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REVIEW:
SDCC DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS LOBO
By Thomas Wheeler


There are some characters, within any given pop culture concept that might transition from its source material over to the toy world, or for that matter might have its basis in the toy world but extend elsewhere, that are going to have, for one reason or another, a lot of trouble making an appearance on the toy shelves which, regardless of the intensity of the source material or the popularity of these specific characters, is still seen as the playground of children, and as such an unwelcome place for certain individuals.

It took years for Hasbro to get around to making any representatives of the Soviet-based Oktober Guard in their G.I. Joe line of action figures, despite the popularity of the characters within the comic book and the animated series. The political ramifications of presenting characters from the then "Evil Empire", especially since they weren't the main bad guys, were considered too risky.

And then you have somebody like Lobo. In the more or less squeaky-clean DC Universe of heroes, he fits in about as well as a pair of sneakers in a tuxedo store. A really dirty, smelly, torn-up pair of sneakers. With a whole lot of attitude and weaponry. He's the last survivor of his own planetary race because he killed all of the others. One of his main weapons is a large meat-hook. He rides an interstellar motorcycle that would scare most biker gangs. Now, what do you think his odds are of appearing in the toy stores alongside such luminaries as Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman?

And yet, the character is quite popular among DC fans. An action figure of Lobo would be quite welcome. How to accomplish this? Especially since, unlike some of the figures in the DC Universe line, which can get away with sharing certain basic parts, Lobo's overall appearance doesn't really lend itself to using the same legs as Firestorm or Orion, unless it's to pull them off and beat them over the head with them. Lobo would have to be an entirely unique figure.

Well, if you're Mattel, you decide to make him a San Diego ComiCon exclusive! Here is where the fans come more than the random families who might wonder at this rather alarming-looking individual. The fans know who Lobo is and what he's all about. And for this crowd, making a unique figure is warranted.

This character has had a long and very bizarre history. Let's consider a summary of it, as best as possible:

Lobo first appeared in Omega Men #3 (June 1983), and was created by Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen. Lobo worked as an interstellar mercenary and bounty hunter. Although introduced as a hardened, rarely-used villain in the 1980s who bore only a superficial resemblance to his more commonly known incarnation (the original Lobo looked like he actually combed his hair and wore orange and purple tights), he languished in limbo until his revival as an anti-hero biker in the early 1990s. The character enjoyed a short run as one of DC's most popular characters throughout the 1990s. This version of Lobo was more or less a parody of Marvel Comics' Wolverine and other more serious "violent" characters.

"I have no idea why Lobo took off," Giffen once said in an interview. "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"

After a well-received appearance in Justice League International, Lobo became a regular character in L.E.G.I.O.N. and its successor series R.E.B.E.L.S. In 1990, he appeared in his own miniseries, Lobo: The Last Czarnian, by writer Alan Grant and artist Simon Bisley, which changed his origin story: he became the last Czarnian after violently killing every other member of the species.

Grant's humor and Bisley's art helped to make this four-issue series a hit, leading to many subsequent miniseries and specials. These include Lobocop (a RoboCop parody); Blazing Chain of Love (in which he is sent on a job to a harem); Paramilitary Christmas Special (in which he is contracted by the Easter Bunny to assassinate Santa Claus); Convention Special (a send-up of comic book conventions); and Unamerican Gladiators (in which Lobo takes part in a deadly televised game show). Lobo also starred in his own title for 64 issues, from 1993 to 1999.

Over the years, Lobo has regularly made guest appearances in other series, even in cross-company interactions with such non-DC characters as The Mask, Judge Dredd, and the Authority. During the DC vs. Marvel crossover series, he fought Wolverine and lost due to popular vote by real-life fans. He also appeared very briefly in the JLA/Avengers intercompany crossover and is shown fighting members of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, though the outcome is never shown.

In the Lobo series and miniseries, everything is excessive, from the main character's perversions, mindless violence, and vocabulary to the grungy color palette and grotesque graphics. He commonly refers to "do-gooder" superheroes as "The Big Cheese." Everything in the series is over-the-top, even his profanities ("frag," "Feetal's Gizz," and "bastich"), which are used to replace vocabulary unwanted by a family- friendly DC and to satirize similar expressions in other comics.

Lobo has made a few appearances in the animated series of the 1990s/ 2000s-era DC animated universe, notably in Superman and in Justice League.

Lobo is a Czarnian with exceptional strength and fortitude. He enjoys nothing better than mindless violence and intoxication. Killing is an end in itself; his name is Khundian for "he who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it." He is also arrogant and self-centered, focusing almost solely on his own pleasures, although he proudly lives up to his word - but exactly his word: no more or no less than what he promised. Lobo is the last of his kind, having committed complete genocide by killing all the other Czarnians for fun. As detailed in Lobo #0, Lobo unleashed a violent plague upon his homeworld, killing most of its citizens. In Superman: The Animated Series, Lobo nonchalantly tells Superman the fate of his race: "I'm the last Czarnian. I fragged the rest of the planet for my high school science project. Gave myself an A."

In addition to his ever-present lust for violence, Lobo also has a strict personal code of honor - he will never violate the letter of an agreement (he said in Superman: The Animated Series that "The Main Man's word is his bond."), although he may gleefully disregard its spirit. Also, he is surprisingly protective of space dolphins, some of which he feeds from his home. A few have been killed in separate incidents, which he avenges with his usual violence.

Lobo has had assorted run-ins (and occasional cooperations) with the likes of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Guy Gardner, Hitman, Judge Dredd, Valor, Starman, The Ray, Deadman, Green Lantern, and the JLA, among others.

Just to throw some extra weirdness into it, in 2000, a magical accident transforms Lobo into a teenager. In this state, he joins Young Justice and eventually accompanies them to Apokolips, where he is killed in combat. However, the aforementioned magical accident has restored his ability to grow clones from a single drop of blood, and millions of Lobos rush into battle against Apokoliptian soldiers, whom the Lobos quickly defeat. The Lobos then turn on each other, until only one is left; in the process, the surviving Lobo regrows to adulthood. His time as a member of Young Justice becomes a distant memory.

After an extended hiatus, Lobo reappeared during the year-long maxi-series "52" where he encounters a group of heroes (consisting of Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire), who find themselves stranded in space after the events of Infinite Crisis. To everyone's surprise he does not kill them. Lobo professes to have found religion, becoming the spiritual leader of the whole of sector 3500, left in shambles by a still unknown assailant. He is the current caretaker of the Emerald Eye of Ekron. After helping the lost heroes to defeat Lady Styx, he brings the Emerald Eye to a triple-headed "fish god", who agrees to release Lobo from his vow of non-violence in exchange. When told that the Emerald Eye is the only thing that can kill the fish god, Lobo blasts him with it.

More recently, Lobo appeared in "Deadly Serious" a two-part crossover miniseries with Batman in August 2007, written and drawn by Sam Keith. In addition, Lobo has fought the Teen Titans and Blue Beetle in their respective titles. He also turned up in an issue of "Brave and the Bold" teamed with -- of all characters -- Supergirl.

Lobo possesses extraordinary strength of undefined limits. His strength, much like his other powers, varies greatly depending upon different artistic interpretations of various comic book writers. In some instances, he is depicted as being barely stronger than a human while, in others, he demonstrates physical strength on a similar level as Superman. Lobo also possesses superhuman durability, which varies greatly as well. Lobo is depicted, in some situations, as being injured by conventional bullets while, in other situations, he has the physical resiliency to stand toe to toe with Superman, survive unprotected in deep space, and withstand powerful explosive blasts without sustaining injury. He has displayed particular susceptibility to gaseous chemicals.

If Lobo sustains injury, his accelerated healing factor enables him to regenerate damaged or destroyed tissue with superhuman speed and efficiency, and little apparent pain. Lobo also is functionally immortal. He is immune to the effects of aging and disease and he has been banned from entering either Heaven or Hell. As such, even though he can sustain sufficient injury to be out of commission for quite some time, he will apparently heal from any injury, given sufficient time. For instance, Lobo can regenerate out of a pool of his own blood, apparently recycling the cells.

Lobo possesses an amazingly developed sense of smell, which allows him to track objects between solar systems, as well as a separate tracking ability enabling him to track an individual across galactic distances.

Lobo is a formidable combatant with expertise in multiple forms of armed and unarmed combat. His favorite weapon is a large chain he keeps wrapped around his right wrist with a large gutting hook connected at the end, which he typically uses in hand to hand combat. At times, he also uses high-grade explosives and advanced firearms.

Despite his violent and loutish nature, Lobo seems to have a genius level intellect in matters of destruction and violence. He can create complex virulent agents and the necessary antidotes to them such as the one he let loose on Czarnia, resulting in the deaths of the entire population in the span of one week.

It is not fully known the extent to which his powers are common for his race or unique to him.

So, after all that background -- how's the figure? Extremely impressive. Granted this is actually not the first-ever Lobo figure. DC Direct has produced a few. However, this is the first one by a major mass-market toymaker, even if the figure itself isn't available on the mass market. This Lobo is still intended to be part of the DC Universe Classics line.

For starters, he's distinctly larger than the standard DC Universe figure. This makes sense, since generally Lobo is presented as a rather large individual. Whereas an average DC Universe figure stands around 6-1/4" in height, give or take a bit, Lobo comes in at an even 8-1/2".

He has whitish skin, although it's almost more of a pale grey. He has a nasty snarl on his face, deepset red eyes flanked by black markings, and a black mustache. Attached to his head and molded from more flexible, rubbery plastic is his hair, a long, stringy mess of black strands.

Lobo is wearing a nicely designed leather vest, very highly detailed, but which does not appear to be removable. I certainly wouldn't try it, anyway.

Lobo's legs are molded to look as though he's wearing blue jeans, but the leg detail goes well beyond the jeans. He has a couple of belts around his waist, one of which has a silver skull for a buckle and huge silver studs around it. The other belt, very nicely detailed, has assorted equipment pouches, as well as a holster for a pistol which does come out and can be held by the figure.

Lobo's boots are probably the most ornate part of him. Let's start with the knee-pads. Two black skulls with stars on their foreheads and what look to be stylized bear traps around them. The lower legs have ridged silver metal-looking shin guards strapped in place, and the feet of the boots have spikes on them, and the steel toes of the boots look like the rest of the bear traps. Whatever else, I don't think you want this guy kicking you.

His hands have fingerless gloves, and his right hand is carrying his favorite hook. Here's where the detail gets especially impressive. The hook is on an actual metal link chain! It's wrapped around his lower arm, and is actually attached to a little extended hole on his lower arm. Still, impressive that Mattel went the extra length to provide an actual chain!

Lobo's articulation is, as one would expect, excellent. This DC Universe Classics figure is poseable at the head, arms, upper-arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

His accessories, apart from the hook and the pistol, include a large rifle that looks like it took a few detours through Starship Troopers and a few video games to get to Lobo. It's a wild-looking contraption, mostly silver in color, about 6" in length. Lobo also comes with Dawg, his pet bulldog, whose looking pretty spry given that, once again, Lobo stomped the animal to death in issue #58 of his own title. Lobo often claimed that the animal was not his whenever it got into trouble, and apparently it got into trouble one too many times. Dawg looks like a fairly typical bulldog, and wears a spiked collar and has two crossed band-aids on one side of his face. The toy is nicely detailed and looks very much like a bulldog. Articulation is limited to head movement.

Lobo is also wearing a pair of typical 3-D glasses -- red lens, blue lens -- which struck me as unusual since although I have not been the most ardent follower of Lobo's adventures, this didn't really strike me as his type of fashion accessory. And here we need to deal with the package design.

Since Lobo is not part of any assortment of DC Universe Classics figures, there was no need for the package back of the card to provide a listing of other figures, or any sort of "Collect and Connect" additional figure -- although one might surmise that including a body part of another character might have been amusing to Lobo.

Lobo's package is also a good bit larger than a standard DC Universe Classics figure -- understandable given the size of the figure, for that matter -- and has certain different elements to it. The back of the card is designed to look like a couple of spaceport computer screens, with the words "SPACE DOCK 0807" at the top. Invert the "0807", especially with the larger "7", and you get "LOBO". There's a picture of Logo on his bike, and the second screen has a basic bio of Lobo -- which lists his height as 6' 4", which is either in error, or this figure is really out of proportion with the rest of the line. Granted, I think it's fair to say that Lobo's physical size as presented has been as dependent on the artist drawing him as some of his other attributes.

But, open up the package, which is easier to do than one might expect since it's a snap-together clamshell, and you can extract a second "display" card which can be put on the cardboard base within the package that Lobo is also supposed to stand on. This is designed to look like a "Wanted" poster, but the center of it looks blasted away, with debris flying forward, and a space-scape of stars and galaxies beyond.

This is clearly done in traditional 3-D style, and part of the cardboard base detaches to become a set of 3-D glasses that you can wear. They also include a warning from Lobo to the manufacturer of the glasses -- "Th' specs better work -- or some marketin' geek's gonna need a new fraggin' set o'peepers!"

Fortunately for the aforementioned "marketin' geek", the 3-D glasses do indeed work. I generally have a heck of a time with these sorts of things, but this time, they worked admirably well, making the "debris" from the poster appear to indeed be flying forward from it, while the space-scape behind it appeared to be a very great distance away! Nicely done!

So, what's my final word here? Granted, Lobo's not for everybody. He's violent, dangerous, and probably has incredibly bad breath. But he managed a very popular run in the 1990's, and still manages to turn up when you least expect him these days, and whenever he does, you know that chaos will ensue.

And Mattel has done a really superb job with this figure. Although the San Diego ComiCon has come and gone, there's always the secondary market. And if you've ever been a fan of Lobo, then this is the ultimate figure of him for you. The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS LOBO definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!