Spot illustrations from Southern Accent, 1964
Howard Cruse was a staff member for the BSC yearbook Southern Accent during the 1963-1964 academic year. Together with "Greeks" editor Jeannie Meadows '65, Cruse created a series of caricatures of sororities and fraternities which ran on the pages with the membership of these organizations. He says he did these drawings at the request of the editor, and knew nothing about Greek life at 'Southern; "the editor gave me a set of attributes for each organization to lightly satirize, and I drew to those."
"The Cruse Nest," 1966-1967
Cruse was a staff reporter and contributor to The Hilltop News several times during his career at 'Southern. During the 1966-67 academic year, he contributed this comic strip about life on the Hilltop weekly until the March 3, 1967 issue, when he "bowed out" due to issues of academic freedom. Cruse says he was "grateful for having a regular feature."
"The Commonest Conspiracy," 1967
Cruse's first real comic for his college audience was a controversial addition to the literary magazine QUAD. There were arguments over its satirical nature, skewering such organizations as the John Birch Society, and larger arguments over academic freedom--a theme of much of Cruse's work at BSC. Indeed, part of the compromise in running the comic required QUAD to have a disclaimer/warning page before the actual comic, so afraid were they of being sued by the Birchers. Cruse says he "felt awkward and embarrassed" about the caveat, but proud that this was the first time QUAD "stooped to include a cartoon."
Other illustrations for campus publications or courses
In addition to his formal work with comics, Cruse drew spot illustrations and other original artwork for The Hilltop News and QUAD.
The drawing of Odetta accompanied an interview with the singer by Bill Barcliff in the magazine. Cruse referred to the interview as "important in that the school wasn't paying much attention to the needs of African Americans and Odetta was very important to the civil rights movement."
Cruse says he contributed the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" illustration and maze game to The Hilltop News to draw attention to the plight of a very outspoken and popular professor, E.C. Bottemiller, who was denied tenure, and the students thought this denial was because he supported student speech and challenged the administration.
Cruse says of the Endgame print: "The year was 1967 and I was taking a course in linoleum printmaking at Birmingham-Southern College at the same time that I was playing Nagg in our College Theatre production of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. Somehow Beckett's play elbowed its way into my brain when I was pondering what the content should be in one of my class assignments, and this was the result."
Illustrations for off-campus publications
Cruse worked during breaks from student life for media outlets around Birmingham, including The Birmingham News and Shades Valley Sun, creating spot illustrations and political cartoons. Cruse says he was proud that the "conservative" Sun for running the political cartoons, which he discussed with the editor as what they would be focusing on in a given week. He says the "Dressing Up Like Daddy" piece was a particular ledge for the Sun to walk and made him proudest, because they had hate mail and crosses burned over it. His first real national piece ran in SICK magazine, "Did You Wring, Sir?," about a young girl who tries multiple methods to commit suicide.