Cullen Bunn says he "gets it."
The writer understands that the hardboiled, '80s/'90s version of Lobo was pretty cool. But he's hoping readers will give himself and artist Reilly Brown a chance with their new Lobo series, which kicks off this week and establishes a new version of the character in the New 52.
The new Lobo series, which Bunn said balances "action, humor and extreme violence," features a Lobo he describes as "a little bit of Han Solo, a little Mal Reynolds, a little Leon the Professional, and a little Roy Batty."
The character was introduced in September 2013 during DC's "Villains Month," as he was hunting for an "imposter" Lobo (who appeared in Deathstroke and Stormwatch in the early months of the New 52).
But Bunn said the "fake" Lobo will be dealt with right away in this new comic — and the "new" Lobo will be established as the comic's main character.
Bunn, who's also writing the villain-focused comic Sinestro for DC, will also establish a new version of Czarnia (Lobo's home world) and a supporting cast of Earthlings for the book. Newsarama talked with Bunn to find out more.
Newsarama: Cullen, DC fans know your work from Sinestro, which focuses on a villain who's sometimes a hero. Since Lobo's also known for being both a villain and hero, is Lobo the same type of book as Sinestro? Or do the nature of the characters make them different books as well?
Cullen Bunn: Lobo and Sinestro are pretty different characters. Sinestro is a villain, yeah, but he has a sense of honor that, while misguided, you can almost understand. Lobo also has a code of honor, but it was forged on a world that’s alien to us, and it’s most likely not as easy to wrap your head around.
Lobo’s code includes rules like, “Always look your target in the eye right before you kill them.”
His philosophy is forged around the art of murder. He’s not a nice guy at all. His allegiances lie only with the highest bidder. Sometimes that means he’s working “on the side of the angels,” but that’s pretty rare.
Nrama: The past version of Lobo had a code that made him keep his promises — although not always in the way the recipients of those promises intended. Is this still part of the character, and will we learn more about what brought about his "code?"
Bunn: This Lobo definitely follows a code, but he’s more focused on the business side of things. If he’s hired to do a job, he does it. If he takes a contract out on someone, that person dies. Over the first few issues, we’ll reveal more and more of the code to the reader. As the pieces come together, you’ll start to see more of what makes Lobo tick.
Nrama: Anything you can tell us now about what makes him tick? What's he like?
Bunn: This new Lobo is a little bit of Han Solo, a little Mal Reynolds, a little Leon the Professional, and a little Roy Batty. He’s not a nice guy, but I think readers will enjoy seeing him both succeed and fail.
Nrama: Where does the comic take place? And does it interact with other DC characters or locations?
Bunn: For the most part, the first arc takes place on Earth, much to Lobo’s chagrin. He’s not the most subtle assassin in the universe. So, yeah, he’s going to encounter some of DC’s most famous characters pretty soon.
Nrama: Do you deal with Czarnia at all in this book? And if so, what's Czarnia like in the New 52?
Bunn: Czarnia is a big part of this book, because it played such a huge role in making Lobo the man he is. The depiction in this book will be pretty different from anything you’ve seen before, though.
Nrama: You've said publicly that this series stars the "real" Lobo and not the "impostor" one. Is your comic going to deal with the fact that there are two Lobos running around?
Bunn: Yes, we’ll deal with the real/imposter situation relatively early on.
Nrama: Lobo's beginnings came from his creators' desire to parody violent characters, almost as an indictment of the comics industry's direction. Obviously, he ended up evolving into much more than that. But does this new Lobo have any connection at all to that history?
Bunn: I loved Lobo in the '90s, but I think that character is hard to connect with, especially for new readers.
Nrama: You're keeping the idea of Lobo being violent, but is there still any dark humor there? Does Lobo's story have a bit of humor to it?
Bunn: This is not intended to be a “knee slapper,” but it definitely has its light-hearted moments. There’s a quirkiness to the universe that Lobo lives in that we’ll try to show off. But, like I said, I don’t intend for this to be a comedy title.
Nrama: How does the art help to set the tone of the comic?
Bunn: Reilly Brown is a master of balancing action, humor, and extreme violence, and his character designs for some of the alien races and technology that we encounter is just amazing. I couldn’t be happier that he’s a part of this book.
Nrama: What's Lobo's supporting cast like?
Bunn: I’m pretty excited about the supporting cast, especially the characters of Rave, Hades, and Emily. A group of Earth-based contract killers assigned to assist Lobo, they don’t show up until Lobo #2, but you can catch a glimpse of them on the cover for that issue.
Nrama: What kind of threats will Lobo meet?
Bunn: In our first arc, Lobo is hired to kill eight of the nastiest contract killers in the universe. Each of these killers is going after the same target, and it’s Lobo’s job to stop them. They’re a nasty bunch, each using a unique set of skills to achieve their goals.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Lobo?
Bunn: As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of chatter about this book, both from diehard fans of the “old” Lobo and readers who really know nothing about the character.
For the diehard fans, all I can do is say, “I get it!” This isn’t the Lobo you’re familiar with. It’s not the Lobo you grew up loving. And, honestly, it’s not trying to be. There are nods to the previous version of the character here and there, but for the most part this is a completely new guy. If that means you’re not going to read the issue, so be it. You might have hated it. Or you might have liked it. If you do read it, and your still feeling raw about it afterwards, thanks for at least giving the book a chance.
For new readers, if you don’t know what to expect with Lobo, the good news is you don’t have to worry about a lot of backstory to catch up on. Everything you need to know will be right here, and we’ll be exploring Lobo from the ground up, seeing his history for the first time in these pages.
And, readers old and new alike, in 30 years or so, maybe Lobo will change again, and we can all be angry about that together.