Monday, 15 July 2013

OMAC by Jack Kirby review

Jack Kirby sure loves his flying chairs.

I had to learn how to like Jack Kirby as a creator. In a medium where he’s quite realistically dominated for several decades, its understandable why he’s known as Jack “The King” Kirby in comics circle. The sheer volume of output he’s had since he started making comics in the forties and the impressive versatility of genre he’s worked in. He’s also the co-creator of a significant portion of the Marvel Universe but despite all these accomplishments, Kirby’s had the short end of the stick for most of his career which also corresponds to most of his life. I get rather bitter when I consider the success of people who worked with Kirby throughout the years compare to the wealth and fame he’s accumulated. It all just seems unfair. I think that’s one of the reasons I gave him a second chance and that’s why I continue to explore his work. 

This is my second time reading OMAC and although I really liked it during my first reading I absolutely loved it the second time around. The same goes for the introduction by Mark Evanier. In his introduction, Evanier points out how OMAC is almost prophetic in its story about the future. He’s had a chance to read all eight issues every few years since it was first published and he’s personally noted just how closely Kirby got it right on so many different aspects of what our future would be like. I didn’t really see the same thing while reading OMAC for the first time. The world OMAC inhabits is so drastically different from our own. There’s one important thing I’ve learn about Kirby though. His ideas are really big ideas. He doesn’t think in small scale. When he chose the future as the setting of his new comic, he chose the far, far flung future. Not something that was going to happen in twenty or thirty years. But you know what? Mark Evanier was right. The prophetic quality of these OMAC issues is utterly impressive it not always accurate.

Jack Kirby created OMAC to fill his weekly quota of pages for DC Comics. According to Evanier’s introduction (and that’s a pretty good source since Evanier has worked closely with Kirby for many years and has even written a biography of the man) he mentions that Kirby was contracted to put out fifteen pages of comics per week. That’s insane! And you know what? Kirby did so by creating insane comics. OMAC lasted eight issues after which it was cancelled. I’m not so sure why but OMAC’s definitively endured as a comic. John Byrne did a four issue limited series on it. Paul Pope had an OMAC story in his issue of Solo. OMAC was even one of the New 52 titles from DC’s reboot of a little while back (unfortunately only lasting eight issues as well). It’s survive and rightfully so. OMAC is perhaps my second favourite of all of Kirby’s comics that I’ve had a pleasure of reading.

Those fish of the future look
like fish form the past!
In short, OMAC is the story of a man who undergoes long range molecular surgery to transform his being into a One Man Army Corp unbeknownst to himself. Buddy Blank doesn’t coexist with OMAC; one replaces the other. OMAC was created by the Global Peace Agency (GPA) an international organization that works in complete anonymity (they are nameless and faceless; they can be from any nation and thus represent all nations). Members of the GPA don’t carry weapons and act entirely without harming others. They have created for that purpose. In the future world where large armies are outlawed, OMAC is there to fight on behave of the GPA and serve as some sort of futuristic cop. There is so much that can be written about just the first issue of OMAC but what I’m going to focus on is the portrayal of the future. That’s one of the things I found the most interesting about this short lived series.  

In the future that can be found in the pages of OMAC, large armies are outlawed, cities have continued to grow and have become immense. The rich have continued to get richer and some people are now so wealthy they can rent and entire city for 24 hours if they so wish (and they do). Movies have become virtual space video games that people experience instead of viewing in passivity. Computerized dating (did this even exist in the 70s? I have no idea where Kirby got this idea) has evolved into a way for people to construct their entire families. “Packaged Living” as it’s called is responsible for giving OMAC new parents, assigned to him by a computer! There are ecological terrorists; the most villainous of all being Dr. Skuba who uses his mastery of the atom to compress huge quantities of water from lakes into brick sized cubes. He plans to blackmail the world into making him stupidly wealthy. One of the creepiest ideas from OMAC and one of my favourites is that there is a black market for young attractive bodies. These people are kidnapped, induced into a comatose state and sold to rich individuals who would like younger bodies. It’s one of the darker takes on immortality that I’ve encountered. That all sounds crazy right? Well there are more ideas and snippets into our future that what I’ve presented and it all takes place in eight issues. The more impressive feat is that Kirby doesn’t make it seem to unrealistic. Well, I didn’t think so the second time I read it.
The villainous Dr. Skuba!

OMAC, like many Jack Kirby comics, is filled with high adventure, science fiction gadgets, explosion and incredibly energetic art. I actually feel bad that I’ve neglected to talk about his art on OMAC because it’s very, very good. It blows my mind that Kirby could produce such great art under such tight deadlines. Kirby regularly draws ugly faces and characters that have faces like those of a prehistoric humans but that’s his style and they’re meant to be ugly. OMAC’s got a normal face, so do many of the other characters (well, those who have faces, I’m talking about you GPA). I feel bad but I feel like I need to explore OMAC more in depth some other time. To try and make up for it, I’ve included several pages of art from OMAC that I’ve found online (I’m too lazy to scan some pages). What impressed me the most about this little comic is it’s depiction of the future in a way that was close to reality (or the reality that will someday exist) thing without being preachy. Kirby has managed to excite me and worry me about the days of tomorrow and that’s alright. It’s good to have action comics that provide food for thought and OMAC is a damn nutritious read.

OMAC walks on the bottom of a lake that was emptied by Dr. Skuba. That lake look so otherworldly.
Do you think it was pollution that mutated those fish and those plants?

Kirby loves to draw monsters. OMAC while "watching" a movie. 
Crazy satellite science! I completely forgot to mention that Kirby predicts are heavy use and dependence on
satellites orbiting the Earth in our daily lives. Sure, it doesn't transform us all into OMACs but
it helps me navigate the city using my GPS. Crazy stuff but remarkably on point. 

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