Monday, February 18, 2008
Lobo #1 (1965, Dell Comics)
Lobo starred in Dell Comics' little-known but groundbreaking, two-issue series Lobo (Dec. 1965 & Sept. 1966), also listed as Dell Comics #12-438-512 and #12-439-610 in the company's quirky numbering system. Co-Created by writer D. J. Arneson and artist Tony Tallarico, it chronicled the Old West adventures of a wealthy, unnamed African-American gunslinger called "Lobo" by the first issue's antagonists. On the foreheads of vanquished criminals, Lobo would leave the calling card of a gold coin imprinted with the images of a wolf and the letter "L".
Tallarico in a 2006 interview said that he and Dell writer D.J. Arneson co-created the character based on an idea and a plot by Tallarico, with Arneson scripted it.
I had an idea for Lobo. And I approached D.J. Arneson and he brought it in and showed it to [Dell editor-in-chief] Helen Meyer. ... She loved it. She really wanted to do it. Great, so we did it. We did the first issue. And in comics, you start the second issue as they're printing the first one, due to time limitations. ... All of the sudden, they stopped the wagon. They stopped production on the issue. They discovered that as they were sending out bundles of comics out to the distributors [that] they were being returned unopened. And I couldn't figure out why. So they sniffed around, scouted around and discovered [that many sellers]] were opposed to Lobo, who was the first black Western hero. That was the end of the book. It sold nothing. They printed 200,000; that was the going print-rate. They sold, oh, 10-15 thousand.
On May 19, 2006, Temple University College of Arts and Sciences presented Tallarico its Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Comics and Books Industries, in recognition of his creating the first comic book to star an African-American.
Black comic-book stars
While Marvel Comics' 1950s predecessor Atlas Comics had published the African tribal-chief feature "Waku, Prince of the Bantu" — the first known mainstream comic-book feature with a Black star, albeit not African-American — it was one of four regular features in each issue of the omnibus title, Jungle Tales (Sept. 1954 - Sept. 1955). Comic books' first known African-American superhero, Marvel's Falcon, was introduced in 1969, but there would be no Black star of his or her own comic until 1972, with Marvel's Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, followed in 1973 by Marvel's Black Panther (introduced as a supporting character in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four) in Jungle Action.
And to think....I found this book years ago rummaging around in a second hand shop and bought it and five or six other comics in a bundle for around a buck.
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