The Complete Wendel by Howard Cruse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book, it's probably the best cartoon strip series I've ever read.
The strip traces the timultous 1980's with wit and compassion, making me both laugh and cry, but ultimately not doing too much of either. The strip really lends itself to the long-format story and an in-depth look at the lives of these characters.
I took a star off as I would have liked to laugh a bit more. Also I don't understand the tendency with collections to include long introductions discussing the work up-front. Before I've even read ONE Wendel comic strip, I'm reading the introduction and the author talking about what was good and bad in the stories and future plans for the mom to quit smoking. I was waiting for that one as I recently quit smoking myself, but it turns out they were just ideas for future developement. Still, I think that would have been better positioned at the end of the book.
The cartoon itself went through probably the worst decade in American history for gays and came out with a smile, if not a laugh. It remains engaging and unlike other works from the period is not overly dated, containing few references to specific events. I think it will hold up well.
Also admirable is the full nudity and the swearing. I don't know if the Advocate today would print a cartoon with a penis and an f-word, so well done Cruse for getting that in.
I knew nothing of this strip going into the book and I'm really glad I read it. Wendel will stick with me.
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