As promised, in honor of Black History Month, I’m back to spotlight the first black hero to star in his own comic: Lobo.
This western hero, created by writer D.J. Arneson and illustrated by Tony Tallarico, made his debut in Lobo (1965), published by Dell Comics.
In the series, Lobo is a former Union soldier who heads west after the the Civil War. Upon being wrongfully accused of murder, Lobo sets out on a mission to fight injustice and to clear his name.
Lobo’s importance to comic history stems not only from being the first black comic hero to star in his own series, but also in that he is free from the racist stereotypes that plague other early black heroes like Whitewash Jones or Waku, Prince of the Bantu. In fact, the comic doesn’t even make reference to the fact that Lobo is black.
Unfortunately, racist attitudes would ensure that Lobo would be a very short-lived series. Although 200,000 copies of the first issue were printed, only about 10,000 – 15,000 copies were sold. This was largely due to many retailers refusing to carry a comic book about a black hero. What’s more, many of these retailers not only returned Lobo, but also every other comic shipped with it. The return of so many unopened shipments was a huge loss for Dell Comics and caused Lobo to be canceled after only two issues.
Although the brief series was a financial disaster, a comic starring a non-stereotypical black hero was a huge milestone for people of color in comics.
For more about Lobo and the history of black super heroes in general, check out the excellent White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in Comic Books by Jonathan Gayles.
And be sure to join me again next Monday when I’ll discuss Black Panther, the first black super hero.