Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

Stuck Rubber Baby
by Howard Cruse
Paradox Press, 1995

An attractive hardback reprint of Cruse’s magnum opus, the fictional story of Toland Polk whose consciousness is raised by the Civil Rights movement of Alabama during what he refers to as “Kennedytime”, and the horrors he witnesses as a white participant in the nascent protest scene. To make things even more complicated, while all this is going on he becomes fairly sure that he’s gay.

The story is narrated in the ’90s by an older and happily-out Polk, who shows how the tactical struggle against hatred and bigotry continued from the Civil Rights movement to inspire the Gay Rights movement, a struggle which obviously isn’t over yet. He also explains how many decent and moral people supported oppression because it kept their own power structure intact, which frankly is another trait of humanity which isn’t changing anytime soon.

The artwork is incredibly detailed, like a Robert Crumb-influenced engraving, and the complex story is immersive, with a large cast, even though the (white, male) enemy which controls everything in Southern society from the law to the media is usually masked and anonymous… but that’s how it would be, wouldn’t it?

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