Ed Luce: What's Wuvable Oaf Got to Do With It?A comics interview article by: Alison Stevenson
If you've been looking around for a comic about a big loveable gay man who loves the Smiths, kittens and making dolls that he stuffs with his own hairs then Wuvable Oaf is just for you. The creator, Ed Luce recently met with me in his city of San Francisco and we talked about Oaf and what's to come for the big guy and his friends.
Alison Stevenson: I read on other sites that Oaf dates back to around 2006?
Ed Luce: Roundabouts, yeah. As a comic, it's only been around since 2008, but it first existed as a paper doll drawing. I got asked to do a couple designs for a paper doll-themed show in Phoenix, Arizona and Oaf was the first one I came up with. It was just this scary looking kind of guy in his undies in the center, and then all of his outfits made him look like a big softie. There was a Smiths T-shirt, and I think he was wearing footsie pajamas and another with cats climbing all over him. I did that drawing and other ones, but most people focused on that one. My friends saw it and thought, "This is different for you. What is this guy's story?"
Stevenson: So after that you thought, I should turn this into a comic book?
Luce: Yeah. Actually, I had been a painter prior to that but I have read comics my whole life so it just felt kind of natural for me to tell that story via comics. I moved to San Francisco and I didn't have as much space anymore to paint. With that, I wanted to maintain some sort of level of creativity and the comics fit on my desk. Of course, much later as I accumulated merchandise it became a space issue but you know it was just me, pens, ink and Bristol board that I draw on at first, so it was the perfect kind of format.
Stevenson: These comics are all self-published, right?
Luce: Yeah, this being my first entryway into comics and not exactly knowing how it's done. I didn't know anything about having to get a publisher. It was a bit discouraging at first, which I'm sure you know from talking to other comic book creators. When it comes to self-publishing, people get really bitter really fast. They break even, they pay a lot of money for publishing fees, and spend all their time trying to get that money back. I saw that early on as a struggle and I wanted to avoid that. Especially with my minicomics I saw that I could just print on demand and that's allowed me to save a lot of money.
Stevenson: Cool. I remember in issue #0 Oaf writes on a dating website, "If you don't like the Smiths we're probably not going to get along." I was curious -- is music a big influence on your art?
Luce: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I feel like ever since I was a little kid I would sit and draw and listen to music. All my ideas would come out of music. When the comic came around, I knew that I wanted it to be an integral part. I'm not musical at all, but I liked the idea of creating a band that even if I didn't exactly know what the sound was, or what the lyrics were going to be, or anything like that -- that I'd at least design the band.
I feel there is an instant connection with people to the bands I'm referencing in the comics. I like establishing that immediately where I'm coming from. Some people shy away from that. They don't want to be dated by the kind of music they like, but I feel like the minute I put that Wipers graphic on Oaf there was a huge reaction. It all helps create something bigger than the sum of its parts -- what I like to call the "Oafiverse."
Stevenson: Yes! When I saw Oaf wearing a Wipers shirt I got pretty excited. It's funny, you can't really categorize this comic, because one minute I'm thinking it's a sort of "punk rock comic," but then the next minute I think maybe it's more fitting to call it a "gay" comic but then that's not totally the case either.
Luce: It's a soup. I like that -- that's what I'm going for. At first I thought just gay guys were going to read my comic but in doing certain conventions, like Stumptown in Portland for instance, my partner Mark Herzog and I thought, "Wow, there's something really strange going on here." We expected just the bear contingent to turn up and buy stuff, but we did phenomenal and it was largely because 75% of our customers had never seen this before and were attracted to the imagery.
One thing I did do early on consciously was not using the dialogue "gay," "queer," "bear," or anything like that. Not because I am ashamed of that obviously, but because I feel like you open the book and it's all right there. I didn't want to do the labeling myself because I knew that would kind of happen anyways. I think by doing that, it kind of left it open for everybody else to take an interest in it. That coupled with what you were saying. There's music going on, there's cats and there's a traditional love story that holds all this stuff together, but really it's about a lot of different things.
Stevenson: That's what I love about it. Now, to get into the comic itself... Is there any chance we'll see more of the backstory from other characters? I took a special interest to Bufu, who got cast on a show called Assignment: Catwalk that highly resembles Project Runway.
Luce: Yes, yes. Well, the way that I constructed the zero issue is that I basically put little glimpses into larger story arcs that I wanted to do. The plan now is to tell Eiffel and Oaf's story, and about Eiffel's band [Ejaculoid]. After that is Smusherrrr, who is kind of a meaner oaf. He's an aging gay man and he connects most with young girls. So he decides he wants to join a girl group, The Muff 'N' Top Grrrlz who have been mentioned in the second issue briefly and will appear in the fourth issue as well. Then Bufu is the story arc after that.
Stevenson: There's also the subplot with Oaf's kitties. Specifically, I'm very curious about Pavel. He has all these crazy dark visions.
Luce: That has been advancing slowly. I have a flashback planned for Pavel. It'll either be in the fourth issue or as a complete separate minicomic about the cats, but yeah, he's suffered some brain damage. Oaf doesn't really know what's wrong with him. He found him in a garbage dumpster outside of a porn store and there was a bottle of amyl nitrate that broke next to him, and that led to brain damage, so he sort of sits catatonic in his little space, but there are characters that can get through to him. I'm not going to have him be completely crazy forever -- he's going to slowly be rehabilitated.
Stevenson: There is an area for you with these visions to get a little more "experimental", so to say, with your drawing.
Luce: Yes, absolutely.
Stevenson: That penis creature in Issue #2 is coming to mind.
Luce: Yes, it allows me to draw monsters. My comic is pretty street-level, so Pavel allows me to do creature stuff, which is fun.
Stevenson: Do you identify with Oaf at all? How much of it is autobiographical?
Luce: A lot of the characters -- let alone the situations in the comic -- are based off of things that have happened to me before. I tended to date really big guys for a while, and that dynamic with Eiffel and the three other band members -- those are actually three guys that I know really well, and their personalities have been tweaked in various ways to protect them.
But as far as Oaf being me, I always say he's my interior. He's the nicer aspects of me and things that my mom ingrained in me. That doesn't mean he's a simpleton or anything. He shows flashes of being aware of how he's being manipulated in the comic, but he's generally sort of a very nice person. Those’re the more pleasant aspects of my personality. Eiffel, he's more physically me. He is also my nasty sort of personality traits.
Stevenson: An almost Jekyll and Hyde sort of thing going on.
Luce: Yeah. Eiffel is my control freak side. My bossy side. He's very much in line with me, but again just exaggerated to an extreme. So when him and Oaf do ultimately get together it's going to be this weird sort of abstract self portrait of me.
Stevenson: That's interesting. I like that. Oaf lives in San Francisco. Is this city an important aspect of the comic?
Luce: I feel like I wouldn't have done this comic in another city. I wouldn't have been as inspired. Especially the music scene and the type of interactions that go on, I feel like it could only happen in San Francisco. In that sense I feel like San Francisco is almost a sort of character in the comic.
Stevenson: Are there any more surprises to expect with Oaf in upcoming issues?
Luce: Well, I did want him to confess to Eiffel that he was in a band. I think I was going to call it Metallicat, or Feelinator. Basically a sort of doom, death metal type band singing songs from the perspective of being a cat. That would have been sort of like a teenage phase he went through because otherwise he's not musically inclined.
Stevenson: Ha! "Metallicat." I really like that. When is the fourth issue coming out?
Luce: Well, I want to release a couple minicomics first and then build up to the fourth issue. I want to do something special like I did with the previous issues. I kind of want to build that tension, and the fourth issue is a biggie cause it’s got that whole "will they or won't they" scenario. I want to have a big payoff for everybody who’s waited this long to see what happens.
Luce tells me his next minicomic will feature Eiffel and Attila from Ejaculoid stalking Slayer frontman Kerry King, as well as Attila acting as a rock 'n' roll teacher in the vein of Jack Black in School of Rock. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read it!
For more information, as well as a place to get these awesome comics go to the official Oaf website, wuvableoaf.com. The special editions come with fun extras like actual Ejaculoid music records, guitar picks, and even scratch and sniff cards that have their own unique little stories (and smells, obviously).
Alison Stevenson lives in Oakland, CA, where she is pursuing stand-up comedy around the Bay Area and writing. She does not have a website yet, but recommends that anyone who wants to speak with her, attend one of her comedy events or talk about comic books to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.