Howard Cruse's STUCK RUBBER BABY is a gem of historical social fiction told in comics form to great success. A story paralleling his own somewhat, Cruse tells the tale of Toland Polk's coming of age in the racially charged American south of the 1960's, while simultaneously coming to terms with his own nascent homosexuality. At times STUCK RUBBER BABY is a straightforward narrative, and at times it's an expressionistic explosion of images and words as one struggle careens in tandem with the other, sweeping Toland and his small circle of friends up in that era's tumult, strife, and ultimately, its freedom.
Taking a cue from the most modern of modern fiction, Cruse cleverly has Polk narrating his own story from his life in the present day. Polk's lover is wandering about in their apartment commenting on the story and Polk's telling of it. While not only allowing for genuine moments of love, humor, and affection to shine through, these little asides serve as a running criticism and commentary on the work itself, deflating its self-importance by making us understand that Cruse is as aware as we are that he's on a slippery - if not outright sentimental - slope, and one that sometimes gets the better of him.
But why shouldn't it? Cruse is telling a story about how the world was changed. You should listen.
Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.