Welcome back to Week Three of VILLAINS WATCH, the weekly look at DC’s Forever Evil mini-series, its lead-ins and effects. This week is a look at the background of Lobo, the Main Man and subject of much debate leading into last week’s Villains Month special. But first, a little recap:
“Lobo is still a remorseless bounty hunter who kills at the drop of a hat and has a messed up sense of humor. He’s a bit less bombastic in his speech, but his actions capture that trademark “don’t give a frag” attitude I’ve come to expect from the Main Man… Lobo owes much of his flamboyance, understated though it may be (well, understated for Lobo), to Oliver’s art as well as Bennett’s words. I’m completely sold on rockabilly Lobo.”
Let’s get one popular misconception out of the way. The name “Lobo” is not Spanish for the “Wolf.” It is actually a translation from Khundian for “he who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it.” Make that mistake in the wrong company, and let’s say you might end up regretting it.
Lobo got his start as a minor bounty hunter character in the pages of Omega Men. A spin-off from New Teen Titans in the early 1980s, Omega Men was a title that starred rebel space characters who were fighting the same warring empire that imprisoned a young Starfire, among many others in the path of its domination across the galaxy. Partnering briefly with the Omega Men, Lobo fought against the Psions and the Citadel, although his intentions could hardly be described as altruistic. At his core, Lobo is a bounty hunter and assassin-for-hire, willing to take any job as long as the pay is sufficient, and his self-interest knows no bounds.
Described often early on as the “Last Czarnian,” it is said that Czarnia (Lobo’s home planet) was a peaceful one, that is, until they all died… some say at the hands of the Psions, but more make the claim that it was at the hands of Lobo himself. Committing genocide to maintain his own individuality would not be beyond him, certainly. The irony, of course, is that Lobo has a rapid healing factor, and once had the power to generate a perfect genetic copy of himself from each drop of blood spilled. Originally conceived as a slim, athletic white-skinned humanoid, today’s Lobo actually mirrors much of what he looked like in his early adventures — once again proof that every trend comes back around if you wait long enough.
After completing his time with the Omega Men, Lobo was next seen being offered a contract to kill the Justice League International by space cartel leader Manga Khan, who requested their deaths in exchange for a lifetime supply of food for Lobo’s beloved Space Dolphins. Again, this Lobo was a smart, decisive killer, well controlled and resigned to his role as assassin for the highest bidder. Viciously aggressive, yet intellectually superior as well, Lobo next took on a contract to join Vril Dox’s interstellar police force L.E.G.I.O.N., where he was tricked into losing his regeneration ability and subsequently devolved in intelligence, perhaps as a result. It was at this point that his physical appearance began to bulk up, and his adventures at times becoming more and more a parody of his existence to date.
That said, Lobo was clearly one of the most popular characters in DC’s stable from that time on, earning his own mini-series written by creator Keith Giffen and future scribe Alan Grant, and illustrated by the great Simon Bisley, who to this day renders the most iconic version of Lobo to date for comic fans. That mini-series detailed Lobo’s definitive origin (at the time) and led to a number of other specials, including Lobo’s Paramilitary Christmas Special, where he is hired by the Easter Bunny to kill Santa Claus. After many specials, DC launched Lobo into his own ongoing series in 1993, lasting 6 years, and featuring a bevy of DC Universe guest stars, not the least of which Superman — who would become a main antagonist for Lobo in years to come. As a result, Lobo would make appearances in the DC Animated Superman series, and come up against the Man of Steel in his own title time and time again — one of the few fights he’d gladly get into even without payment guaranteed.
For the past decade or more, Lobo has taken a decidedly strange path at times, even being transformed back into a teenager in a run-in with the Justice League’s junior sidekicks, Young Justice. Part and parcel to his de-aging was regaining the power to make duplicates from a single drop of blood, and one such duplicate, a rather scrawny one at that, eventually joined the team and took on the name Slobo. Eventually, Slobo would die from his genetic form breaking down, but not before earning the love of Robin, Superboy, Wonder Girl and others, not to mention fans of the Young Justice title. Lobo himself would move on to a new adventure in space, finding religion and declaring himself Space Pope for the ‘Great Fishy One’. Caring once again for his Space Dolphins and declaring himself a pacifist, Lobo sought out the Emerald Eye and came into contact with travelers Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Starfire during their year’s journey into outer space. Assisting them in their fight against intergalactic villain Lady Styx, Lobo eventually destroys the ‘Great Fishy One’ with the Emerald Eye itself and goes back to his decidedly non-pacifistic ways.
With the New 52, DC has tried to relaunch Lobo no less than three times, beginning with Rob Liefeld’s ill-fated run on Deathstroke. In that title, Lobo was essentially unchanged, with only a few differences in his appearance and history — having spared his beloved Princess Sheba of Czarnia after slaughtering the remainder of his race. The character then moved over as a member of Stormwatch when their own continuity was rebooted by forces beyond the universe, ostensibly to give the title a marquee character to offset flagging sales.
Last week, it was revealed in the Justice League #23.2: Lobo special, that the real Lobo is, in fact, closer in line with the original look of the character, and is now off on a mission to destroy the imposter currently appearing in Stormwatch. Far from a push-over, this Main Man is cruel, decisive, and ultra-violent, no matter how his physical appearance may differ from the bulkier, seemingly dumber version of himself running around. How this confrontation will play out, however, remains to be seen. Images of the New 52 Lobo are in the gallery below:
Images courtesy DC Comics.
- Omega Men #3 (1983): Assault on Euphorix!
- Justice League International #18-21 (1988): Apokalips… Wow!
- L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #3-11 (1989-1990): The Future is Now!
- Lobo #1-4 (1991): The Last Czarnian
- Lobo #1-4 (1994): The Quigley Affair
- 52 (2006-2007)
- Stormwatch #19-23 (2012): Reset
Coming up later this month: The history of the Outsider! The origins of the Secret Society of Super-Villains! And what other super-villain groups has Lex Luthor (and others) formed to fight the Justice League?