Golden Age Showcase: Lobo

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day everyone!

Image result for martin luther king star trek fan

Today is the birthday of one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders and in honor of the day I’m also going to post the video to his famous “I have a Dream” speech, which I highly encourage you to watch since it is one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century.

Fun fact: the man was also a huge Star Trek fan.

Image result for martin luther king star trek fan

He was such a huge fan that he personally begged Nichelle Nichols to keep her iconic role as Lt. Nyota Uhura on the show.

Image result for uhura

Don’t believe me?  The Washington Post can do a better job of explaining it than I can.

Anyway, another tradition that this blog has for Martin Luther King Jr. Day is talking about black representation in the comic book industry.  Today I thought it would be nice to talk about the first black comic book character to star in his own solo comic book series: Lobo.

Image result for dell comics lobo

Origin and Career

The character made his debut in his own self titled series in December of 1965.

Image result for dell comics lobo

The comic was published by a company called Dell Comics, which had survived the comic book crash of the 1950’s by publishing Disney licensed comics and grew to become the largest comic book publisher of the 1960’s.

He was created by writer and Dell Comics editor Don Arneson and artist Tony Tallarico.  Both of them were white men from Minneapolis and Brooklyn respectively and thought that having a black cowboy as the main character of a series might be a good sales hook to lure interested readers.

Since the comic was published two years after King’s famous speech and in the middle of the American Civil Rights movement  I can see the logic.

The story itself starts off at the very end of the Civil War, where it is revealed that the main character fought for the Union and is happy to finally be free.

Unfortunately, the unit is attacked by a bunch of Confederate soldiers who haven’t heard that the war is over.  The main character is fed up with the violence and decides to move West to start a new life for himself.  He becomes a cattle drover on a ranch where he is framed for murder and decides to become a vigilante and hunt down other criminals.  His trademark is a gold coin with a wolf’s head on it, which is where he gets his name since “Lobo” is Spanish for wolf.

His name is never revealed and his race is never brought up as a point of contention.  He’s a good and capable man who just happens to be black.

Now, believe it or not, this story does have some basis in historical fact.  There were black soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War,

Image result for black civil war soldiers

many people did move out west in an attempt to start a new life after the war and there were black cowboys such as Nat Love who worked in the West as cattle drivers.

Image result for black cowboys

So we have a publishing company at the height of its power, with a character based in a genre that was doing really well at the time and steeped in historical fact, coupled with a good creative team telling a story about a black man in the middle of one of the most progressive and forward looking eras in American history.

What could possibly go wrong?

So what happened?

The series was cancelled due to poor sales numbers.  Basically, how the industry worked back then was that publishers would print a certain number of copies of a book and sell it to retailers who would mark up the price and sell it to the public.  Any copies that weren’t sold would have their covers cut off and returned to the publisher.

After publishing the first issue of Lobo comic book retailers returned over 90% of the copies that Dell Comics had shipped out.

It’s worth mentioning that this is not the case with comic book distribution today since the distribution industry doesn’t allow returns and is dominated by a singe company called Diamond Distributors,

Image result for diamond distribution

but that is another story.

While there is not official explanation for the crappy sales numbers it’s probably safe to assume that a comic book with a gun wielding black man on the cover in 1960’s America probably didn’t go over very well with the majority of the American comic book buying public, who just so happened to be white.
Image result for dell comics lobo

Still, it was a well written, well drawn character with some serious and well meaning effort behind his creation and while we may never grace the cover of another comic book ever again, his position in the annuls of comic book history is assured as the first African American solo comic book character.

Image result for dell comics lobo

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Enough Space for Everybody

Boy, it’s been waaay to long since I’ve done one of these.

For anyone who might not know, I run a blog series where I talk about cool crowdfunded comic books I like and try to help them out for free.  Unfortunately, silly things like work and sleep tend to get in the way so I don’t get to do this as often as I like.

However, today I was feeling especially awake and I decided to browse the projects on Kickstarter and I found this!

The project is a science fiction comic book anthology with a really intriguing twist: it’s a collection of sci fi stories without any military or imperialism themes, tones, or stories.

The project is headed by J.N Monk and needs to raise $30,000 to pay for artists, editing, printing, and shipping.

Kickstarter link:

Why I like it

I’ll be honest, when I first read the project description I was a tad confused.

You see, I am a guy who likes comic books and science fiction.  This means that, for most of my life, this is the kind of sci fi I’ve been raised on:

As you can see it’s big, brash, loud, and awesome, but “Enough Space for Everyone” is trying to do science fiction without all the guns, fighting, and violence and that intrigues me.

For me, and I would assume almost everyone else who likes science fiction, the genre is at its best when it creates timeless stories that speak to some particular part of the human condition

By setting stories in the distant future authors allow their stories to become timeless.  After all, we won’t have to worry about a sci fi story being dated because we’ll be long dead by the year 10191

and the wondrous technology that sci fi is known for allows its creator to physically show the reader everything from the meaning of humanity,

To the dangers of our hubris.

The reason why I think conflict is so prevalent in science fiction is because it makes a story easy to understand.

War and violence are one of the few constants in human history and it is something that everyone understands at some level.

Sci fi often uses conflict to set up two opposing sides and use each side to explain the point he/she is trying to make.  One side is good, the other is bad, here’s why, and this is what happens when one side wins.

But if science fiction is a way to explore the human condition, why do we have to always limit ourselves to conflict?  Aren’t there other emotions and ideas that humans have been coping with for thousands of years?  Why can’t science fiction tell those kinds of stories?

The creators of “Enough Space for Everyone” want to write sci fi stories like that and claim that “there is enough space for friendship, for art competitions, for understanding, for magical nights at the theater, for creativity, for vacations, for new beginnings.”

I like this project because I have spent a LOT of time with violent military sci fi and I want to see what stories from other perspectives look like.

Why you should donate

Another interesting thing about science fiction is that a lot of its art tends to rely on a very specific, very detail oriented, very realistic style.

But “Enough Space for Everyone Else” takes a very different approach, preferring to promote artwork that is much less realistic and almost childlike.

I’m not advocating one style of art over another, I’m simply saying that this comic anthology is different from what a lot of people normally associate with science fiction and that’s a good thing.

Which brings me to the biggest reason why I think more people should support this project: it’s different from so many other stories out there.

Whether you like it or not, the past forty years of science fiction has been dominated by two pop culture behemoths,

Almost every work of mainstream science fiction has tried to emulate these two franchises in theme, tone, and visual aesthetic from the idea of a giant galactic war that threatens to tear entire galaxies apart,

to re purposed colonization and exploration stories that used to be about the Wild West but now take place in outer space.

Personally, I think it’s time that science fiction tries to break away from these two narratives and tries something new.  It’s time for a change and “Enough Space for Everyone Else” is a great start.

So if you’re interested in promoting and encouraging science fiction that seeks to bring a new diversity of ideas and stories back to a genre that we all know and love, consider donating to this campaign.

Kickstarter link:

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Aria

Today I’d like to talk about one of my favorite genres in all of literature: science fiction.  The project I want to talk about is a Kickstarter campaign for the prologue and first chapter of what is hopefully going to be a much larger work called Aria.

Aria cvr by JOEYDES

The comic is written and drawn by Joseph DeSantos and is the very definition of a passion project.  According to the campaign page Mr. DeSantos states that the idea for the project came from his frustration with some of the more unsavory aspects of our modern culture such as greed and corruption among the rich and powerful on a seemingly epidemic scale, widespread ecological destruction, and the massive gulf between the haves and have nots.  It is intended to be a story that spans thousands of years.

The prologue and the first issue are intended to give more detail on the backstory

panel 4 page 1 Aria#1

and to introduce two of the main characters, the Earth Air Force engineer Talia Green and the mysterious alien Ya’Ren.

pg. 10 Aria#1- First face to face of Tali and Ya'Ren

The project is currently on Kickstarter and needs a little under $2000 to meet its goal as of writing this article.

Kickstarter campaign link:

Why I like it:

This is probably the most personal I will ever get in this article series.  I have actually had the chance to work with the writer/artist on this project before.  It was on a separate project of my own creation that unfortunately fell through for various reasons that I won’t go into here.  I will say that Joe DeSantos was not one of those reasons and he was a blast to work with.  I will also say that out of all the artists I have seen he is one of the best at drawing emotion into his characters.

Kickstarter exclusive print featuring the cast of Aria#2!!

Talenthouse Submission by JOEYDES


You always get a sense of what’s going on in each character’s mind and to me that’s the hallmark of a great artist.

I’d also like to take a moment to say that Aria is the sort of speculative sci fi project I have a soft spot for.  I love stories about Earth in the distant future, all the problems the future holds, all the potential solutions, and how the future can be used to comment on the present.

So basically I’m saying this is the sort of project that is being developed by an artist I like in a genre I really like.  Yes, I am somewhat biased towards this project.

Why you should donate:

For starters the artwork and story for the Prologue and First Chapter are already done, the campaign is just there to cover the cost of printing.  In an uncertain world it’s nice to know that there are places you can get your money’s worth in a timely manner.

The second reason is a bit more…intellectual.  This is by no means a definitive statement but you can argue that most, if not all, of science fiction can be divided into two very broad camps.

The first type of sci fi story can be seen in movies and shows like Star Wars.


These are the kinds of shows and movies that go to the audience and say “hey, here’s a fun cool looking product that doesn’t have much in the way of a deep message or big important point but look, laser swords!  Space fighters!  Awesome story and characters!”.  We know something like Star Wars isn’t going to challenge our minds and make us think too much (the prequels tried to do that but failed) but we don’t care.  Star Wars science fiction is science fiction as pure entertainment.

 The second type of science fiction story is the kind that bears a lot of similarities to shows like Star Trek.


These types of shows tend to attempt to imbue their stories with a deeper meaning behind the effects and future technology.  Star Trek attempted to broaden the minds of the audience and while future tech like the transporters were designed as a cost cutting measure, the message of exploration, attempts at peaceful co existence with other alien species, and the all around positive vibes of organizations like Starfleet served as a critique of the present day and as a message of hope and optimism.

Now granted, this is by no means a definitive idea.  There are plenty of shows and works of sci fi that bridge both camps but Aria firmly places itself in the Star Trek camp.  By using a past where humanity’s decisions have practically doomed our planet the work serves as a scathing critique of our society and an exploration of what could happen to us.

As I said before, I like the artist and I like the project.  This is definitely something worth checking out.

Campaign link: