Tuesday, February 21, 2017


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Hello again, fellow QUESTERS!!

    The man from down Texas-way is back again to make your heads spin with some more great comic book knowledge that you can't get in college!

    I was just scrolling through my posts, and I realized that I'd not paid homage to Black History Month at all! So, it's time to rectify that terrible oversight with a long-forgotten character who just happens to occupy the space of a VERY important first in comics history:

    Feast your eyes on..."Lobo" #1 published by Dell Comics in December of 1965!! Lobo was created by D.J. Arneson and Tony Tallarico. This issue features the first appearance of Lobo, a hard-fighting, straight-shootin', black western hero!! Yep, this is my lovely copy.

    Lobo was a Union soldier during the Civil War who served with honor, but who, after being discharged, he decides to go west and become a cowboy. He longed for a life of peace, but he ended up having to prove to his white colleagues that he was just a good a cowboy as any of them. Lobo sought to earn their respect through hard work and patience with his mistreatment, but sometimes, he just had to stand up and give some guys the whuppin' they deserved. Soon, he is blamed for a murder he didn't commit and has to go on the run to prove his innocence since it is highly unlikely that the color of his skin would afford him a fair trial in that day and time. Not long after, Lobo saves the life of a wealthy prospector, a prospector who himself has been accused of a crime that he also didn't commit. This forms a friendly bond between the two men. After all hopes of ever proving his innocence are dashed with the death of the real killer, Lobo returns to this same prospector only to find him dying. With his final breath, the old miner leaves Lobo his fortune and charges him with using it to do some good in the world.

   I loved this story so much, I even own the second, and last, issue:

     Here is my copy of "Lobo" #2, printed by Dell in September of 1966.

     Lobo was a comic that was ahead of its time, and yet long overdue. It boasted a black protagonist that was handy with his fists and with those steel smokewagons, as well as being strong, loyal, upstanding and brave. This was a step in a different direction from the ways that blacks had been represented in comics up to this time - the only exceptions being Lothar, the friend of Mandrake the Magician, and Waku, Prince of the Bantu. It is important to point out that black heroes shown in any positive light before this time were African, and not black Americans (with the exception of sports heroes like Jesse Owens). Blacks were usually presented as big-lipped characters and/or comic relief, like Captain Marvel's valet Steamboat, or The Spirit's sidekick, Ebony White - this is unsurprising as these were often the roles blacks had in Hollywood films (see Eddie "Rochester" Anderson). However, when D.J. Arneson read Philip Durham's and Everett L. Jones' book, "The Negro Cowboy," a book about the lives of the Buffalo Soldiers who went west after the Civil War to become cowboys, Arneson knew that he just had to create a character that showcased the experiences of blacks in that age. So, he conceived Lobo, a character that was part Buffalo Soldier, part Lone Ranger and part Robin Hood. He tapped freelance artist, Tony Tallarico, to draw the book and Dell took the chance at publishing it. Unfortunately, the world wasn't ready for a double-tough, hard-hitting, sharp-shooting black character that was quick on the draw, slow to anger and rough on the bad guys. This series only lasted two issues, with issue #2 printed nearly a year apart from issue #1, and then it quietly faded into comics obscurity. Gone, but not forgotten by comics enthusiasts and historians like me, Lobo will live on as a very important part of comics history...ON TO THE THE FUN FACTS!

FUN FACT 1: Lobo is THE FIRST BLACK HERO IN HISTORY to have his own title. These issues are extremely scarce...And in higher grades, fugheddaboudit!!

FUN FACT 2: The first mainstream black African superhero was Marvel's Black Panther who debuted in July of 1966, seven months after Dell's Lobo.

FUN FACT 3: The first black American superhero was The Falcon who debuted in September of 1969, almost four years after Lobo.

FUN FACT 4: The black American superhero with his own title was Ebon, an obscure underground comic; however, the first mainstream black American superhero to have his title was Luke Cage.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT 5: Several black American writers and artists came together in 1947 and created "All Negro Comics" #1, full of great stories that tried to break the stereotypes of the day. Sadly, further publication was subtly blocked from publication by the intolerant publishers of that day and time. Copies of this comic are beyond scarce - I am always looking for one for my collection in suitable condition and suitably priced.

FUN FACT 6: Who exactly created this character is hard to verify. Arneson says that he conceived and created the character, inspired by the book, "The Negro Cowboy." He further states that he plotted the story and scripted it, and Tony was only hired to pencil it. However, Tony Tallarico has stated that he conceived Lobo and the plot of the story which Arneson only scripted. Who's telling the truth? The answer may be lost to history; however, in 2006, Tallarico was awarded the Pioneer Award For Lifetime Achievement by the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT 7: Some say that as much as 80% percent or more of these comics were returned to Marvel as unsold comics simply because they were never even taken out of the box to be offered for sale at all. It was just a very different world, a world in which a black cowboy with a gun on a comic book cover would be just the thing to cause retailers to keep it off the shelves.

FUN FACT 8: Lobo's real name was never revealed.

   That's all for today!! Thanks for reading!! Happy trails, pardners!

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