Slang and Profanity Illustrated: A Collaboration with My 14-Year-Old Self


A few years ago I came across an essay that I wrote in 1958, when I was 14. It was called “Slang and Profanity.”

I had only begun my career as a ninth-grader at Indian Springs School a few weeks before, but I was already immersed in the school’s distinctive culture of self-exploration. This entailed a re-examination of whatever “received wisdom” I and my schoolmates might have absorbed from the surrounding world before our arrival at ISS. Our religious upbringing, as you can see from the four-page comic strip that follows, was not out of bounds.

Decades had passed since its composition when I unearthed my childhood essay, decades largely spent nurturing my career as a comics creator. I re-read “Slang and Profanity” out of simple curiosity, of course, but it immediately began pushing my cartooning buttons. I was charmed and amused by the essay’s earnestness in wrestling with issues that only a child raised in a strongly religious household like mine would have given a moment’s thought to.

It begged to be illustrated from the vantage point of adulthood, and I have finally yielded to its pleas.

—Howard Cruse, December 2014

NOTE: Some readers have said that their enjoyment of my comic strip was enhanced by first reading the 1958 essay in its original, unadorned form. To make that easy, the full essay is attached herewith, immediately following the comic-strip version.









6 Responses to Slang and Profanity Illustrated: A Collaboration with My 14-Year-Old Self

  1. Paul Tumey says:

    What a great idea, to comic-ize an essay from one’s past. And what a well done essay — deeply thoughtful and impeccably structured and expressed. A harbinger of the great work to come from Mr. Cruse. As a whole, this piece, with essay and comic, is a visual essay in itself on how to turn non-fiction text into a compelling sequential graphic narrative. Let me be the first to (sincerely) say: danged good job!

  2. D C Mahler says:

    Alright, new Cruse! I have to agree with Paul, I’m always impressed with Howard’s creativity in turning chunks of text into enjoyable comics.

  3. Robert William Wolff says:

    As usual, Cruse has hit the nail on the head with his story, in both versions! Few can maintain the creativity of a child or of youths—Howard has, thankfully kept both! We are all so fortunate, some would say blessed, to walk the earth when such a gifted human was walking it!!

  4. Stephen Solomita says:

    And I thought you started taking LSD later in life.,

  5. Howard, your genius has been displayed again! What made me laugh out loud were the angels lying on the cloud like special forces rangers, peering through their binoculars. Funny, funny!

  6. Don Deye says:

    Grady sent me a link. Turns out I’ve admired your work for many years. Grady and I used to do road trips to record the MKSAP (Medical Knowledge Self Assessment Program) for the ACP (American College of Physicians). We had some great adventures. You are a gift to us all.

    – Don Deye

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