Thursday, October 25, 2018

Minis: Ed Luce

WANC: Hell On Ice Special, by Ed Luce. This is a black & white version of what will be a full color feature in Luce's upcoming Wuvable Oaf volume for Fantagraphics. One thing I've always liked about Luce's work is that he's innovated all sorts of clever gimmicks (not unlike a wrestling gimmick) in self-publishing his work. From special lanyards for the bands featured in the comic to centerfolds and all sorts of special editions, Luce has always had an eye on catching the eye of casual fans with something spectacular. Here, he mimics the old WWF magazine as the story follows Oaf from his days as a professional wrestler in WANC (Wrasslin' Association of National Champions). It even has a centerfold featuring Goteblud and Luce as a referee.

While Wuvable Oaf has always been a romance comic first and foremost, it's also been a comic about pro wrestling and a comic about death metal, all with queer themes. It's been Luce's mission to show queer characters doing things you wouldn't necessarily see in either mainstream or queer-themed work. He goes out of his way to feature characters who are "bears", for one thing, and the model on the cover of the magazine portraying Oaf (as his wrestling character Goteblud) is there in all his hairy glory. Luce also has a strong understanding of the ring psychology and storytelling that are a part of wrestling, only his imaginary territory is one far more open to queer characters than most wrestling associations these days. (That is changing a bit, though...)

Most of the issue is an absurd gimmick match between Goteblud and his opponent, Dr. Avalanche, in a "Hell on Ice" match where the ring was coated in ice. The entirety of the issue features this match, but Luce also works in a romance angle, a backstage business intrigue angle, and the tension that Dr. Avalanche wasn't going to let his young foe "get over", i.e., he wasn't going to let him win even thought that's what the script said. Where Luce was most successful here was presenting absurd, over-the-top action while still making the story all about character and incorporating queer themes throughout. Now, those themes are somewhat subordinated to this particular story, but that will even out in the upcoming book, I would imagine. Fans of the Oaf will want this no matter what; casual fans can wait til the book comes out. That said, it's a pleasure to see the fine details of Luce's line art on display.

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