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BSC Library & Archives Digital Collections

Welcome to Howard Cruse at BSC

Yearbook photo of Cruse for Who's Who, 1968

A 1968 graduate of BSC, Howard Cruse would go on to become a pioneer known as "The Father of Gay Comics." Best known for his graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby (which references his time at BSC), Cruse also created the groundbreaking strips "Wendel" and "Barefootz." Macarthur Fellow Alison Bechdel, creator of the comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For" and the graphic novel/Tony-winning musical Fun Home, counts Cruse as a major influence and wrote the introduction to the newest edition of Stuck Rubber Baby.

In August, 2016, Columbia University's Butler Rare Book and Manuscript Library acquired the majority of Cruse's papers for their archival collection of comics and graphic novels. In their press materials about the acquisition, Adjunct Curator for Comics and Graphic Novels Karen Green said, “The papers address so many intersecting areas of study – the history of comics, the history of New York, the history of publishing. This is going to be an important collection.”

While at BSC, Cruse was often very creatively productive, creating a comic strip for The Hilltop News, "The Cruse Nest," and a stand-alone strip for QUAD, "The Commonest Conspiracy," as well as many other illustrations for publications both on and off campus. He also wrote short stories and plays, as well as articles for The Hilltop News as a staff reporter.

But while Cruse ultimately chose to make a living as an artist, where he really found home while on the Hilltop was in the theatre department, led by Dr. Arnold Powell--Arnie to all his friends and students. Cruse was primarily a set designer for the theatre, but could also be found acting in plays and frequently also designed the programs for many shows.

Howard Cruse still produces art today (howardcruse.com), and is a very important figure in Birmingham-Southern College history. The Charles Andrew Rush Learning Center/N.E. Miles Library is very fortunate to have had Howard's cooperation and participation in putting together this digital collection of his work, and we are proud to be able to feature him during his Golden Gingko year. We hope you enjoy this collection of his work while a student at the College, and will check back as we add more materials.