Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps
Writer/Penciler/Editor - Jack Kirby
Inkers - Mike Royer, D. Bruce Berry
In the curious but arguably appropriate newsprint under hardcover DC format, this short-lived late ’70s Kirby DC project (eight issues) is a potent mix of wild ideas, headlong storytelling, and kitschy Kirby phrasing that nonetheless feels like a long walk for a short day at the beach, especially with DC’s cutthroat cancelation in the middle of a storyline.
Kirby’s notion of the mohawked super-cop OMAC, a normal guy named Buddy Blank getting a new identity and powers beamed to him by a mysterious sentient satellite named Brother Eye, is fascinating, though Kirby doesn’t get around to explaining how OMAC’s crime-busting principles jibe with the Global Peace Authority, a faceless force of agents who do not take any violent action of their own to keep the peace. It seems like cheating to subcontract this duty to OMAC, and of course there’s the issue of whether Buddy wanted to become OMAC in the first place. Sure, it beats his nebbishy former life as a real nobody (“Blank” indeed!), but he isn’t given a choice.
Kirby doesn’t seem particularly interested in characterization (there are no ongoing supporting characters for OMAC, nor is he at all introspective), or philosophy (the GPA are presented as basically benevolent, with no exploration of whether there are any flaws in their actions, or that it might lead to corruption. What Kirby wants is to, as he did in most of his solo ’70s work, just set up a hero against a succession of colorful, physically ugly bad guys with jazzy names like “Major Domo,” “Mister Big” and “Marshall Kafka” and his “Multi-Killer.” Much of Kirby’s work found him fighting through his heroes against cruel, Hitleresque villains in different guises, and this is no exception. It does serve to point out the value Stan Lee brought to their collaborations, however, as in very few cases does Kirby ever explore villains who have any dimension to them besides pure evil.
There are some interesting threads introduced here and there, such as OMAC being assigned foster parents in order to understand humanity better, but they’re quickly forgotten before that issue even ends, and not discussed again. Kirby’s notorious for starting to draw his comics with one idea in mind and then ending up somewhere else by the end, and while it can be exhilarating it also shot-circuits some dramatic possibilities.
If there’s any theme unifying the stories here, it’s that criminals will always use the latest technological advances as fresh opportunities to make a buck, whether it’s the lifelike robotic companions of the first issue, or subsequent stories featuring old crooks able to transfer their minds into the bodies of healthy, youthful kidnap victims, or the “atom collapsing” bar devised by Doctor Skuba to drain the world’s oceans for ransom money. That story, with its hints that Skuba’s daughter and son-in-law aren’t even human, is one of the better ones here, which is why it’s all the more disappointing that it ends so abruptly, with OMAC depowered back to a helpless Buddy Blank, a final panel not by Kirby wrapping the series up unconvincingly. One of many Kirby works for DC that suffers for being cut short too early, though of course the same act adds to its mythical potential. A fine Introduction by Mark Evanier puts the series in context.
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