Friday, February 19, 2016

50 Years Ago: LOBO, the FIRST Black Character to Star in His Own Comic!

In 1966, the year the Black Panther debuted in Marvel's Fantastic Four...
...Dell Comics went them one better, introducing the first Black hero to get his own comic!
Other Black characters had their own series in anthology titles, but Lobo was the first to have his name AS the comic's title!Lobo combined a couple of popular plot concepts...
Man on the Run for a Crime He Did NOT Commit
Exemplified by then-hit tv series The Fugitive, Lobo was framed, but couldn't prove his innocence.
Lone Western Hero
A loner wandering the Old West, righting wrongs was an especially popular genre in tv Westerns.
Variations on the theme included gamblers (Maverick) and martial-arts experts (Kung Fu)
Note: the tv series Branded also combined both the Loner and Man Framed themes! well as a new concept:
Prominent Black character
Black characters (except for sterotypes like Amos 'n Andy) were few and far between on tv until the mid-1960s, and even then only as supporting characters (usually servants).
1960s urban dramas like Naked City and East Side, West Side, which dealt with current social themes had Black guest stars including James Earl Jones and Diana Sands, but no Black regulars.
Star Trek (1966) had both a Black regular character (Lt. Nyota Uhura) and Black actors in prominent roles as scientists and high-placed officers (admirals, etc,).
But, at that point, there were no tv series with a Black lead or Black title character!
(Diahann Carroll's groundbreaking series Julia didn't debut until 1968, two years later!)
So, Lobo was, to say the least, a daring experiment, albeit one with as many popular themes as possible to maximize sales potential!
Dell writer/editor Don (DJ) Arneson and artist Tony Tallarico felt the time was right, and managed to convince their publisher to take a chance.
You can read Arneson's tale of Lobo's creation HERE.
Unfortunately, it didn't work.
Many vendors refused to put a comic with a Black hero on their racks, and the book had an almost 90% return rate.
Lobo the comic only ran two issues.
It's rumored that a script and unfinished art exist for a third issue, but that's never been confirmed.
You can read both issues of Lobo HERE and HERE.
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