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Stuck Rubber Baby Paperback – March 1, 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
This story is set in Alabama during the early Sixties, and follows the life of Toland Polk, a white gay man who "comes out" to himself and others at the same time that he is becoming involved in the civil rights movement. Although based on the real life experiences of creator Howard Cruse (and others), he has embellished it enough to classify it as a work of "fiction."
One of the greatest aspects of the book, for me, was the two words on the cover that described "Stuck Rubber Baby" as simply "a novel." Of all the "graphic" novels I have read, no matter how well they were crafted or how much I enjoyed them, none left me feeling so much as though I had just finished a "real" book as this one did. Besides the obvious factor of Cruse's artistic and literary talent, I think this was due to the fact that "Stuck Rubber Baby" was written as a novel instead of being released in installments which were later collected in a book, and that it was rendered in black and white, lending it the same air of authority as more highly regarded works that make use solely of the written word. Ultimately, however, the personal insights into a seldom seen aspect of the civil rights movement's history shared in this work are most effecting precisely because of their presentation through the unique and powerful medium of "comics."
I did NOT expect to find such real characters, real people, better developed and better realized than in any recent "regular" novel I have read.
The clincher that this is a five star story? I passed it to my (heterosexual) brother to read, and he enjoyed it immensely. I believe the measure of a story should be that an unintended audience finds it as interesting or entertaining as the intended one, and in this circumstance, that was certainly the case. Well done, Mr. Cruse.
Some might react with horror to the curviness of the characters, which is in fact a strength of the story. The people who populate _Stuck Rubber Baby_ do not share the perfection (or carefully controlled imperfection) of characters from other graphic novels. They are pudgy, fat, even unattractive. This is not a defect of the artwork; it is an essential feature. Real people do not have perfect bodies or souls, and this story is, above all else, very real -- almost distressingly so.
Cruse does not fall into the too-easy trap of sanctifying his protagonists. The modern trend of antihero storytelling might make this sound less significant, but given the topics Cruse is handling, this is truly an accomplishment. All of them are ordinary people, who can (and do) make significant mistakes. Some of them recover from their errors, others do not... but everyone emerges significantly changed. _Stuck Rubber Baby_ puts a convincing human face on an era that transformed America, and deserves a place on any well-stocked shelf.
I don't know how much of this story is autobiographical in nature, but it certainly feels that way. [Edit: And I see that Richard De Angelis' fine review confirms this.] Memory plays an important part here, recreating & exploring another time & place, one that's gone by in many ways. Yet as William Faulkner once said, "The past is not dead. It's not even past." The sense of living with the ghosts of previous decades is very strong. Impulsive actions have consequences, some of which live on & shape the unwritten course of the characters' adult lives.
The art may not be for everyone, but it works beautifully for me. The cheerful, slightly exaggerated cartooniness really brings these people to life as individuals, rather than as stock figures. No impossibly idealized bodies & faces to be found here! Which is all to the good, as the emphasis is on ordinary people ... well, like us. In fact it's very easy to identify with young Toland Polk, whether you're gay or straight. He's a likeable, sympathetic guy - not overly noble, not entirely sure of himself, prone to make stupid mistakes at times -- in other words, quite embracingly human.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Howard Cruse was far ahead of his time when he wove this graphic novel from the life and times of a generation coming of age between Birmingham and Woodstock. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Doug Tow
Probably one of the best things ever put on paper. Breathtaking to the last page.Published 6 months ago
I thought i was getting a book not a comic book. The ethics seem ok, but i am a bit disappointed.Published 23 months ago by AMA
This was an awesome book. I won't say I loved the plot, but Cruse sure can draw. Definitely worth reading.Published on June 25, 2014 by MJ
One of the best Graphic novels I have ever encountered. Politic meets humanitarian issues deftly in this sensitive portrayal of all the characters.Published on June 17, 2014 by L. L. Smith
This graphic novel is skillfully done, with good drawings and storytelling,but I was thrown off by it not being a full memoir. Read morePublished on April 9, 2013 by Randy Conley
An amazing and honest journey through the past that should interest anyone interested in facing prejudice and surviving in a small community where there's danger in being a racial... Read morePublished on December 26, 2012 by rich
Howard Cruise is best known as the creator of one of the great gay comic characters aimed at the college educated middle class (the Wendel books), and he brings that skill and... Read morePublished on September 3, 2012 by John Esche