The industry was hit by yet another death on Tuesday, with the passing of gay comics pioneer Howard Cruse. Cruse’s daughter announced his passing on her personal Facebook account late Tuesday afternoon, citing a battle with cancer as the cause of death. Cruse was 75; he lived in Williamstown, Mass., and is survived by his husband, Ed Sederbaum.
As the founding editor of Gay Comix, the creator of Barefootz, and the cartoonist behind the comic strip Wendel and the graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, Cruse helped pave the way for LGBTQ creators and content in comics at a time when queer content was mostly relegated to underground comix.
Throughout his career, Cruse was heralded not just for his work advancing LGBTQ visibility in the industry, but for his unique stippling style. In addition to his regular strip for The Advocate, Cruse also drew for magazines including Scholastic periodical Bananas, The Village Voice, and more. In September, First Second announced a 25th anniversary printing of Stuck Rubber Baby, which was originally published through DC imprint Paradox Press in 1995.
Although Cruse made such a huge impact on the industry, he was always humble and kind-hearted according to accounts from everyone who knew him, even if they only met in passing. When we chatted in June, he made sure to uphold the work of his contemporaries and to praise LGBTQ comics creators who are continuing to transform the industry today, many of whom he met at the biennial Queers and Comics Conference.
In June, he said that he believes comics — especially queer comics — are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future: “I don’t think you could predict anything, except that the sequential panel format of comics — the mixture of words and pictures — seems to be going strong. I don’t think that’s going to go away any time soon.”
It’s hard to put into words just how wide-reaching Cruse’s influence on comics has been. He will be terribly missed. My deepest condolences to his loved ones, and may he rest in peace.