Lobo the Cowboy was the first African-American comic superhero originated by Dell Comics in 1965. Created by writer D.J. Arneson and illustrated by Tony Tallarico, Lobo was a gun-toting, wealthy African-American cowboy in the old West. In the short-lived series of only two issues featuring Lobo, the character was known to leave his signature item: A gold coin featuring images of a wolf and the letter “L” for his enemies. Lobo was blamed for crimes he didn’t commit and fought as a “good guy” in the world of outlaws.
Though the comic comprised the life and adventures of a black hero, the writers were surprised about the reactions of their readers. After the first issue was distributed, and they began printing the second, many of the issues were returned unopened. Once Arneson and Tallarico investigated the issue, they simply discovered that retailers had rejected the concept of the black cowboy comic hero.
Arneson and Tallarico attempted to distribute 200,000 copies of Lobo the Cowboy, only to actually sell 10,000. However, in 2006, Tallarico was given the Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, in recognition of his creating the first comic book to star an African-American.
Other comic book creators later printed more black characters including Atlas Comic’s “Waku, Prince of Bantu” and Marvel Comic’s “Falcon” in 1969 and “Luke Cage” in 1972.