the like. And, of course, through his Barefootz Funnies, which has been noted as the least “underground” comic of the underground comix scene. I would also see him in the “ground-level” comic books like Anything Goes, Comix Book, and such.

 

By the time he hit his stride with Wendell and Stuck Rubber Baby I was out of the comic books.

 

Howard also gets noted here for his comic strip work. Yes, comic strips!


Howard began cartooning Barefootz for the University of Alabama paper Crimson White around 1971. During that same time (1970-1972) Howard was contributing a daily panel called Tops and Button to the Birmingham Post-Herald (I was not able to find a sample [update: But Brad Walker did!]).


above: a Tops and Button panel, and Howard’s recreation decades later

The BhamWiki and Jerry Bails’ Who’s Who entries give a pretty decent account of Howard’s career.

As the Jerry Bails index notes Howard contributed cartoons to magazines.
His Playboy Funnies contributions (NSFW) seems to consist of comic strip satires.



Rest in peace Howard.

 

Update: Andy Mangels offers a very nice remembrance/biography at Comic Book Resources.

 

 

Community Comments

#1 Brad Walker
November/27/2019
@ 9:40 am

Cruse tried bringing back Tops & Button as Squirly and Earl: https://images.app.goo.gl/4h8CxxQRHrH7KSsd8

He also did Doc Duck for Nickelodeon, IIRC, and a strip about a vampire whose name escapes me.

#2 Kip Williams
November/27/2019
@ 9:53 am

I got a lot of chuckles from Cruse’s early, affectionate work, and I was touched by STUCK RUBBER BABY. He also wrote a column or two that I enjoyed, come to think of it.

My favorite thing he ever did was the sordid Little Lulu parody in SNARF, which got the coveted “outright, prolonged laughter” award the first several times I read it. (“Uh oh! Mr. McNabber heard Chub’s skull crack! I’m in for it now!”)

I’m sorry he’s gone. He had facets.

#3 D. D. Degg
November/27/2019
@ 10:04 am

Thanks Brad! Incorporated the piece into the obit.

#4 Christopher Smigliano
November/27/2019
@ 1:45 pm

Cruse’s vampire strip was COUNT FANGOR. Fangor was meant to be a mascot for Starlog publications’ FANGORIA MAGAZINE, geared toward monsters and horror (Whereas STARLOG was geared towards sci-fi) Sadly, the strip was short-lived, starting off as full-color pages then quickly dwindling down to single-panel cartoons. Fangor was a hapless vampire-type, ever on the prowl for women, stuck living with his zombie-like sister and his hunchbacked nephew.

#5 Katherine Collins
November/27/2019
@ 5:02 pm

I will be forever grateful to Howard Cruse (who, alas, I never met) for his very great kindness me in about 1997. This was when I had been essentially blackballed from even quasi-commercial cartooning, because I had recently announced my transsexual transition (male to female, Arn Saba to Katherine Collins). I was as low in spirits as I could possibly be, and had decided to just put away “my inkpots”, and not think about cartoons ever again. But then I was invited to contribute some of my work to a gallery show of comics in NYC. I emailed in my regrets.

Then I started getting emails and phone calls from both Howard Cruse and Jennifer Camper, sympathising with me and very understanding of my withdrawal from comics, but encouraging me to submit my work anyway. I just couldn’t bring myself to expose my work again, expecting some kind of cruel rejection. So I thanked them both very fulsomely, and life went on. I have kept in touch sporadically with Jen Camper ever since, and I tried to make sure that Howard knew I remembered his kindness over the years. Their extraordinary efforts to console and encourage me could not have been more welcome, even if fruitless. Howard’s kindness sticks in my memory even more than his singular and graceful work. See you in heaven, Howard!

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