He’s a hairy behemoth who towers over most people. But he’s also shy, loves kittens and adores Morrissey. His name is Wuvable Oaf, the creation of Ed Luce.
Luce is a San Francisco artist who works as a designer, teaches classes in self-publishing and publishes Oaf’s eponymously titled comic book. Oaf is an exercise in idiosyncrasies, as sweet as he is intimidating. “I find it funny so many people disregard his pink eyes and teeth and just find him cute,” Luce says. “In real life, if you saw that guy coming down the street, you'd cross through traffic to avoid him.”
Oaf’s origins are as cutesie as he is. The first Oaf design was for an art show that revolved around paper doll designs. “I drew this image of him looking very surly, dressed only in kitty undies, but all the outfits around him -- adult-sized footsie pyjamas, a Smiths shirt -- revealed he was really a big softie,” says his creator. Luce’s friends were so entranced by Oaf that Luce decided he should try to create a story for him.
Luce knew he wanted to create a whole universe for his creation. “I like being immersed in detailed, intricate worlds where you can spend time following and examining characters' actions and motivations,” he says. “This doesn’t mean that he would follow a conventional publishing schedule or format.”
Oaf’s story is told through everything from special editions with scratch-and-sniff cards to seven-inch singles. “I think this interdisciplinary approach has led me to think of the Oaf as more of an art project than comic alone,” Luce says.
Luce has also been working on other projects, including contributions to Henry & Glenn Forever, a comic/art project depicting romantic liaisons between Henry Rollins and former Misfit Glenn Danzig.
But Wuvable Oaf is Luce’s main project, and he has cultivated a strong online and merchandising presence for Oaf. Wuvable Oaf T-shirts are a big seller. “I think at first I thought only gay men of a certain persuasion would show any interest,” he says. “They definitely make up the diehard core of our fan base.”
Luce also frequents book fairs and comic conventions. It was during a show in Portland that he realized Oaf could cross over to a larger audience. “On the surface it seemed we were attracting a different kind of attention than we were accustomed to and these people were totally comfortable with the queer perspective,” he recalls. “I think it's kind of amazing and strange, a real testament to our cultural perceptions of what ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ is and how it relates to individual identity. Did these guys know this was a ‘queer’ comic? Isn't it hard to mistake a five-by-five-foot banner of a big hairy guy stripped to cat-faced undies as anything but?”
For Luce, all that matters in the end is to tell Oaf’s story in his own way. “There's a recognition that love, and ultimately life, is a beautiful thing regardless of our differences. I hope to capture that too . . . with a side order of hairballs, set to a disco grind-core soundtrack.”
Wuvable Oaf: Beardos/Stroller Meat comes out at Comic-Con in July, and Wuvable Oaf #4 debuts at Alternative Press Expo this October.