The professor and author discusses his new book about the life and work of the late cartoonist Howard Cruse.
Andrew J. Kunka is the author of the book Autobiographical Comics and a professor of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter. The comics scholar’s new book is The Life and Comics of Howard Cruse: Taking Risks in the Service of Truth.
The book looks at the life of the late cartoonist Howard Cruse, but it primarily takes a deep dive into a lot of the short comics work that Cruse did over the course of his career. Cruse is known as the godfather of gay comics and is known for his graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, his long running comic strip Wendel and his role as the founding editor of Gay Comix. His short comics work, from the earliest stage of his career and the comics he drew in the later years of his life, have been understudied, and Kunka does a deep dive into why these comics, which are reprinted in full, are important. It is a thoughtful and deep analysis and celebration of an important and understudied cartoonist.
Kunka was kind enough to take some time out to talk about the book and his work.
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The pop culture scholar discusses his latest books on superheroes, diversity and gender.
Jeffrey A. Brown is an associate professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and over the past few years has written a number of books that have looked at comics, fandom and popular culture through the lens of gender and race. Some of those titles include The Modern Superhero in Film and Television; Beyond Bombshells: The New Action Heroine in Popular Culture; Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture; and Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans.
Last year Rutgers University Press published two books by Brown. At the beginning of the year they published Panthers, Hulks, and Ironhearts: Marvel, Diversity and the 21st Century Superhero and at year’s end, Love, Sex, Gender, and Superheroes. What struck me most about his work is the way he manages to combine a broad reading – his new book looks at the comics and how portrayals have changed over time, film and TV adaptations, fan fiction and porn parodies, and everything in between. He combines a close reading of the comics with a broad look at these subjects across media and culture, and he does so in ways that fans can relate to and talk about.
We spoke in late 2021 about his new book and his work more broadly, and the need to be a fan of what you study.
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