Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Stuck Rubber Baby

BabyStuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

—–

Years ago, I read a comic book that had a profound effect on me.  It was about childhood, and growing up questioning everything around you.  That comic book was Brooklyn Dreams, by J.M. DeMatteis, and it was published by Paradox Press.  I was so impressed with the story that I’ve since made an effort to pay attention to the publisher, so when I saw that Stuck Rubber Baby was published by Paradox Press, I sat up and paid attention.

Stuck Rubber Baby is set in the South during the 1960s, and is about a gay man trying to come to terms with himself while simultaneously being caught up in the nonviolent protests of the Civil Rights Movement.  His participation in the movement is precipitated by his attraction to a women who attends a local college, but through his participation, he begins to confront his own racism, while confronting his own issues about his sexuality.  It’s a complicated story, but it’s powerful, and resonates long after you finish reading the story.

Cruse spent four years writing this story, and when you look at the artwork, you can see why.  The illustrations are dense, and are highly detailed.  Most of the work is shaded with crosshatching and dotting, and it boggles my mind to think how long it would have taken the artist to complete a single panel.  Combine this with a detailed and complex story of self-examination and self-acceptance, and four years doesn’t seem like quite a long time at all.

This is a story about superheroes and villains, like most graphic novels tend to be, but what makes Stuck Rubber Baby stand out is that the superheroes are people that you see on the street every day.  The main character acts selfishly and thoughtlessly, but he still struggles to do the right thing by overcoming his own inadequacies.  He draws strength from those people around him, and while his original intentions were far less admirable than the final outcome, he learns from his mistakes and grows from them.  You just might leave the book thinking, “If only we could all do the same….”

I think this is the aspect of the book that makes it so inspiring.  Because it’s populated with real characters with real imperfections, who still manage to overcome their shortcomings, we’re reminded that we all have that ability to do better, to attain that same level of “superhero” in our daily lives.  That it draws most of its power off of the Civil Rights Movement only strengthens the book’s resonance.

If you like comics, and you like a good story, find Stuck Rubber Baby.

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May 16, 2007 - Posted by | Graphic Novels, Reviews

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