Monday Morning Paperback: OMAC: An Army of One!
In honor of Jack Kirby's Birthday, I have dedicated this article to one of his most unsung innovative comics after the King’s first exodus from Marvel. The subject of this week’s Monday Morning Paperback goes to Omac who as of this writing, turns 45 today! So, without further ado, enjoy this brief retrospective of not only Jack's awesome short-lived series but one of my favorites among the "Kirby Katalog"!
I'm a sucker for high concept ideas be it films, television or comics. So, it's of no surprise that I have often wrote about subjects that may seem obscure to many, yet have a relative cult following.
OMAC created by legendary Comic artist -Jack "King" Kirby, is a unique blend of Superhero and Science Fiction published by DC Comics. The premise of Omac chronicles a "Utopian" future featuring the titular character- a superpowered cop utilized for peacekeeping missions under a international agency.As opposed to dispatching an entire Army that may lead to several casualties if not some global scale war. Instead, anOne Man Army Corps is deployed (Abbreviation for Omac.) to combat criminals, terrorists and extremists who are a threat to mankind!
Often subtitled as "The World that's coming", OMAC’s worldbuilding, brought about futuristic, yet bizarre concepts such as electronic remote surgery, ocean compression, city rentals, vitamin baths, body transfusions and artificial “companions” that are time bomb assassins was very innovative to come out during the seventies are, futher demonstrating that the King, was on top of his game!
That was the "World that came" and went, as the comic lasted for only eight issues.
However, it was an imaginative run that gained both recognition and resurgence throughout the decades as Omac carried over into a 4-part graphic novel by John Byrne and an entire reboot series much later on.
According to Kirby, Omac was a concept built on a futuristic Captain America without the patriotic virtues of a certain Star-Spangled Avenger. And if you want to be technical, like most Science Fiction tropes, Omac was treated as a cautionary series of what can happen if dangerous technology should it fall into the wrong hands.
And that is where he serves his general purpose, to eradicate the questionable machinations of both corrupt political and military figureheads. But not even a One Man Army Corps cant do it without assistance from his closest ally, Brother Eye- a giant circular computer satellite that hovers above the earth's atmosphere . Brother Eye when summoned, emits a stream of energy that enables Omac with superhuman capabilities such as flight, speed, endurance, strength and detonating his targets.
And he'll need them when going up against his opponents. In the 1st issue we are introduced to not only Omac but the organization he works for-Global Peace Agency that is comprised of what was left of NASA? Jack was really onto something with these far-out concepts!
The agents' faces are layered with some sort of cosmetic spray which covers their identity and are representatives of various races and cultures however, the purpose that binds them together is to maintain peace via the God of War that is Omac! This might explain the “Mohawk” that is reminiscent of the Greco-Roman soldiers from centuries ago. Let’s start off with the very first issue that debuted in August of 1974, coincidentally, the same month and year another high concept comic made its debut.
In issue #1 that bears no title, but broken down into chapters, introduces mild mannered factory employee of “Psuedo-People”, Buddy Blank who stumbles upon Section D, a "Build a Friend" manufacturing plant. Humanoid in appearance, yet underneath it’s layer, is an android utilized as a means of providing companionship for lonely men, well, that’s just scratching the surface. The plant’s ulterior motive used for assassination. To Blank’s misfortune, he befriends one of the androids, Lila, which explains why he was at the wrong place, at the wrong time..or could it be the right time as he was “The chosen one” to become Omac?
When faced impending danger, after Psuedo-People’s purpose has been exposed, Blank is suddenly transformed into a 6'4 powerhouse clad in a blue unitard, orange spandex and yellow gloves and boots while sporting a Greco Roman mohawk. Oh, and of course, he has super strength to take on his enemies!
After Omac takes down the "Build a Friend" Syndicate his peacekeeping mission continues as he battles Body Snatchers, underground Mutants, power mad dictators, assassins and an oceanographer extortionist just to name a few of O's adversaries.
I enjoy reading Omac’s exploits throughout its entirety only to fully realize that issue #8 was the last comic of this fascinating character's Adventures.To my dismay, the ending was too abrupt and there were a few unresolved storylines that didn't reach fruition, let alone catharsis.
Kirby expanded his imagination in this comic thanks to far-fetched situations, action packed fights and of course the protagonist having a talking Satellite as a Sidekick which preceded computerized comrades such as Knight Rider's K.I.T.T. but the foreshadowing didn’t stop there, Omac predicted the future in many ways! Drone strikes, a City tailored for the Super Rich, Destruct Rooms and even Virtual Reality!
These examples were another testament of Kirby’s genius and why he was and still is an asset to pop culture! As with many of Kirby's Comics, there are chapters named with B-Movie titles i.e. "Medi Mind" or "First stop on the Road to the Damned" and despite being too campy even during that era yet worked exceptionally well. Kirby's art improved a notch from his previous work in the Fantastic Four and so on. Judging from the action panels, concepts and of course his infamous splash pages, DC gave Jack the permission to run wild with his imagination and boy, did he!
Although there were a few issues that lacked the impact of Kirby's previous works such as the Avengers, New Gods and Fantastic Four, Omac more than makes up for any shortcomings thanks to a brilliant premise and its unparalleled nuance at the time.The book’s aesthetics are incredible thanks in part to the King's signature splash layout. The artwork is ambitious enough that give that feel as if some of the panels practically leap at the reader with dramatic composition and intricate designs when it comes to high tech consoles and what lurks inside Brother Eye.
Most of this is accomplished, thanks to inkers D.Bruce Berry and Mike Royer who adds a solid polish to Jack's pencils.Anyway, for those who are curious about The King's work outside of Marvel or if you like high concept Superheroes with a bit of weird, you can do no worse with OMAC.
|Figure, sold separately!
OMAC collection is available only on Amazon (Both hardcover and Kindle.)