Panel Mania: ‘Stuck Rubber Baby’

June 9, 2020

Originally published in 1995 by DC, the late Howard Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby is a pioneering graphic novel that explores politics, race, sex, and identity in the African-American and LGBTQ communities in the Jim Crow south.

In July, First Second Books will publish a new edition to mark the book’s 25th anniversary featuring rare phots, archival material, and an introduction by Alison Bechdel. Set in the fictional town of Clayfield, a stand-in for Birmingham, Ala., where Cruse went to college, Stuck Rubber Baby is the story of Toland Polk, a closeted young white gay man struggling to understand his sexuality in a town that is as viciously homophobic as it is brutally racist.

The book is partially based on Cruse’s experiences growing up in the 1950s and ’60s south, and is notable for its portrayal of Polk’s close relationships with members of the black community—queer and straight—during some of the most dangerous years of the Civil Rights Movement.

In this nine-page excerpt, Polk and his friends plan a visit to the Melody Motel, a secret meeting point for socializing (and political organizing) among local integrationist whites and blacks, as well as local straight and queer communities.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

is senior news editor of Publishers Weekly and editor of PW Comics World.

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