When DC released a slimmed-down redesign for the formerly bulky, gritty anti-hero Lobo (above), the response from the Internet comics community was immediate.
And it was mostly unhappy — not about the art itself, but about the fact that it was a re-design of an existing character.
Sure, there's the problem that a "new" version of Lobo has already been introduced into the rebooted New 52 universe — in more than one book, mind you — making the continuity of a different Lobo questionable. But DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras has clarified that the other, grittier-looking Lobo was an impostor, and the real, slimmer version of Lobo is angry that someone is impersonating him.
"A ruthless killer, Lobo is on a quest to kill the man who has taken his name," Harras said in one of DC's "What's New in the New 52" columns.
But that twist on continuity isn't the target of most complaints being leveled by online critics. It's the new design that has people talking. Lobo, who has always been perceived as the toughest character in comic books, appears to be less tough and less... intense.
"Where [are] his muscles hiding, and his crazed grin?" one poster asked.
Marguerite Bennett, who recently co-wrote Batman Annual #2 with Scott Snyder, will be the writer introducing the new Lobo in September's Justice League #23.2: Lobo as part of DC's Villains Month.
She told Newsarama in June that she is not making Lobo any less tough.
"I’m thrilled to write Lobo and anyone who believes that I am going to tame him will be in for a very bloody awakening," she said. "I got Scott Snyder’s attention because I write villains, and I got Bob Harras’ attention because I write dark."
But there's another problem, according to posters. And that is, this new character changes an existing character. "I'm sure whatever this...thing… is will be a fine addition to the DC universe, but calling it 'Lobo' is lazy and sort of a slap in the face to the fans who made the character a commodity at all for DC," a poster on Newsarama said.
Fans wondered how the redesign was received by Keith Giffen, Lobo's co-creator and champion during his earliest appearances. "I'm sure Keith Giffen is pissed," a poster on Newsarama said.
But is he?
Newsarama decided to ask.
"I've seen the new Lobo," Giffen said, "but you have to understand that Lobo is a character that, last year, I swore off of. I don't own him. And he was created for a specific purpose."
To explain, Giffen said he was trying to create a character that would parody other comic characters of the time. "It was back when, like, supposed heroes were out there shooting people and doing villainous stuff and claiming to be heroes," he said. "I thought I'd come up with a character that made fun of it.
"And he caught on," he said.
"Lobo was created to be an indictment of the very genre that he became a poster boy for. That backfired on me viciously! I thought Lobo would be one mini-series and then, 'The End.' I thought he was that reprehensible."
So is Giffen glad Lobo's look has changed to something more in line with today's pop culture than the one in which he was created?
"Yeah, I would say so. I would think it's tied into more of today's pop culture, even though I'm not 100 percent sure what that means," Giffen said with a laugh.
"I saw the drawing and I just thought, the thing that ran through my head was, of course," he said.
The writer/artist said that Lobo, the way he previously existed, had run his course, at least as far as he was concerned as a writer. "And my Lobo stories still exist, in whatever nebulous, weird realm it is," he said. "The books still exist. Nobody traveled through time and burned all the books."
Giffen, a still-prolific comic book writer, has helped create dozens of characters for Marvel and DC, including DC's new Blue Beetle, a featured animation character, and Marvel's space hero Rocket Raccoon, who stars in next summer's highly anticipated Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy. But several of his creations, he said, have been changed drastically over the years.
"[Lobo is] not the first time that characters I created 'back when' have been re-jiggered to the point where, either I barely recognize them, or they've been taken in another direction," Giffen said. "The biggest criticism I can level against any of them, including the new Lobo, is probably the most unfair criticism of them all, and that is, 'Oh, that's not the way I'd do it.'"
Of course, Giffen said almost every character that he doesn't write himself would fit with that same criticism: "That's not the way I'd do it."
"It's the heart of most criticism," Giffen said. "If you read online critics of movies or books or comics or anything, it almost always boils down to, 'that's not the way I'd do it.' Especially if they're really negative.
"So I look at Lobo and say, 'that's not the way I would do it.'
"But is it valid? I don't know! I haven't read it! I haven't seen what direction they're taking him in," he said.
"I wish them all the luck in the world," he said. "I had my say, and now it's time for somebody else."