Howard Cruse's Wendel comic strip chronicled the adventures of Wendel, Ollie, Sterno, Deb, Tina and the rest of the gang in the Advocate Magazine during the 1980s - a decade on unequaled turbulence, triumph and tragedy for the gay and lesbian community. Seeing these strips together for the first time, I am struck by what an important legacy this represents. Cruse brings a face and heart to the central topics of the day. Creeping conservatism, outing and coming out, gay parenting, queer politics, bashing, gay normative behavior, AIDS, rifts in the community, the rise of the gym cult and homophobia in the media - it's all here.
His little community is our community, and he renders his characters' adventures with such loving care and compassion that you cannot help but be moved by and relate to their world. I always thought of Wendel as a "cute little strip," but this collection proves that it has the epic sweep, vision and, on occasion, even the gravity of an Angels in America or Tales of the City. And, as a portrait of the everyqueer, it runs circles around flashy fluff like Queer as Folk.
Wendel All Together isn't just one for the time capsule, however. Its insight, humor and drama remain fresh today. In many ways, only the shoes, hairstyles and AIDS meds have changed!