Lobo, DC Comics' bounty hunter from outer space, is the joke who was quickly taken very seriously.
The snarling, cigar-chomping Main Man riding his Spacehog 'round the galaxy was introduced in 1983, in a comic book that wasn't exactly setting newsstands on fire, Omega Men No. 3, written by Roger Slifer and drawn by Keith Giffen. Lobo was just one bad guy among several, a killer and kidnapper whose attitude and appearance was intended "as an indictment of the Punisher, Wolverine bad-ass hero prototype," Giffen later told Newsarama.
Which people adored. Admired. Loved.
"Somehow he caught on as the high-violence poster boy," Giffen said of The Last Czarnian. "Go figure."
Twenty-eight years later, he's nearly as much a DC mainstay as the holy Trinity or any other member of the Justice League. He's carried several titles of his own, from a mini-series to specials and spinoffs to a decent run under his own banner to countless guest shots in best-selling books. Only months ago he was a key player in Dark Nights: Death Metal, the universe-resetting series that yet again made over the DC multiverse. And for years there has even been talk of a Lobo movie.
In large part, the character's enduring popularity can be credited to the artist who made Lobo the beloved bastich he is today: Simon Bisley, the self-taught British artist who got his start rocking heavy-metal magazines, made his case drawing Judge Dredd, scored a Doom Patrol cover for DC and wound up owning the intergalactic mercenary who bounced around a few other titles until scoring his own eponymous mini-series in 1990.
And it's that very first cover to that very first issue that now heads to auction for the very first time.
Bisley's painted cover for Lobo No. 1 is a centerpiece in Heritage Auctions
' April 1-4 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction event. For a generation of readers and artists, Bisley's work inand onthis book changed everything.
In a 2019 interview with the webzine DC in the 80s, Eisner Award-winning illustrator Jim Rugg said that when he first saw Bisley's cover to the 99-cent book, his initial reaction was a simple, "WTF?"
Said Rugg, "Simon Bisley's Lobo was radically different than what I was familiar with. I bought it and read it immediately. Reading just ratcheted up the weirdness. The unusual art and the strange story combined for a very memorable experience. Shocking -- not because of the violence per se, but the overall tone of the book was unlike any comic I had encountered up to that point. It was disturbing but also funny. Unique and weird and looked amazing. It represents what I like in a comic book and nailing story/art is very rare.
"When I read it, it blew my mind. Simon Bisley's art was a revelation. This was 1990. I was reading Mark Bagley's New Warriors, Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man, Rob Liefeld's New Mutants, Jim Lee's Uncanny X-Men. This was an era of dark, violent superheroes, but I had never seen anything that looked like Lobo or read like Lobo. I wanted more. It was so different and wild. It felt like anything could happen. Lobo was a maniac. I liked the Punisher and Wolverine, but Lobo was a whole other level of madness."
Bisley's cover to Lobo No. 1 serves as perfect introduction and quintessential portraita drop of blood drawn by the psychotic grin beneath a maniac's mane, that half-stare-half-squint with eyes red as the devil, and the rock-and-roll get up more mental than metal.
There's no doubt Bisley's Lobo is belovedand highly coveted. Earlier this year, Heritage offered his original painted cover to the 1991 trade paperback Lobo: The Last Czarnian, which collected the four-issue mini-series, and it realized more than $50,000 after heated bidding. Now comes the very first Lobo. The main attraction featuring The Main Man.
In a 2019 interview, Bisley said of all the characters he's ever drawn, of course Lobo is "my ultimate favorite, because I reinvented him and made him my own."
Soon, it will be someone else's.