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writing solid
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 7
barefootz _ barefootz 2 _ barefootz 3
Barefootz Funnies #1
Barefootz Funnies #2
Barefootz Funnies #3
Barefootz Funnies
1975-1979 / Kitchen Sink Enterprises
Howard Cruse succintly describes Barefootz Funnies on his own website: "A goofy comic strip about a sweet guy with a huge head and enormous bare feet who hangs out with cockroaches, a horny girlfriend, a hippie artist wannabe and a weird beast of unknown origin who barfs frogs by the hundreds from underneath a bed." While this is all true, I can assure you that the sweet guy is quite a bit more subversive than described by Howard. But compared to fellow underground comic creators, Cruse's Barefootz character was easy to label "too cute" to be underground, and legend has it that Barefootz Funnies was widely despised by many artists from the era. And I will readily admit that Cruse's illustration style for Barefootz Funnies is not among my most admired; it's quite cartoony and ill-proportioned, with big heads and plump appendages, especially with the lead character.

Cruse's Barefootz debuted in the University of Alabama's student newspaper in 1971, where it ran for a year, and later appeared in several alternative tabloids in Birmingham. Denis Kitchen gave Barefootz wider exposure when he published several stories in Snarf (it also appeared in Commies from Mars #1). Barefootz also became a regular feature in Comix Book, which soon led to the debut of Barefootz Funnies, the printing of which Cruse and his friends funded through a limited partnership called Woofnwarp Productions. Kitchen Sink then managed the production and distribution of the books.

Barefootz Funnies took an interesting journey from 1975 to 1979. When Barefootz debuted as a comic character in 1971, Cruse was still in the closet about being gay. Cruse later admitted the character was not the most representative of his own personality, since Barefootz wasn't gay. But in Barefootz #2, Cruse revealed that Barefootz's artist buddy Headrack was gay. This type of revelation ran counter to Barefootz's reputation as being too cutesy to be part of the underground comic revolution. Cruse's publicly emerging sexual orientation in real life was leading him to become more bold in his comics, which created ambivalence about the cartoony style and nature of the Barefootz character. Cruse began to ponder abandoning the character, and even considered murdering Barefootz in a comic book, a la Crumb's Fritz the Cat, thus enabling Cruse to re-create the characters in Barefootz Funnies as more realistic-looking people.

Instead, Cruse finished the series with one final issue, which featured the cathartic "Barefootz Variations," a story that summed up his mixed feelings about Barefootz and about cartooning itself. Barefootz Funnies #3 allowed Cruse to bid farewell to his first original comic character and move on to comics that meant more to him, his fan base and the critics who had complained so loudly about his cutesy cartoon style.

Barefootz Funnies rarely makes the list of any underground comic fan's favorite comic books, but it was certainly a fascinating account of one comic creator's evolution in real life.