Nominated for the 2022 Eisner Award - Best Academic/Scholarly Work
The Life and Comics of Howard Cruse tells the remarkable story of how a self-described “preacher’s kid” from Birmingham, Alabama, became the so-called “Godfather of Gay Comics.” This study showcases a remarkable fifty-year career that included working in the 1970s underground comics scene, becoming founding editor of the groundbreaking anthology series Gay Comix, and publishing the graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, partially based on his own experience of coming of age in the Civil Rights era.
Through his exploration of Cruse’s life and work, Andrew J. Kunka also chronicles the dramatic ways that gay culture changed over the course of Cruse’s lifetime, from Cold War-era homophobia to the gay liberation movement to the AIDS crisis to the legalization of gay marriage. Highlighting Cruse’s skills as a trenchant satirist and social commentator, Kunka explores how he cast a queer look at American politics, mainstream comics culture, and the gay community’s own norms.
Lavishly illustrated with a broad selection of comics from Cruse’s career, this study serves as a perfect introduction to this pioneering cartoonist, as well as an insightful read for fans who already love how his work sketched a new vision of gay life.
About the Author
ANDREW J. KUNKA is a professor of English and division chair at the University of South Carolina Sumter. He is the author of the book Autobiographical Comics and has also published articles and book chapters on Will Eisner, Kyle Baker, Doug Moench, Jack Katz, and Dell Comics.
"I’ve been waiting a lifetime for this book! Howard Cruse is one of the most important cartoonists of the 20th century but has never gotten his due because he mostly worked in the LGBTQ comics underground. Andrew Kunka has written a thoughtful, thorough, and celebratory examination of Cruse’s life and remarkable oeuvre. He has paid homage to Howard’s legacy as the Godfather of Queer Comics, who broke up the doors for so many of us queer artists and forever changed the world of comics." — Justin Hall
"This book is a lovingly rendered portrait of Howard Cruse, often called the godfather of queer comics. Andrew J. Kunka showcases the range of Cruse's comics, pairing nuanced analysis of previously overlooked comics with deft contextual details about Cruse's life." — Margaret Galvan
"Kunka produced a much-needed critical biography that makes clear exactly how courageous and ground-breaking Howard Cruse had been, in both his comics and his eloquent, impassioned activism. It is essential reading, connecting the dots of a career arc understood primarily as going from 'Gravy on Gay' to Gay Comix to Stuck Rubber Baby, and detailing Cruse's influence on emerging and future generations of queer cartoonists.” — Karen L. Green
"Pioneering cartoonist Howard Cruse’s genius and fascinating career is vividly brought to life in Andrew Kunka’s highly readable and thoroughly entertaining biography.” — Denis Kitchen
"December’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature." — Lambda Literary
"Kunka balances narrative analysis with comics analysis, pointing out where Cruse uses panel borders unconventionally, or how his work with stippling and cross-hatching was groundbreaking. Kunka's commentary balances Cruse's storytelling with his drawing work, showing how Cruse was the complete package, a true cartoonist. Kunka's work and critical commentary is an essential read for those interested not only in Howard Cruse, but in how his work impacted a generation of artists, especially in how important Cruse was to helping create the genre of queer comics." — International Journal of Comic Art Blog
New Books Network - New Books in LGBTQ+ Studies: An Interview with Andrew J. Kunka: Lavishly illustrated with a broad selection of comics from Cruse’s career, this study serves as a perfect introduction to this pioneering cartoonist, as well as an insightful read for fans who already love how his work sketched a new vision of gay life. — New Books Network - New Books in LGBTQ+ Studies
Smash Pages QA | Andrew J. Kunka: The professor and author discusses his new book about the life and work of the late cartoonist Howard Cruse — Smash Pages