Acclaimed cartoonist Howard Cruse, 75, has died. Cruse died on November 26, 2019, due to cancer. He is survived by his husband Eddie Sedarbaum and his daughter Kimberly Kolze Venter.
Born in Springfield, Alabama in 1944, Cruse was an avid fan of newspaper cartoons. He spent his adolescence constantly doodling, in an effort to reproduce the magic he found in his favorite “funny papers.” He attended Birmingham-Southern College in the 1960s, where he studied drama. His time studying the theater arts never hampered his desire to draw cartoons. Throughout college, he created humorous illustrations for both his school newspaper and several noted national periodicals.
After college, Cruse worked in television at a local Alabama TV station, both in production and art direction, where he often used his graphic art skills to create promotional materials for locally produced shows. Cruse also had a prominent side job creating cartoons for the comics section of the Birmingham Post-Herald.
Cruse moved to New York City in the 1970s, where he hit his creative stride. He immersed himself in the underground comic book scene, that while often transgressive was not readily queer. Using some of the underground comics’ boundary breaking content as an inspiration, but not as a thematic guidepost, Cruse created work that was sexually forthright, and yet filled with humanity, humor, and insight. In the 1980s, he edited Gay Comix, a groundbreaking comic series that centered gay and lesbian cartoonists, and he created the topical Wendell series for The Advocate. In the 1990s, he reached both a critical and artistic high point with the publication of his emotionally complex Stuck Rubber Baby.
Thanks to Cruse’s big-hearted art, readers have received an expansive vision of gay life in the latter half of the 20th century.