Lobo (Dell Comics)

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This article is about the first African American comic-book character from Dell Comics. For the DC Comics character, see Lobo (DC Comics)
Lobo #1 (Dec. 1965), the first comic book with an African-American star. Cover art by Tony Tallarico.

Lobo is a fictional Western comic-book hero who is the medium's first African-American character to headline his own series.

Publication history[edit]

Lobo starred in Dell Comics' little-known, 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. Created by Dell editor[1] and writer Don "D. J." Arneson and artist Tony Tallarico,[2] 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".[3]

Tallarico in a 2006 interview said that he and Arneson co-created the character based on an idea and a plot by Tallarico, with Arneson scripting 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.[4]

Arneson, in a 2010 interview, disputed this version of Lobo's creation:

Tony Tallarico illustrated Lobo. He did not create the character, I did. He did not plot the storyline, I did. He did not write the script, I did. And he did not approach me with the original concept or idea. ... I developed the original premise for Lobo (originally Black Lobo, a title Helen Meyer rejected as inappropriate at the time...) from the book The Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones.... On reading the book in 1965, I recognized the potential for a black comic book hero based on historical fact.... I added other elements to the original Black Lobo character concept, e.g.: Robin Hood, the Lone Ranger, etc., as well as the familiar adventurous spirit of the American cowboy of popular Western novels and cowboy movies of that time.... Tony illustrated a mock-up cover ... which was presented to Helen Meyer along with the proposal I wrote.... I then wrote the script and Tony Illustrated the comic book from my script. ... I have no idea on what information or source ... Tony based his explanation for the discontinuation of Lobo. Sales were the primary basis for the continuation or discontinuation of a series title. I neither have now nor did I have at that time any intimation or suggestion that Lobo was discontinued because anyone was somehow conspiratorially "opposed" to it.[1]

Awards[edit]

On May 19, 2006, Tallarico was bestowed the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention's Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement, in recognition of his work on the first comic book to star an African-American. He was an honoree at the reception dinner at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[5][6][7]

Black comic book stars[edit]

Aside from characters featured in the single-issue, small-press niche publication All-Negro Comics in 1947, the first mainstream comic book feature with a black star, albeit not African-American, was "Waku, Prince of the Bantu", an African tribal chief feature from Marvel Comics' 1950s predecessor Atlas Comics. This was one of four regular features in each issue of the omnibus title Jungle Tales (Sept. 1954 - Sept. 1955). Marvel introduced the first black superhero, the Black Panther, also an African, as a supporting character in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four. Comic books' first known African-American superhero, Marvel's the Falcon, debuted in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969). 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 in Jungle Action.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Interview with D.J. Arneson". Coville's Clubhouse (column), Collector Times. April 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2013. 
  2. ^ Lobo (1965 character) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived October 31, 2011.
  3. ^ Lobo #1 (Dell, 1965 Series) at the Grand Comics Database
  4. ^ "Tony Tallarico Interview". Coville's Clubhouse (column), Collector Times. August 2006. Archived from the original on May 14, 2010. ].
  5. ^ Watson, Rob (May 19, 2006). "For these comics creators, not just funny business African American gathering will teach nature of the industry.". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on July 2, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Archive for the 'Pioneers' Category", East Coast Black Age of Comics Con '10 (2010). WebCitation archive.
  7. ^ Isabella, Tony (September 18, 2006). "ECBACC". Tony's Online Tips (column), reprinted from Comics Buyer's Guide #1622. Archived from the original on October 31, 2011. .