Note: Late last week we got an unexpected surprise from DC Entertainment with the big reveal of a new design for Lobo. Although the character had already debuted in the “New 52” before, this new design brings with it a revised origin that makes the original, more traditional, Lobo a imposter with this more lithe mercenary as the real deal. Since then there’s been some slight back-pedaling that makes us think this may not be his final form, but until we have the actual comic in our hands we’re going with this one. Click below the image to see what the assembled P:R Staff (and guest commentator Eric Esquivel) thinks about his Kenneth Rocafort design. – Chris A.
Dean: I feel like DC is legitimately just trolling us now. I mean US: Project: Rooftop. Look, I’m not a Lobo fan. I don’t care about the “sanctity of the Lobo concept,” as I do for those of Batman and Superman and their allies, but man, this just looks like a pile of nothing. There’s nothing unifying or even interesting (besides the vest…maybe?) in all these lines. It’s a generic video game character with no identity or cleverness at all. Nothing against the artist, who seems to have taken a few better swings at this, only for DC to settle on the one most clearly designed to put off old fans of the character and draw in…I don’t know, single, thirty-five-year-old video game players who don’t naturally like superhero comics? I could see the blue hair streaks or the vest being cool elements, if they weren’t being battled by a million incongruous elements scattered about Lobo’s newly emaciated form. It smacks of, like much of DC’s current aesthetic, “kinda trying to make the character look cool for the movies.” Honestly, I don’t really care, but the fact that THEY don’t care drives me insane.
Vito: I fall in the same camp. I’m not a Lobo fan by any stretch, so I don’t particularly care if the character appears, doesn’t appear, gets redesigned or not. And this, for my part, isn’t a slam on Ken Rocafort. But it just reads as, “design by committee.” I can’t imagine this was a happy or fun experience for Ken. All I see is, “Add a vest!” “More lines!” And if you look at some of the other designs (ok, two: http://www.dccomics.com/blog/2013/08/23/whats-new-in-the-new-52-lobos-new-look#1), it looks like they almost went with one that was more traditional.
The standard I hold all our contests to is simple; “Does this concept inspire a story within me.” No one is asking for my take on Lobo, but this guy here? In my eyes, this fella is a bit player, an extra. I’m left wondering when Lobo is gonna show up. It’s possible that in another artist’s hands, this design might come across as cool, but I actually like Ken Rocafort…I thought his Cyborg Superman design was pretty fab. Could this design warm me if drawn by, say, Keith Giffen? I have my doubts. I like the way the holsters hang on his pants, but that’s it. Everything else is just…there. One thing for sure; this character here could never go toe to toe with Superman. I’m reminded, however, that when Grant and Giffen reintroduced the character, he was meant to be a parody of the anti-hero/over the top body count trend, so…as you were.
Jon: I get depressed absolutely every time we’re invited to review a Nu52 design – and I mean clinically depressed, not just sad or bummed out but actually disassociated from the native capacity to have authentic emotional reactions to external stimuli. Chris sends the mail “We’re going to review the new Lobo” and my reaction is “Well, why even get out of bed?” I’d stop trying to escape from a burning car if someone told me a roundtable on the new Joker’s Daughter was waiting on the other side. “No thanks” I’d say, smoldering, “I’m fine, it’s cool.” My fatty midsection goes up like the firebombing of Dresden. “See you on the other side.”
And if there is a circle of Hell reserved for us Project:Rooftop reviewers, it’s just endless roundtables on Nu52 redesigns, and then every now and again one of our infernal tormentors comes along to stab us in the face with a barbed pitchfork, and we go “THANK you.” “About time” we say, “I really needed that!” before returning to a kneeless boot smashing a human face forever.
Look, the design isn’t very good – it doesn’t elucidate anything about the character, it’s a mishmosh of components, it’s unnecessary, it’s derivative of Japanese comic design rather than being inspired by it, it’s the cynical product of a corporation intent on scoring easy targets on a news cycle, it’s dull, it’s repetitive, it looks like any bog standard Liefeld or Lee character design from 1992 through 1995 which is, I guess, pretty much what the overall editorial directive has been for this company since 2011, so he doesn’t look all that different from anyone else, I guess? This could be H’el, this could be the new Trickster, w/evs, maybe it’s the new Joker’s Daughter and on that note I better get back to that burning car. Also he’s wearing a fur-lined vest which I dunno.
But on the grand scheme of things, a shitty Lobo redesign is the least of all possible problems with this company, right? Creators are the enemies, mostly they don’t allow girls to write or draw nuthin’, if someone didn’t cross a “t” in their contract then DCE is gonna make a novelty toaster out of their life’s work, they don’t wanna do a comic if they can’t make a movie out of it and they’re only redesigning characters to make new skins for the next video game from the Mortal Kombat guys. I can’t remember if it was Tucker Stone or Abhay Kholsa who described mainstream comics as “a broken septic tank on a good Wednesday”, and I can’t help but feel that picking nits on the Nu Lobo is just sifting through the soiled tissue and unidentifiable organic masses to critique a rogue sanitary napkin.
Speaking of reeking pits typically used to collect human filth, have you seen some of the comment threads in response to this design? The savvier homophobes have chosen to use the coded pejorative “metrosexual” to describe it, the less savvy have relied on good ol’ “shout it from a truck” verbal gay-bashing … AND YET part of me wonders if DC isn’t deliberately Goldust-ing Lobo in order to cultivate that reaction, you know? Recasting him as having ambiguously adopted a perceptible non-heteronormative archetype specifically to rile up the audience? The company thrives on their audience’s collective kicking and screaming, it just makes them stronger.
See, I genuinely love it when we get in submitted designs, because it’s inspiring to see someone so taken with an idea that they feel encouraged to put their stamp on it. I love the submissions to our contests, I love when we see mainstream character redesigns that come in from actual designers and which actually have something to do with their story arc or character. Those things delight me. On the other hand, these DC Nu52 designs, they bum me out, They’re not redesigns for the sake of anything except for generating buzz; DC just releases ‘em to get folks ticked off, to grab a headline on Newsarama or an op-ed on Comicsalliance, to get the message boards furious and here we are helping them out.
Here, the only thing I can say about this is that I hope Rocafort was trying to stack the deck against anyone using this design by making it so intentionally weak compared to the other two. You remember how, when Alan Davis was redesigning Captain Britain, he included his one great design and then three or four absolute eyesores because he reasoned that no sane editor would choose the awful designs versus the sleek, armor-and-bodysuit look they ended up with? Whatever else Jim Shooter’s reputation, he apparently was more sane than Bob Harras because those other two Lobo designs looked fine, just fine…
Eric: Listen…isn’t the entire point of Lobo that he’s an avatar of everything that’s wrong with comics? Keith Giffen, in a CBR interview in 2006 admitted “I have no idea why Lobo took off… I came up with him as an indictment of the Punisher, Wolverine hero prototype, and somehow he caught on as the high violence poster boy. Go figure.”
Lobo was conceived as a living pastiche of all of the worst aesthetic elements in superhero comics (Wolverine’s hair and omnipresent cigar, The Crow’s makeup, Spawn’s chains, Prime’s musculature) that DC could juxtapose with their classic icons, so that they look even classier in comparison.
He’s a walking Exxxtreme Nacho Cheese Doritos commercial, and the fact that everyone is going out of their way to defend his old design blows my whole entire mind. The dude who created the guy didn’t even like him.
The self-proclaimed “Main Man” is supposed to be hard to look at. Everything about him should make you cringe. DC nailed it.
The only way this design could be any better is if they slapped an Ed Hardy trucker hat onto him.
Glen: THIS f’in guy. My story is the same as y’all’s: Lobo worked wonderfully for me as a parody of everything I hated about the comics of the 90s, but when he came to be embraced by the chromium-cover-hoarding hordes, I officially checked out. Of superhero comics. For like a decade.
Which is why this roundtable would be well-served if we could get a true fan of the original character to weigh in. Though perhaps its not worth the trouble to translate their critique from the original fingerpaint. Snap, etc.
But after all, mainstream superhero comics are reactive in nature — they dutifully reflect (or, less generously: they co-opt) (still less generously: they go full Locutus of the Borg on that noise) the more-popular popular culture around them. Those comics of the nineties I hated were, yes, taking the Moore/Miller grim n’gritty thing to its illogical XXXTRREEEEMMME, but they were also adopting the meathead aesthetic of the particularly steroidal action films of the day. Because those action films were wildly popular.
So it makes sense, now that video games occupy the space that SchwarzenRambo films once did in the minds and hearts and wallets of a generation, that mainstream superhero comics would start to look like Dragon’s Crown/Final Fantasy Online, etc….
… crossed, evidently, with a decidedly backwards-looking Marilyn Manson. Finger on the pulse, there, DC. The fuzzy-bunny, Bane-from-DKR vest doesn’t add much of anything, but the net effect of the look — turning an intergalactic Son of Anarchy into an effete True Blood extra — is at least a turn-up for the books.
That said: Do I like Nu-Look Lobo? Would I like black jellybeans any more if you dyed them red? No. Because they would still be black licorice — foul and noisome nuggets of concentrated despair which Men do name abomination.