In celebration of the groundbreaking work’s 25th anniversary, First Second Books announced on Monday that it will release a new edition of Stuck Rubber Baby, the iconic graphic novel by Howard Cruse. Inspired by Cruse’s experiences growing up in the south, Stuck Rubber Baby examines homophobia and racism in 1960s Alabama, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Originally contracted by DC Comics imprint Piranha Press, which shuttered in 1994 before Cruse finished the book, Stuck Rubber Baby was published in 1995 by another DC imprint, Paradox Press. Prior to creating this graphic novel, Cruse’s published work primarily consisted of Wendel, a weekly humor strip for The Advocate, and Gay Comix, an underground comics anthology for which he served as editor starting in 1979.
Stuck Rubber Baby received widespread acclaim when it was originally published, but the graphic novel format had not yet found acceptance in bookstores. The situation is much different 25 years later, and bringing back this pioneering but long out of print book is a welcome move by First Second.
“When DC Comics asked me to do Stuck Rubber Baby, I explained that I would have to have gay content or else I would be seen as a sell-out,” Cruse told The Beat in a June interview. “I didn’t mind the fact that, for a book that was going to be in mainstream bookstores, I didn’t have to show erections and penetration and stuff like that, which you could do in underground comics. That didn’t hinder me in telling the story, but the fact is that I began getting respect from my comics creating peers when Gay Comix came out and people saw that I was serious.”
He added that Piranha Press editor Mark Nevelow was very open to a story with a gay protagonist, as long as straight characters were also present so straight readers would not feel left out of the picture. Cruse told The Beat, “That was fine with me because the idea I had going was to do a story that was set down south in 1963, which was before the Stonewall riots. It would give me an opportunity to have a wide range of characters that were not part of a gay village subculture.”
The 25th anniversary edition of Stuck Rubber Baby is slated to hit shelves May 26, 2020. It is currently available for preorder.