Tuesday, June 24, 2008

O.M.A.C. One Man Army Corps…

A look back at the Science Fiction Series by Jack Kirby…

Cover to the new hard backed collection

Cover to issue #1 of the original comic

Issue #2 Page 5 OMAC original comic version sans colour

I read recently that when OMAC first hit the stands, most fans didn’t understand the concept, even after reading issues several times and that was why it was cancelled.

Jack Kirby had already decided to go back to marvel by the time of the last issue and that was why issue #8, the last one for Jack, sported a Joe Kubert cover and a very abrupt ending on the last panel, which would have contained a “…to be continued” tagline if the series had continued. Kirby had intended it to be a longer series, but when his contract with DC was up, he was off to Marvel again. I suppose we’ll never know what Jack had planned for OMAC.

I was only in my early teens when I first saw the concept. I had seen an advert in a DC comic that week and whilst at my grandparents on the coast went into a newsagents, with my younger brother Chris, and there was a copy of issue #1 ( a rare event here in the UK for most comics at the time) waiting for me to buy it.

I took the comic book back to my grandparents and was instantly hooked. I remember even as a teenager I understood the premise, which is why I find my opening comment really quite strange to fathom.

The cover said it all…this was THE WORLD THAT’S COMING! It looked at modern day, breaking technology and pitted against jack’s views of the future outcomes of such technology and its possible impact on its usage on mankind it all made complete sense, to me at least. It looked again, like his Fourth World series and others, at war, especially modern warfare and the possible implications of suggested technologies for things like video guided “smart missiles”.

You see this was Kirby’s gift he could take a subject, turn it on its head and then show us myriads of potential variations with all the ramifications of misuse in the wrong hands.

Jack didn’t deal with the human condition in the now, mirroring reality; in his own words his belief was that comics transcended reality. For me, personally, he did just that. Back when I was a teenager in school, it was Kirby’s Thor I saw in my imagination when talking of the Vikings and their gods, it was Kirby’s Thor I saw visiting the Norns when I read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it was Kirby’s questions about science, deep space, DNA and technology I heard and saw, when I read books about science fact.

Jack’s work was so immense it nearly always dealt with matters in the future, even when he was talking about today, because his work asked many questions, many of which he never answered himself, because he didn’t know the answer, the question shared with the reader was enough.

With OMAC we can see Jack looking at where the technologies were going. How far would mankind push the boundaries of science, technology, medicine and life itself? Here was a man asking questions about mankind’s morality or lack of it.

Man’s greed and need for conquest of others that are different is as relevant today, as it was back when Jack was asking his readers the same questions. For that reason alone the questions are worth their weight in gold, just in the asking.
If the rich had the means to extend their life would they endorse the death of the person whose body they would use in brain transplant surgery, to gain a young body again?

If mass warfare was outlawed, would all countries abide by that decision, or would they see that as weakness in the others and invade anyway?

If a person needed to be stripped of his individuality and his own thoughts to serve a greater end, would that event take place? – if so then we would see OMAC.

A lot of Jack’s ideas now exist for real, some due to his reading of technology and where it could be going for real, others I think maybe just down to the man’s wonderful and unique vision of his immense imagination.

Is it likely that the Mobile phone is fast becoming our “Mother box”? Its circuitry certainly does a lot of what the Fourth World gadget could do and as it becomes more sophisticated and we all find ourselves naked and “alone” without its presence, is this not the Mother box of the New Gods?

Is it not true that we now have the true potential for the manipulation of DNA to create new and artificial alien life forms?

Do the satellites around our planet, the equivalent of OMAC’s Brother Eye with their ability to track our movements and enable us to track and find places, even down to the nearest fuel stations, restaurants, hotels, etc draw many parallels?

Do the faceless, multinational, Global Peace Agents, who hide their faces with cosmetic sprays to supposedly represent all nations by looking like citizens of none not remind you of the faceless people responsible nowadays behind the governments for truly running things behind the scenes?

Does the way in which OMAC’s “parents” are chosen by computer not remind you of the way in which a great many people now meet each other for relationships in this fast paced world?

The collected OMAC hard cover book is a great addition to any comic collector’s bookshelves, especially fans of Jack Kirby, but if you want to read stories from thirty-four years ago, which have a frightening resonance in today’s world full of the terrors of the threats of recent years, then this is a must-get book for you too.

Written Drawn and Edited by: Jack Kirby
Inks by: D Bruce Berry and Mike Royer
Lettered by: D Bruce Berry and Mike Royer
Colours by: Drew R. Moore

Based on ideas for a future Captain America, which he withheld from use at his earlier stint at marvel, when it became apparent he may have to move to another publisher, OMAC was an ideal concept to fulfil his 15 page per week page count quota (yes you read that correctly) for DC. The character OMAC sporting a Mohawk hairstyle like a Greek god of war is a great design and worth a look at book, just to see Jack with another concept.

There are a great many other things of which Jack Kirby spoke, not just in OMAC, but his other work as well, many more questions he asked and the frightening thing is he was bang on the nail with most of it, so could we be looking at any of the other “outlandish” scenarios as well?

It’s a scary thought and one I will leave you with…


Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…
June 24th 2008

No comments: