Monday, September 30, 2013

Comic Book Review: LOBO # 55 (September, 1998).

Comic Book Review:  LOBO # 55 (September, 1998).

As we used to say in the old APA and Fanzine days… 

THE ISSUE AT HAND IS:  LOBO # 55 (Cover Date: September, 1998)
Published by DC Comics. 

 Summary:  Lobo doesn't lead "lambs to the slaughter"  -- he brings the slaughter to the lambs!  

Bonus Summary Pun:  "Double or Mutton"! 

Let’s begin with an abbreviated version of my “stock introduction” to Lobo, for the few who may be unfamiliar with him:

Lobo is the most feared bounty hunter in all of Space. Armed with a massive hook and chain, and riding a souped-up “space bike”, he is the scourge of wanted men (or beasts) throughout the cosmos.  He is the self-proclaimed “Main Man”! 

He’s even given Superman his share of trouble.  And, as Lobo told us in his animated debut:  I can do trouble!” 
With a cursory resemblance to the members of the rock band KISS and the fashion sense of the WWE, he possesses the requisite measure of strength and invulnerability, is ruthless in the pursuit of his quarry or his goals, yet lives by an unusually strong, but quirky, “code of honor”.

…And, no one “frags a bastich” quite like Lobo! 

Now, on with the fraggin’ show! 

What I Did on My Holiday”.  22 pages.   
Click to enlarge on all comic pages!
On some far-off world, a class of alien high school students has just returned from their summer vacation.  Note the student population:

A “Charlie Brown Shirt-Wearer” is cut off at the extreme left.  Middle / right is a “Betty Boop-like kid” and to the far upper right is a “Bazooka Joe-kinda kid” sans eye patch. 

But our main focus, sitting right up front as you’d expect him to, is “Cecil B. Geecky”, looking for all the world like a purple alien version of “Cleveland Brown, Jr.”, from the THE CLEVELAND SHOW.  This is all the more odd, because FAMILY GUY had not yet made its debut.  Sometimes, coincidences just happen! 


Cecil tells the story of his purple alien family’s vacation trip to “…The exciting new theme park --Sheepworld”, where loose sheep abound, and all the attractions are based on (You guessed it!) sheep, including the park’s main draw; “The Hall of Sheep Fame”! 

How did they ever fail to put a smaller sign under “Hall of Sheep Fame” that says “Fame is Bleating”?! 

Oh, well… I didn’t write (or dialogue) it, though I’d LOVE a shot at LOBO someday.  It’s the only DC comic I feel I could really do well with!  But, I digress…

Meanwhile, Lobo, partnered with an attractive female bounty hunter, is on the trail of the four members of “The Shapeshifter Gang”.  The gang has eluded their pursuers, and fled to (You guessed it, again!) Sheepworld. 

"The Shapeshifter Gang" -- Looks like The Ghostly Trio, Plus One! 

As expected, Lobo frags a number of sheep while trying to “out” the shapeshifters, which he eventually does, but not without raining much carnage upon the park and its visitors, leaving young Cecil B. Geecky with one heck of a vacation story to tell his class!  

A tale to tell the class! 
Also, as expected in a Lobo story, events do not end there for poor Master Cecil… Oh, but we try not to “spoil” in these reviews! 
Lobo sez: "NO SPOILERS, ya Bastich!

Ah, but one thing we DO in these reviews, is break things into CONS and PROS. 


The Story Title:  Ever since my brief turn at professionally scripting Disney comic books, I can’t help but look at certain things in comics and imagine how *I’d* do ‘em!  One of my favorite things to do was to create TITLES for the stories I scripted – and, instead of the Way-Too-Generic-for-LOBO “What I Did on My Holiday”, I’d have called this one:  Baa-Baa Frag Sheep!” 

…And I still like “Fame is Bleating”, too!  So sue (or frag) me! 

Comics DC Wants Us to Buy (Advertised in This Issue):  Anyone remember this?  If not, consider yourselves lucky to have avoided this cheap stunt… I wish *I* had! 

 You Know the Names.  But You Don’t Know the Secrets of – TANGENT COMICS.  The biggest names in comics in nine world-shaking specials.  Raising the stakes this July.” 

Yep!  It’s all of the classic DC character NAMES, with new meaningless one-shot characters created around them.  Superman”, “The Batman”, “Wonder Woman”, etc.  Unfortunately, in the nineties and if they were from DC, I bought ‘em all… when there were some things I shoulda skipped. 

No 'Bo!  Leave the REAL Superman alone!

Go after this POSER, instead!

 The PROS:

It’s LOBO:  Lobo might have been my most favorite DC title of the nineties – and, given DC’s great quality with the Superman and Batman lines of the time, that’s really saying something!  Lobo was FUNNY (albeit in a violent, sometimes sick sorta way) – and “FUNNY” is something that is missing from today’s DC Comics, and comic books in general. 

It’s LOBO written by Alan Grant:  Alan Grant came out of the wonderful British comics publication 2000 AD, where he wrote the humorous-but-violent feature JUDGE DREDD, first partnered with DREDD’s regular writer John Wagner and then on his own. 

 Grant moved to the States, and to DC Comics, where he was a mainstay on Batman titles (notably, DETECTIVE COMICS and BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT) and supplanted Lobo’s creator Keith Giffen as my personal favorite of Lobo’s writers. 

Detective Comics # 604 written by Alan Grant
Alan Grant brought with him from 2000 AD a sense of superbly cinematic, over-the-top, explosive violence, and a bizarrely humorous vision that fit perfectly with Lobo.  Grant wrote pretty much the entire nineties LOBO regular series, which remains one of my best comic-book memories of the nineties. 
LOBO # 25 written by Alan Grant

It’s DC Comics, of the Nineties:  In the nineties, as opposed to today, DC Comics could do no wrong.  (Okay, maybe not useless gimmicks like “Tangent” – but MOSTLY “no wrong”!)  I’d extend this streak back into the eighties.  Even their seventies comics were “okay”, if less distinguished, but that was a lesser period for most publishers. 

Never mind DC’s landmark accomplishments of the Silver Age, which pretty much BECAME the cornerstone for mainstream comic books ever since.  

DC Comics Silver Age Logo.

Such a pity, DC lost its way (and lost ME) in the 21st Century.  With the departure of President and Editor-in-Chief Jenette Khan and Executive VP and Publisher Paul Levitz, DC Comics was never the same.  But, they sure were great BACK THEN, and for most of their long and illustrious history!  
DC Comics Logo - when they were best!

Comics DC Wants Us to Buy (Also Advertised in This Issue):  DC One Million”:  Witness the ultimate vision of the DC Universe.  From the minds of Grant Morrison and Val Semeiks.”

Unlike “Tangent”, this actually WAS worth buying!  Imagine if all then-present DC Comics series reached their “One Millionth Issue” – in the same month (!), and all in one good interconnecting story set in the far future of the DC Universe!  

Um, we’ll just ignore the fact that ACTION and DETECTIVE COMICS would reach that impossible milestone well over a half-century before LOBO would – and just enjoy the story.  Grant Morrison was DC’s most innovative writer of the decade, and virtually anything he touched turned to gold.  “DC One Million” was no exception. 

Oh, and with DC restarting all their titles in 2011, as part of their “New 52” stunt, I suppose the timetable for “One-Millionth-numbered” DC titles has been pushed-back further than ever!  Though it DOES markedly increase the possibility of the titles reaching “Issue Number One Million” all at the SAME TIME, so maybe Grant Morrison was more prophetic than I ever imagined! 
Maybe they REALLY DID come out on the same day, after all!

 Gag Creator Credits:  A hallmark of the LOBO title were “Gag Creator Credits” that were, in some way tied into the subject matter of the story – much as the credits on each year’s SIMPSONS “Treehouse of Horror” jokingly tie into Halloween.  As our story was “sheep-themed”, we were treated to such credits as:  Script: “F. Ewe Grant” (Alan Grant), Pencils: “Aries Jorgensen” (Arnie Jorgensen), Assoc. Ed: “Tony Baadaard” (Tony Bedard – GOTTA love THAT one!), and Editor: “Bad Dan Ramsbottom” (Bad Dan Raspler). 

Bonus Bottom-Tier Comic Strip:  Later in its run, LOBO developed yet another stylistic quirk that was never seen in another comic book title – a “Bonus Bottom-Tier Comic Strip”.  Like the gag credits, the subject matter of the strip, running at the bottom of various story pages, hooked into an aspect of the subject of our story.  Here, we had examples of taken from the aforementioned “Hall of Sheep Fame”, strewn across the lower tier of several story pages.  Here’s an example or two…

Letter Columns:  Once upon a time, comic books had Letter Columns, in which readers who were able to express themselves with writing skills in excess of the minimum requirements necessary for a “text” or a “tweet”, would partake in an exchange with the book’s editor (or one of his or her assistants).  Published comments were almost always both intelligent and fun. 

LOBO had a rather unique letter column, in that it was conducted by Lobo himself.  You addressed Lobo and, in his inimitable way, he would wise-off back at you.  I was once a regular in the LOBO Letter Column and at least one of those exchanges (in response to a particular “Bonus Bottom-Tier Comic Strip”) is worthy of a Blog post of its own.  I’ll put it up someday. 
Delivering letters to LOBO? 
Oddly, the only other two comic book letter columns that were conducted by their “host characters” (of which I am aware) were DC’s GUY GARDNER, and (believe it or not) Disney Comics’ GOOFY ADVENTURES.  So, yes… Over the years I’ve exchanged written words with Lobo, Guy Gardner, and Goofy!  …Funny, how they never leave comments on my Blog. 


The Word “Bastich”:  A sort of pseudo-curse word, which sounds like a more well-known actual one, was Lobo’s term for anyone he didn’t like.  Bastich”, along with “frag”, became catchphrases (okay, more catch-WORDS, than “phrases”) for Lobo to the point where their use became almost smile-inducing to Lobo’s readers.  Indeed, in Lobo’s letter columns, it was somewhat of an honor to be called a “Bastich”.

Lobo, as a character, and as a comic book series, is not for everyone.  No one will ever confuse LOBO with (oh, say…) “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” – though Frag-ship is Magic does have some potential!  Not to mention The Mane Man!”  (I’ve got one very close friend out there whom I know will appreciate this pony bitApologies to the rest of you!) 

LOBO # 55 is a “middling” issue, as they go, and close to the (alas) end of the run of 66 issues.  But it is great fun. 

Rapid-Fire Sheep Pun Closing Alert: This is no “sheep” trick.  You “wool” trust me on this, won’t “ewe”?  For the “shear” delight of it all, grab a copy of LOBO # 55 before somebody “bleats” you to it – and all you can say is “Baaa!  Humbug!” 


scarecrow33 said...

When Lobo's on board, you can pretty much guarantee that the story's gonna go where you might never expect, and the conventions and rules of storytelling will be broken (along with a few necks and heads).

My personal favorite Lobo outings are--(1)the first issue of the Bloodlines summer annuals--unlike those that followed, which were presented in no particular order, the Lobo story was the beginning point, as he made first contact with the aliens before they reached earth. It was my first Lobo read, and remains my favorite.
(2) Guy Gardner Reborn--where Lobo assists Guy to retrieve Sinestro's power ring--great story!
(3) Lobo's "animated debut" in the Superman series, alluded to above.

But I have one bone to pick with you, Joe--Lobo is the only DC character you could write a good story for? I take exception to that, my friend. Bring on Blue Beetle, Mr. Miracle, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, the Justice League, the Flash, Aquaman--hey, bring on Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman while we're at it--and you could deliver an awesome, rich-with-wordplay script that would absolutely sizzle! And by the way, you could probably deliver a great Lobo story on top of all that! Don't sell yourself short! You have the gift! You can do it all, my friend, you truly can!

Enjoyed this post, as always. Have a fantastic day!

Joe Torcivia said...

Wow! That’s some complement, Scarecrow! I deeply appreciate that! …Really!

I suppose I’d like to have had a shot at Guy Gardner and G’nort, too… as well as Impulse.

And, the scripting style of the ‘80s JUSTICE LEAGUE / JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL *was* sort of an influence on that way I approached the Disney comics I was privileged to script. But, I don’t think that’s the kinda stuff DC would want anymore. Too bad…

Lobo was the one I REALLY wanted to do! Mostly because I admired the great amount of humor the writers got out of the various characters and situations – and the stories were truly as wide-open as the entire universe! From alien high school kids’ summer vacations, to pursuing his quarry literally into the afterlife; and exiting the belly of a great space-whale (…in precisely the way you’d expect Lobo to do it!) everything was open and fair game to Lobo!

I actually forgot that Lobo kicked-off “Bloodlines”, but I remember well “Guy Gardner Reborn” and even own an original art page or two (featuring Guy and Lobo – two of my faves, of course) from it.

And, Lobo’s debut (“The Main Man” Parts One and Two, on SUPERMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES) was, to me, one of the greatest moments in modern animation! I even saw Part One previewed at a convention, where it received a great reaction from a packed room!

Funny thing is, I picked LOBO # 55 totally at random to re-read! It could have been ANY issue, as they’re ALL great… And I thought, I have to review this one! So, here we are!