Stuck Rubber Baby

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Stuck Rubber Baby
Page count 210 pages
Publisher Paradox Press
Creative team
Creator Howard Cruse
Original publication
Date of publication 1995

Stuck Rubber Baby is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Howard Cruse, first published in 1995. Cruse's first graphic novel after a decades-long career as an underground cartoonist, the book deals with homosexuality and racism in the 1960s in the Southern United States in the midst of the Civil Rights movement.

Publication history[edit]

The book was originally intended for publication through Piranha Press, an imprint of DC Comics which published alternative comics. Cruse spent nearly five years creating it. However, during that time the imprint was discontinued. It was instead published in hardcover as part of DC's Paradox Press line, an imprint aimed at the bookstore market, featuring mostly mysteries, crime fiction, and humorous non-fiction. Playwright Tony Kushner wrote an introduction to the first edition; Kushner and Cruse had met socially.[1] It was reprinted in paperback in 1996 by HarperCollins.


The central character of Stuck Rubber Baby is Toland Polk, a young white working class man who gradually comes to grips with his homosexuality while struggling with his own learned racism and that of his community. Although Cruse drew heavily upon his own experiences as a gay man growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, the story is fictional. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Cruse said that the story drew on his own experiences in the 1960s and his "anger at the degree to which the ideals of the Civil Rights Era were being abandoned."[1] In another interview, Cruse stated, "My goal was to create the kind of novel that is too full of incident for someone to simply summarize in their mind in one sentence. I wanted it to be like life, where you spend a year of your life and you can’t just remember everything that happened, but it’s all part of a process."[2] The book is densely illustrated, using a detailed cross-hatching technique and typically 8–12 panels per page. The story is 210 pages long.

Character List[edit]

  • Toland Polk is the main character/Protagonist
  • Melanie is Toland Polk's (the main character/Protagonist) sister
  • Orley is Melanie’s Husband
  • Stetson is Toland's family's old handyman/gardener, an African American
  • Ben is Stetson's son who is also African American
  • Ginger Raines is Toland's old Girlfriend
  • Riley Wheeler is old Toland's Friend
  • Mavis Greene is Riley's Girlfriend
  • Sammy Noone is an old friend of Mavis & Riley who is gay
  • Shiloh Reed is a singer who suffers from brain damage from an accident
  • Lottie is Shiloh's wife, who has cancer
  • Sledge Rankin a black person who has died from a clan
  • Robert Samson is a Friend Bi-sexual Lover
  • Mabel Older a piano player
  • Cindy Neuworth - Mabel's younger "Butchy" girlfriend
  • Marge a gay woman
  • Effie is Marge's gay lover
  • Reverend Harland Pepper is the town’s Preacher
  • Father Edgar Morris another town Preacher
  • Anna Dellyne Pepper is the Preacher's Wife
  • Lester Pepper is the Gay Son of the Preacher

Chapter Summary[edit]

  • Chapter 1: Toland looks at a magazine and gets phobia about African-Americans with caved-in heads. Toland and Melanie pack up the books of their deceased father.
  • Chapter 2: Toland is drafted in to the army and has a flashback of camp memories as they continue to pack up their father's books.
  • Chapter 3: Toland gets introduced to the book. Sammy gets kicked out the Navy for being gay but still wears the uniform. There is a Carry Home protest.
  • Chapter 4: Mavis is accused of flirting with Mabel by Cindy. Cindy apologizes. A party occurs with gays and black all together in one room.
  • Chapter 5: Riley invites Toland to move into Wheelery after he returns from the Army. Orley calls Rhombus a "fag bar," and leaves early with Melanie.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Stuck Rubber Baby was nominated for the American Library Association's Lesbian and Gay Book Award, and for the Lambda Literary Award. It was named "Best Graphic Novel" by the United Kingdom Comic Art Awards and won the 2002 French Prix de la critique. Harvey Pekar wrote that, if enough people read it, "it surely will help convince the general public that comics can appeal to adults."[3] Upon its reprinting in 2011, Comics Alliance wrote that Cruse "harnessed a symphony of discordant subtleties."[4] The book has generated some controversy; in 2004, a Texas citizens' group asked that it be removed from the young adult section of the local library.[5]


  1. ^ a b Dueben, Alex. "Cruse Returns with "The Complete Wendel"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Dueben, Alex. "Graphic Gay Coming of Age: Stuck Rubber Baby aligns gay rights with racial equality and the Civil Rights era". Hartford Advocate. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Pekar, Harvey (3 December 1995). "COMPELLING COMIC HOWARD CRUSE'S `GRAPHIC NOVEL' OF SERIOUS CONCERNS". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Warmoth, Brian. "Comics We Love: Howard Cruse's 'Stuck Rubber Baby' in Print Again, At Last". Comics Alliance. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Oder, Norman. "Group lists 119 books it wants moved, file requests on 20". Library Journal. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  • The Comics Journal #182, pp. 93–118, Fantagraphics, November 1995. A critical overview of Stuck Rubber Baby, with an interview of Howard Cruse.

External links[edit]