Lobo. The Last Czarnian. The Main Man.
The Lobo we all know began life as a satirization of Marvel’s edgy 80’s anti-heroes. He’s hairy, surly, and damn near unkillable just like Wolverine. He’s got Ghost Rider’s chain, bike, and fashion sense. He has the pre-requisite “”healing factor”” which was all the rage at the time, only his is so ridiculous that it allows him to regenerate from a single drop of blood.
All of which is to say, Lobo has an enormous amount of ‘tude.
J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, and Simon Bisley took these desperately self-serious tropes and bludgeoned them with 2000AD style humor with absurdity, creative swearing, and violence cranked beyond the breaking point. There is drinking, carousing, and space dolphins. Even Lobo’s origin story reads like an heavy metal version of Action Comics #1, guaranteeing he squares off against Supes at every opportunity.
But Lobo, the book, is more than the sum of these things. Beneath its gore and hyper-masculinity is an incredible smart conversation about the state of comics at the time. He’s a lot like the Tick, if he killed people. Or what Deadpool wishes it was (in fact, Lobo predates Deadpool by 9 whole years.)
But I’ve said enough. Let’s grab some Lug beer and frag some people.
Technically, Omega Men #3 (written by Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen) marks the is the first appearance of Lobo.
However, this weird, glam-metal gunslinger is more of “rough draft” than Main Man. There’s the make-up, the muscles, and the motorcycle… but the pieces just don’t quite fit. If memory serves, the “modern” Lobo killed this “imposter” in a much later issue. You can skip this issue and miss out on nothing. (Nothing except the two-tone singlet)
Justice League International, L.E.G.I.O.N., and R.E.B.E.L.S.
Collects: Justice League International Omnibus Volume One Collects Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7-25, Justic League America #26-30, Justice League Annual #1, Justice League International Annual #2-3, Justice League Europe #1-6 And Suicide Squad #13.
(Lobo appears in Justice League International vol 1 #18-21)
There are many reasons to love Griffin & DeMatteis’ criminally overlooked Justice League International. It’s fun, it’s funny, and most importantly, it (re)introduces Lobo.
Which is done by having Lobo crash his spacehog through a building and into Guy Gardner’s head. Lobo then proceeds to take a contract from Apokolips to destroy the Justice League.
The next four issues are total lunacy. Limbs are torn off, dimensional portals are opened, Darkseid gets “walked in on.” This is how every single character should be introduced in everything.
“Not only am I doing you for free, fella — I’m gonna kill you in a brand new — and utterly disgusting — way!” – Lobo
Keith Giffen and Alan Grant’s L.E.G.I.O.N. follows a superteam of “”Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network.”” Basically, it’s a police force that different planets pay to use (this becomes important later on.)
This book follows a team lead by one of the Vril Dox (aka Brainiac II), the less evil of the group.
The series is a lot of fun, feeling like either The Legion of Super Heroes given a 90’s edge or like a pulpier Green Lantern. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly hard to find. This is for two reasons:
1.) It’s uncollected in print and unavailable online.
2.) It’s titling and number system is a mess. For instance. Each arc runs for a single year (L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89, ’90, and so on) but the series as a whole follows a continuous numbering system. This means that L.E.G.I.O.N. ’90 stops at #22, and L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 starts on #23. This can make finding online auctions incredibly confusing, as people will routinely screw up the name/number.
If you’re interested in this book, your best bet is to go to your LCS and check the longboxes of back issues and hope to find a bundle of them.
For this introductory arc we learn that an thinkable act has been committed: Someone has killed one of Lobo’s beloved space dolphins.
Now, the unspeakable must be done: Lobo must sorta work with the good guys.
Of course “good” is a relative term here.
Unfortunately, this whole title remains uncollected in print and largely unavailable digitally. Again, I blame the listing for that.
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’90 – #14-18, Annual #1, 19-22
Lobo is the prefered hitman of interalactic despots. When Darkseid wants a person, a planet, or an entire race killed, he calls Lobo. This means that the Main Man is known on a universal scale.
Which is why it makes perfect sense that the L.E.G.I.O.N. sends him undercover to infiltrate a pirate gang. Perfect sense!
From the Annual on, Lobo takes more of a supporting role / comedy relief.
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 – #23-31, Annual #2, 32-34
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 – #35-39, Annual #3, 41-47
Collects: Lobo #1-4, Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special #1, Lobo’S Back #1-4, Lobo: Blazing Chain Of Love #1, Lobo Convention Special #1, And Who’S Who In The Dc Universe #8.
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’93 – #48-52, 57-58, Annual #4, 61
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94 – #62-67, 69-70
The team has a spectacular falling out with the L.E.G.I.O.N. organization, leading to an end of this series and a beginning of another.
R.E.B.E.L.S ’95 – #5-6
Vril Dox (“Steve”) and what remains of the team is on the run from the L.E.G.I.O.N. organization. For some reason, bounty hunter and unofficial team member Lobo is along for this ride. I assume it’s because R.E.B.E.L.S. must act like criminals to survive.
Collects: Lobo #1-4, Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special #1, Lobo’s Back #1-4, Lobo: Blazing Chain Of Love #1, Lobo Convention Special #1, And Who’S Who In The Dc Universe #8.
Giffen and Grant are both fantastic action and comedy writers, and both had done a marvelous job laying down the basics of the character. But for a lot of people — myself included — Lobo’s real first appearance was in his solo books.
Some say it was the relaxed editorial restrictions, allowing for more absurdity and violence. Others say it just took this long for the character to build up a backstory and cult following. And while I believe both of these things are true, I think there was a bigger reason:
This is where Simon Bisley comes on board.
“The Biz” is a character unto himself, and the deserving subject of his own article. So rather than get in the weeds, here’s an extremely brief primer on the guy:
He’s a British artist who got his start painting and drawing content for 2000AD at an incredibly young age. He did important runs on both Sláine and Judge Dredd (among others). But most importantly, Simon Bisley is incredibly serious about the craft of his work (lighting, staging, color theory, etc). But he is very, very much winking at his audience.
Bisley’s way of pulling the audience in on the joke goes a long way to keeping the character a parody. Which becomes clear much later in the book as his influence wanes.
Collects: Lobo: Infanticide #1-4, Lobo: Death And Taxes #1-4, Lobo #58, Authority/Lobo: Jingle Hell And Authority/Lobo: Spring Break Massacre
Giffen, Grant, and Bisley continue their great work on this character. Their run seems to firmly cement how Lobo, as a character, works best: in self-contained, highly-themed one-shots and mini-series. And of course, Lobo works best when barely connected to the wider DC continuity.
To illustrate that, here are two of the standout stories from this book:
* Lobo finds out that he has a daughter. A daughter who has amassed an army of Lobo’s incredibly deadly offspring in an attempt to murder the Main Man. That’s right, an army of murderous teens and toddlers are gunning for Lobo. (I still can’t believe they did this)
* Lobo is hunted by his most deadly adversary yet: The Interstellar Revenue Service. (This being the first of several times Lobo fights dangerous accountants)
Collects: Lobo: Portrait Of A Victim One-Shot
John Doe is just one of many people who have been brutalized and victimized by Lobo over the years. And as he lays in his hospital bed, Doe reminisces about what brought him to the infirmary this time.
Collects: Lobo: Unamerican Gladiators #1-4
Mando Carno. The universe’s favorite bloodsport, in which the worst of the worst maim and kill one another for fabulous prizes. This year’s offerings are all the gold you can grab from the vaults of Gazza, a jewel-encrusted bazooka, even the planet Zarotey! The whole planet!
But of course, Lobo has no interest in any of these things. He’s ganking people for the love of the game alone.
Mike Mignola does some fine cover work on this series.
Collects: Lobo Annual #1 (1993), Lobo #1-64
By 1993, Lobo was a full-fledged comic book darling with a solid fanbase behind him. Naturally, DC ordered an on-going series to cash in. Unfortunately, Giffen largely exited the scene at this point, leaving his partner Grant to assume full writing duties.
Which, by itself, might not have been a problem. But over time, I think the move from mini-series to monthly in main continuity changed something about the character. Something got lost.
Maybe it’s the fact that fact that Lobo appeared in six big crossover events. Or maybe it’s the problem that for the first time, the character had to exist in the same universe as Batman and Superman. Lobo no longer had the luxury of existing in his own context, but had to make sense in a much wider one.
There were still some great issues in this run, but I personally feel it drifts into self-parody. Maybe it’s for that reason that DC has collected the Giffen/Grant years, but not Grant’s solo run.
A tight little introductory story for brand new fans. A good jumping-on point, if — for some insane reason — you want to start here.
The Qigly Affair – Lobo goes after a bounty worth a whopping 10 million credits. Unfortunately, it’s a wildly dangerous task, forcing Lobo to fight the lethal Dead Boys gang, a tank, and a creature that turns Lobo into a werewolf.
A series of one-offs. There are space truckers, and Lobo’s bike is destroyed.
The Losers – Lobo travels to Frontier World Z-113 to free his buddy, who is a four-armed gorilla who’s been trapped in a zoo. The two join up with a posse and head off in an adventure that’s reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven (but with a gorilla in it.)
Preacher Wars! – An astonishingly hung-over Lobo takes on a job protecting the suspiciously wealthy Reverend Phonus Balonus. Which leads to Lobo killing a lot of bad guys inside of a church, leading to cheers and applause from the pious and holy audience. Naturally, this praise lures Lobo into becoming a preacher himself. This… doesn’t go well…
Lobo begins his long conflict with the postal service. Lobo becomes a rockstar, in parody of the old television show trope.
Lobo, P.I. – The Main Man is dealt two devastating blows. First, Lobo has an enormous falling out with his employer, Bunsen’s Bounty, over an unpaid job. Second and worst of all, Al’s Diner (his favorite place to bust heads, burn to the ground, destroy, and home) closes “for good.” This leaves Lobo no choice but to start his own, hard boiled detective agency on another planet.
Lobo wrecks up an amusement park
Lobo waits in a men’s room to kill a mobster
The return of Space Cabbie, the man who doesn’t quite know he’s Lobo’s nemesis.
Lobo’s favorite radio station, and the only thing that keeps him in control, stops playing his song on repeat.
The Stargaze Rally! – Lobo attends the biggest biker event in the galaxy. Basically, it’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally only bigger, in space, and practically a 2000AD. In fact, one of the competing bikers is a Judge from Mega-City One! (No idea how that happened)
This whole arc is one, big death race.
Lobo celebrates his birthday. Lobo has a duel with rapiers, bi-planes, and hand-held nuclear bombs. A mortician must clean up after Lobo’s last barcrawl.
The Heiress – Lobo must escort a woman to her inheritance, located on the dangerous Slam City, an unstable satellite filled with the sorts of crazies who would live on such a thing.
Collects: Young Justice: Sins Of Youth #1
Superboy (Volume 4) #74
Young Justice: Sins Of Youth Secret Files And Origins #1
Sins Of Youth: Jla, Jr. #1
Sins Of Youth: Aquaboy And Lagoon Man #1
Sins Of Youth: Batboy And Robin #1
Sins Of Youth: Kid Flash And Impulse #1
Sins Of Youth: Starwoman And The Jsa, Jr. #1
Sins Of Youth: Superman, Jr. And Superboy, Sr. #1
Sins Of Youth: Wonder Girls #1
Sins Of Youth: Secret And Deadboy #1
Young Justice: Sins Of Youth #2
This is a good Young Justice story, but not a great Lobo story. (Lobo appears in the final book)
Collects: Young Justice #20-32
Young Lobo joins the team for issues 20-25. Again, if you like Young Justice, this is for you. But if you’re after Lobo… probably not.
Lobo (briefly) returns
Collects: Lobo Unbound #1-6
After more than a decade away, Keith Giffen returns to write Lobo! This 6-issue mini-series is a little meta, focusing on Lobo trying to regain his street cred from the 90s mini-series days.
Collects: 52 #1-52
(Lobo appears in issues 17, 19, 20, 28, 31-32, 35-37, 51)
52 was DC’s way of reintroducing some of its misfit characters into the new universe. Which in this case means Lobo has joined up with Starfire, Animal Man, Adam Strange and a few other folks handle a cosmic mystery. Beginning with “”Why is Lobo a religious leader to three planets?!””
Collects: Reign In Hell #1-8
Hell is up for grabs, causing Blue Devil, Doctor Fate, Zatanna, Deadman, and a bunch of DC’s magic elite to go into the underworld to make sure the right regime takes the throne.
The group travels there only to find out that Hell’s only prison has a single occupant: Lobo.
This is a Keith Giffen joint, and has a number of great ideas as a result.
Collects: Green Lanern #53-60, Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special #1, Green Lantern (2011) #1-20, Green Lantern Annual #1, Green Lantern Corps #58-60, And Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #8-10.
(Lobo Appears in Green Lantern #54-55)
Lobo comes to Earth to win a bounty on the head of Attrocitus, the head of the Red Lanterns. Which earns him a red power ring instead!
Collects: R.E.B.E.L.S. (2010-2011) #19-28
Vril Drox once more recruits The Main Man. This time, to go after Brainiac himself. This ultimately leads Lobo to be an official member of R.E.B.E.L.S., sword to protect the Planet Raan (the adopted home of Adam Strange!)
Rob Liefeld’s folly and the new, “sexy” Lobo
Collects: Deathstroke (Vol 2) #9-20
Rob Liefeld is the reason we can’t have nice things. Some bright spark at DC must have decided that Rob’s experience creating The Merc with the Mouth must make him the perfect candidate for rebooting Lobo. This completely ignores the fact that Rob’s version of Deadpool was not actually funny, and was instead the exact kind of character Lobo was originally designed to mock.
Rob took Lobo, the anti-hero who fans had loved for decades, and transformed him into a monster that killed the rest of his race (except for a princess he maybe took hostage?), and now flys the galaxy as a slaver. Lobo, who has fought as Superman’s ally on numerous occasions and very nearly joined the Justice League, now sells living beings into bondage.
DC allowed Liefeld to create the character in hopes of giving him an on-going series again, and Rob does this.
All of this happens in the pages of Deathstroke (Lobo unfortunately appears in Deathstroke Vol 2 #10-12), which Rob was writing because no one remember that Rob ripped him off to make Deadpool.
Collects: Lobo (Vol 3) #1-6
A new bounty hero claiming to be the one, true Lobo shows up to murder the Rob Liefeld version of the character.
Collects: Lobo (Vol 3) #7-9. Lobo Annual (Vol 3) #1, Dc Sneak Peek: Lobo
Sexy ‘Bo teams up with a group of assassins called The Void Whisper in an attempt to uncover the identity of who has been pulling Lobo’s strings all these years.
Bunn and Brown find their stride, having finished clearing out the trash in Vol 1.
Lobo Vol. 3
Collects: Lobo (Vol 3) 10-13
Not yet collected
“Sexy Lobo'” meets his unceremonious end with this small appearance in GLC showing a shrunken version of him that’s trapped in a bottle, leaving Hal to remark that no one wants him freed.
The Re-Return of 90’s Lobo
Collects: CBH reading order
The old Lobo is new again, popping back up during big cross-over battle.
Collects: Justice League Of America #1-6, Justice League Of America: Rebirth #1
Batman restarts the Justice League of America, turning it into a wild vigilante squad containing Black Canary, Killer Frost, The Atom, and… Lobo? Steve Orlando makes it feels like an amalgamation of The Outsiders and The Suicide Squad, with everyone hellbent to earn their redemption.
Collects: Justice League Of America #7-11
If book one was the big, splashy birth of an audacious experiment, then this book is the stereotypical “I am already having doubts about the team of murderers and ungodly powerful people I’ve put together.” Way to think things through, Detective.
Collects: Justice League Of America #12-17
Batman, Killer Frost, and Lobo join the new Atom in search of Ray Palmer. Tiny Lobo versus the Microverse!
Collects: Justice League Of America #18-21 And Annual #1.
Batman quits the team, Vixen takes over as lead, and the team faces off against Prometheus (Grant Morrison’s Evil Batman). Prometheus’ whole deal is that he’s a master tactician, able to anticipate a hero’s any move. Let’s see how that works well against the drunken chaos monster that is The Main Man.
Collects: Justice League Of America #22-29.
Batman returns for the team’s final fight. This time, they’re up against Chronos, the Time Thief, who is planning to kill Ahl, the God of All Superheroes. This is exactly the kind of high-octane nonsense that we expect from Lobo!
Lobo vs. Superman
This is a retcon issue. The kind of story that’s flashback heavy, taken on more as an act of good housekeeping than enjoyment.
Which is why contrivance for this issue centers around Lobo trying to kill Jimmy Olsen with a flying taxi cab.
Bless you, Roger Stern, for giving the people what they want.
Part one of a two part story.
Lobo travels to Earth to film himself beating up Superman. Spends all of his time in a bar instead.
Part two of a two part story.
Lobo shows up to the Fortress of Solitude uninvited, drunk, and with his own audience.
Lobo shares some choice words. Then he kicks Superman in the face. Then, for some reason, a fight breaks out.
Lar Gand is a former member of the L.E.G.I.O.N. turned villain. Lobo and the rest of the L.E.G.I.O.N. have pursued him to Earth. But when Superman shows up, Lobo mistakes the big blue boyscout for his prey and — against his teammate’s wishes — launches every missile on the ship at Supes. Then Lobo leaps out of the ship to I guess punch him to death.
It’s important to note that this takes place after the two fought in Adventures of Superman #464. So how did Lobo mistake Superman, the most iconic hero in the Universe and a man he’s fought before, with a former teammate?
The canonical reason given in the issue is that Lobo was very drunk for their last fight, so he just assumes he’s only ever heard of Superman.
In Other Media
Based on the one-shot of the same name, The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special follows Lobo who’s been hired by the Easter Bunny to kill Santas Claus.
And as ridiculous as that is, the story behind the making of this video is almost crazier. Special effects artist Scott Lebrecht was enrolled in the prestigious American Film Institute’s (AFI) director’s studies program. This was in 2002 — before Facebook, YouTube, or the iPhone — so the overwhelming majority of the public weren’t even aware of fan films.
And yet that’s exactly what Lebrecht convinced the AFI to not only create, but to make one based on an incredibly violent comic book. Which AFI then showed on television. Which then got Lebrecht a job doing special effects for kids movies.
The film looks a little dated now, but the fact that it got made at all still feels like the most “Lobo” thing on this list.
The Main Man – A classic “”Lobo is hired to capture Superman. Lobo gets double-crossed by his employer. Lobo and Superman join forces”” story
Warrior Queen – Lobo makes a walk-on guest appearance.
Hereafter – Lobo, believing that Superman is dead, demands to join the Justice League as his replacement. Then Superman returns and is an ungrateful jerk.
Happy New Year! – Has a contract out on a member of the United Nations and we’re meant to believe that a bunch of fraggin’ children could stop him.
Follow That Space Cab! – Superman and Hawkman vs. Lobo!
Rage of the Red Lanters – Justice Leage and the Red Lantern Corps team up to fight a super-powered Lobo
There’s an Earth-3 a purely evil version of Lobo called “Warwolf” with a minor role in this film.
Lobo appears in this WB fighting game. Great for local play, problematic over network.
Warning: This is a mobile game
Novels and Novelizations
An original story by Alan Grant himself, focusing on Lobo, Superman, and Martian Manhunter. The story revolves around an evil collector who is out to destroy all live, and he starts with these three characters, each of whom is the last surviving member of their race.