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Review: Wuvable Oaf: Blood and Metal

Wuvable Oaf, Ed Luce, Fantagraphics, November 2016Wuvable Oaf: Blood and Metal 

Ed Luce
Fantagraphics
November 2016
Disclaimer: Wuvable Oaf: Blood and Metal was reviewed using a copy provided by Fantagraphics.

This is probably the raunchiest non-fuck comic I’ve read in recent years. Do not read until midnight. It is not appropriate for kids.

Wuvable Oaf: Blood and Metal is the followup to 2015’s Wuvable Oaf, the first collection of Ed Luce’s long running comic by the same name. Oaf is a doll maker and cat rescuer, former professional wrestler, and adorable bear who doesn’t quite get that’s how guys see him. In Wuvable Oaf we learn about his dolls (stuffed with his excess body hair), his cats (mostly sweet, several of them pure evil), his wrestling career (Satanic and super gay) and his love life (insufficient—until he meets his dream “lil guy”). Blood and Metal is a collection of comics that look back on his wrestling and pre-relationship days, where it was just Oaf and his BFFs.

The comics range from Oaf’s pro wrestling schtick—his stage name is Goteblüd and he sprays blood on his opponents from the horns on his mask; he just barely manages to hide his big dick in shady goat pants, complete with a devilish tail and cloven hoof-boots—to Oaf and horny friend Smusherrr attending metal shows, to single page gag comics and even paper dolls. The paper dolls serve as back matter in Blood and Metal; Luce includes the original Wuvable Oaf paper doll, which he made for a paper doll art show, as well as an updated version that’s much more clearly the Oaf he turned into an ongoing comic. It’s because of that paper doll show that Luce began making comics in the first place. He created Oaf Jadwiga for it and found that it struck a nerve with show attendees—and with him.

Since 2010 Luce has been self-publishing Wuvable Oaf and a collection of spin-offs and mini comics under his own Goteblüd Comcs imprint. Some of the comics in this volume date from early in the comic’s publication history. Occasionally they feel dated, but for the most part, there’s something timeless about a kitty-loving ex-wrestler and gentle giant metalhead. His adventures could play out in any recent decade. They don’t particularly rely on outside events, being generally contained within particular music, wrestling and queer scenes. These are Luce’s scenes, as well as Oaf’s (I mean, maybe not the piggy scene that Smusherrr explores, but idk) and this lends the stories and strips a sense of authenticity. These are funny comics and save for a few times that things go terribly wrong for Smusherr, Luce is laughing with, not laughing at.

But you want to know about the filth, right? Oaf’s romantic (mis)adventures have always had a frank sexual element and BFF Smusherrr is always busily exploring some new kink. Blood and Metal though is perhaps even more willing to drop a cock in your face, but perhaps that’s due to its shorter page count and the shorter comics collected in it. In Blood and Metal you might be reading a comic about Oaf learning about his sexuality throughout his childhood and adolescence and then in the next comic he’s videochatting with a big-dicked creeper who doesn’t even ask before pulling it out. No one actually fucks in this comic but we do hear too much about what you can do with a dog and some peanut butter, and in another comic, what daddy wants you to do with his pussy. Luce treats the sex humour the same way as he does the cat humour and the wrestling humour—I think it’s sweet, actually, how he maintains about the same tone throughout all of the comics. Whether the gags are about body hair or literal gags, Oaf remains oafishly loveable and sweet.

In his foreword, Luce explains that part of the appeal of Oaf is that he’s a big scary sweetheart who has a dark side. But it’s a dark side that’s expressed healthily through professional wrestling and sometimes music. Like anyone, there are days where Oaf wants to fuck someone up (but not really), and that’s where his wrestling alter-ego Goteblüd comes in. By the time of Wuvable Oaf (2015), which collects the first five years of the comic, Oaf has been long retired from wrestling and now makes his money making dolls and caring for cats. That he’s a big scary sweetheart with not much of a visible dark side leads to a lot of his romantic problems—despite being a truly gigantic, hairy bear of a man, he isn’t the dominating dirty talker that man potential partners expect him to be. He’s nice and nerdy, definitely weird, and his ideal partner is a tiny ball of cute rage. In that volume he eventually does find someone, but the Oaf of Blood and Metal is younger and a bit wilder. He isn’t yet as lovelorn and is instead busily sleeping around with referees, wrestlers, and whoever else seems like a good idea. He delivers brutal, albeit choreographed, beatdowns on his opponents and scares half of his colleagues to the point of pissing themselves (the other half have a somewhat different involuntary physical reaction to him).

Several of the wrestling comics are drawn not from the original run of Wuvable Oaf but from Luce’s more recent work for VICE, throughout 2o16. These one-page comics are slice-of-ring-life absurdities that send up the ridiculous world of professional wrestling and its long love affair with camp, drag and queerness, albeit one that’s riddled with overt homophobia, sexism and machismo. Oaf the openly gay bear wrestler, admired by colleagues and fans for both his skills and his physique is kind of perfect for an industry that still struggles to be inclusive of women, people of colour and LGBTQ+ performers. My only question is why Luce and Fantagraphics decided not to include the comic where Donald Trump gets knocked out by an eagle-man wearing the American flag. At the very least they should team with VICE to offer it as a print.

Blood and Metal is a really funny collection of comics, but because of the curatorial focus on short works, it may not an ideal entry point for the world of Wuvable Oaf. Coming to it first, without having read the 2015 collection or any of Luce’s previously self-published work, might be a little too in medias res, even for a collection that lacks an overarching plot—the trouble is that Blood and Metal doesn’t quite give Oaf a proper introduction and isn’t ordered in such a way that new readers can quickly get to know him and the other characters. Oaf’s boyfriend Eiffel appears in a pre-Oaf comic where he trolls for casual sex at a metal show and explains how a tiny guy like him can use much bigger meatheads as personal anchors in the rough waters of the pit. But who is Eiffel and why are we taking a break from Oaf’s adventures as Goteblüd for this? It’s a funny comic but if I hadn’t already read Wuvable Oaf I’d be wondering why it’s here. If you already know your Oafs, though, Blood and Metal is a nice followup, and one that is likely to leave you hungry for more of Oaf in general.

On the other hand, I shared Blood and Metal with Chase Magnett and Joe Schmidt of Comics Bulletin’s Reboot Comic Book Club podcast, both of whom met Oaf for the first time through it,  and not only did they love the comic, they also loved Oaf! So maybe Blood and Metal will be the perfect Oaf starter pack for you.

My only question at this point is, when are we getting Wuvable Oaf vol 2, Fanta? I am ready for it.