For queer fans of alternative comics, there’s a treat coming to Seattle this weekend…especially for non-mainstream LGBTQ folks who like: heavy metal music, and leather, and monster truck shows, and corn dogs, and beer, and big strapping beer bellies. Artist/writer ED LUCE has many of the same fascinations and his comic character “The Wuvable Oaf” has become hugely popular with not only the gay male “bear” community but many people who appreciate different facets of culture. “Oaf” is a burly bear but he’s also a cuddle loving burly bear who loves cats, wrestling, metal and queercore music, traits he shares with his creator, Ed Luce who recently spoke with Lambda Literary about his latest graphic novel Wuvable Oaf: Blood and Metal his second collaboration with the fine folks at Seattle based Fantagraphics Comics, about why he explored these topics:
Why focus on the subjects of wrestling and metal this time around, one might ask? The answer is simple: I’ve been passionate about both since adolescence. But I also can’t think of two things that have stronger homoerotic overtones…despite a strident history of homophobia present in each. So what better topics to explore?
In all seriousness, the overall vibe of the new book is a little more primal than the first Oaf collection. It’s not all kitty cuddling and romantic debacles. While I still enjoy those things, I don’t want every Oaf book to be the same. Humor and cuteness abound in Blood & Metal but there are more complex, perverse things going on too, especially in the wrestling vignettes (which first appeared on Vice’s website). I got to stretch my creative legs and drawing chops with the full color format. It’s a much more intense visual experience.
Oaf has become a symbol of empowerment for some bear guys, for sure. Especially that initial shirt design, where he’s in a pair of kitty undies. There’s a balls-out boldness and ownership of being big and hirsute in that image. But I also love that some trans* folks, women and even straight men have embraced the character. I don’t like to analyze these things too much; some people just appreciate the drawing, period. But there’s definitely a message there about body positivity and diversity that people can relate to, regardless of sexuality, gender identification or ethnicity.
I will say that so many straight men embracing the character feels like a healthy indicator of queer inclusivity in pop culture. Wuvable Oaf is one of those comics that makes it OK for men to look at the bodies of other men; it’s a safe space for mutual appreciation. Regardless of how you identify, if you’re uncomfortable with being bigger bodied and/or hirsute, here’s a book that clearly celebrates that state of being. I like to think it makes these men feel desirable, in a culture that has been known to make them the subject of ridicule.
Hot on the heels of 2015’s wildly popular Wuvable Oaf debut comes this full color sequel! Still the same wuvable Bay Area bear searching for love in the big city, Blood & Metal collects a number of Oaf short stories focusing on his involvement in the local metal and wrestling scenes. Luce celebrates his love of all things wrestling/metal/queercore with his love for his cast of characters to create an immersive environment recalling Scott Pilgrim, Love and Rockets, and Archie. Also featuring tales of Oaf ’s formative childhood years, and much more!
WHO: Ed Luce
WHAT: Wuvable Oaf Blood & Metal release party
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 7, 6-8pm
WHERE: Fantagraphics Bookstore 1201 S Vale St, Seattle, WA