Howard Cruse, one of the most notable gay and independent comix artists in the United States, passed away following a battle with cancer, according to his family. He was 75 years old. Cruse was the founding editor of Gay Comix in 1980. He also created the gay-themed strip Wendel and graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, which was published by DC's Paradox Press imprint and centered on Cruse's experiences growing up as a gay man in the American South in the '60s. Cruse's work began in the indie comix boom of the 1970s, and continued until 2010. He is survived by his husband and his daughter.
Cruse's illness was apparently as sudden for his loved ones as it seems to be for his fans, with the announcement on Facebook reerring to his battle with cancer as "too short." The comics community has begun processing the loss, and tributes have been pouring in on social media.
"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," wrote his daughter, Kimberly Venter. "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 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."
In addition to Stuck Rubber Baby, Cruse is known for his long-running strip about an idealistic gay man and his husband who found themselves living their lives, brushing up against social and cultural challenges as well as just having normal human and relationship stories, often with a healthy dose of humor.
Stuck Rubber Baby won the award for Best Graphic Novel at the Eisners, Harveys, and UK Comic Art Awards. It was nominated for the American Library Association's Lesbian and Gay Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award. It won the 2002 French Prix de la critique and the Luche award in Germany. Both the graphic novel, and Cruse's work in The Advocate, were an influence on cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who wrote an introduction to a reprint edition of Stuck Rubber Baby. She would go on to create the strip Dykes to Watch Out For, as well as Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, two of the most influential queer comix of the last 25 years.