OMAC #1 (September-October, 1974)
“Brother Eye and Buddy Blank”
Writer/Artist/Editor – Jack Kirby
Inker/Letterer – Mike Royer
Cover Price: $0.20
Well, that was one quick year… wasn’t it? It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating Jack Kirby’s 99th Birthday! If I thought I was going to still be doing this today, I’d have saved that Mister Miracle Discussion and Review for today!
Instead, we’re going to talk about a Kirby-DC book that… I’ve never read before! Of Kirby’s DC work, there are some titles that I have a harder time locating “in the wild”. I’m talking about Forever People and OMAC. It’s a relative rarity to find them in my neck of the woods.
About a month ago a local shop got a massive influx of Silver and Bronze Age DC… I joked that “future Chris” must’ve sold his collection, because it was all stuff that I wanted. Anyhoo, in that collection was… OMAC. I nabbed it… and decided to save it for today. Will this be a suitable tribute to the King of Comics? (Spoiler Alert:
Probably No t).
Now, a little Christory. Growing up… I really wasn’t a fan of Jack Kirby’s art. I was a child of the 80’s and 90’s and would much rather see John Byrne, John Romita Jr., one of the Kubert fellas, or one of the Image Comics founders than Kirby’s more “squared” and to my mind “dull” art. I guess kids will be kids… which is to say, dumb. Or at the very least, ignorant of history.
Thanks to things like the Marvel Essentials “phone book” sized black and white archive collections that started to be released in the late-1990’s, there was finally an affordable way to familiarize myself with the history of the Marvel Universe… and it’s creators. I was afforded a newfound appreciation for Jack Kirby… and I gotta say, seeing it in black and white was quite a treat. From there, I can’t say that I was ever Kirby’s #1 fan or anything, but I do appreciate his place, and have come to really dig his work.
In addition to this piece, Reggie and I re-uploaded our Cosmic Treadmill episode (#14) where we discussed Kirby’s Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth #1 from 1972.
And if that’s not enough, here’s our Weird Comics History, Episode 17: The Lives and Times of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby:
I’m not the only one celebrating #Kirby100… and so, at the bottom of this Discussion, I’m going to include links to some bloggy buds and poddy pals who are also paying tribute to the King!
We open on the rather unsettling sight of a Build-A-Friend… named Lila? She ain’t the only Build-A-Friend here, however… we soon find that our man OMAC is standing in a full-on Build-A-Friend factory! Who? How? We’ll get there…
OMAC proclaims himself to be empowered by the Global Peace Agency… and chases away the workers for their illegal and dangerous practices. He then turns to Lila… recognizing her as his friend. Realizing that she’s a terrifying abomination, he transmutes his explosive energy into a wall of Kirbytech and blows the building and the Build-A-Friends to pieces. This is actually the end of the story… so, let’s go back in time.
Earlier, at the offices of the Global Peace Agency Professor Myron Forest believes he has found the perfect candidate for something called “Project OMAC”… Buddy Blank! A pair of Peace Agents… with hidden faces (thanks to cosmetic spray) order him to immediately link Blank up to the “Brother Eye” satellite.
… and once they leave, that’s just what he sets about doing. He wakes the long dormant satellite, and introduces it to his photo of Buddy Blank. Forest asks that he change him into OMAC. Brother Eye understands… and states that he and his new best Buddy will be as brothers.
Now, let’s meet the man himself… Buddy Blank. He’s an awkward fella… who doesn’t appear to get on all that well with his coworkers at Pseudo-People, Incorporated. He gets socked and mocked just for trying to say hello to a young lady at the office. His supervisor witnesses the entire thing… and blames it on him and his “persecution complex”. Wow. With his shoulders slumped he heads out of the department… and on the way, he gets tripped! What a bunch of creeps! Wonder if we might be getting some creative-commentary here.
The supervisor follows and demands he visit the “Psychology Section” to work out his issues. Turns out this corporation comes fully equipped with a fantastical psyche department… and ooh boy, it’s wild! There are rooms dedicated to various means of “working out one’s issues”. There’s a room where you can cry… a “Destruct Room” where you can break stuff… and kick “pseudo-people” in the rump… set cars on fire (!!!). Woof.
He decides that none of these rooms will help him right now… after all, he’s not angry… just depressed. Suddenly, his (only?) friend Lila (from the mysterious Section-D) runs up and wraps her arms around him. They have a… pretty shallow conversation (on a count of the upcoming… and already-happened revelation).
A pair of goggled employees are watching the entire exchange… and once Buddy leaves, they collect her… taking her back to Section-D where they prepare her… for shipment!
Some time later, Buddy Blank ventures into Section-D… for the first time. He is immediately “greeted” by a pair of pistols. Whoops! He says he just wants to talk to Lila, which the workers find humorous. They sit our man down and make him watch a film. In it, he is introduced to the newest model of “Build-A-Friend”… a female, who is sent to a literary agent (hmm…) who immediately falls in love with her… and then she blows up! Buddy is mortified… Pseudo-People, Incorporated is selling… murder!!? Whodathunkit?
Buddy realizes what this might mean on an international scale… world leaders could be assassinated by pseudo-people! He must put a stop to it before this triggers an atomic war! It’s here that he learns that… dun-dun-dunnnnn… Lila is also a female-bomb! One of the guards goes to grab Buddy… likely to dispose of him, when Brother Eye connects… transforming our man into a One Man Army Corps!
From here, it’s pretty academic… OMAC beats the hell out of everyone. He’s bulletproof, super strong, and has lightning-fast reflexes… we know the deal.
With the baddies out of the way, OMAC turns his attention to Lila… and we’re back where we started. He blows Section-D to kingdom come, and proclaims that his next target will be Mr. Big (who?).
Hmm… probably not the best issue to cover in tribute to the King’s 100th Birthday. I wish I’d have held on to that Mister Miracle… because this… ehh, I didn’t really dig it. The art was strong, but the story… I dunno.
Being a jerk who overthinks everything, I can’t help but wonder if Kirby was working through some stuff with this story. We’ve got a fella being mistreated at the office… and whose superiors blame him for everything. Instead of being given the opportunity to talk things out, he’s simply dismissed to the “Psychology Section” to work through his issues. There’s also a case of a “literary agent” being sent a bomb-woman… can’t say for sure if there’s any significance to that. I’m sure there is some “commercialism” and “corporate” subtext to all this… but it’s more fun to dig a bit deeper, even if it’s in vain.
While this provides a ton of fodder for armchair psychologists and fake-ass analysts (like me) to play with… it doesn’t feel like a satisfying story… or even a chapter. At least for me, the story format with the beginning actually being the end didn’t help matters… there was no “reveal”, we already knew Lila was a bot… and we know that OMAC destroys her, so Buddy’s discovery didn’t have much “punch”.
Let’s discuss design. The first time I saw OMAC I thought he looked incredibly silly… and he kinda does, but I’ve softened on him. I do think he’s one of those characters who really only looks right when Kirby draws him. The Build-A-Friend Lila looks horrifying. Truly something that could haunt your dreams. Really like the “look” of the book.
The cover… on the other hand? It’s a pretty weird look for a #1, ain’t it? I mean, there’s a lot going on in text… but, the image seems an odd choice for a character introduction. I couldn’t imagine seeing this strange mohawked fella throwing a lady-in-a-box at me on the newsstand and feeling compelled to snatch it up. It’s got it’s charm… but, still… so weird.
Is this worth a read? I’d say so! It’s certainly not my favorite DC Jack, but there is a lot of weirdness to enjoy here. The art is pretty haunting, and (at least I had) a lot of fun trying to “read into” what some of the subtext. This issue has been collected in the Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps (2008) Hardcover, and is available digitally!
Before we wrap up, I just wanna say something. If you listen to the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast, you heard me say this a few weeks ago. I want to thank DC Comics for actually putting out new work in tribute to Jack Kirby’s legacy. It bothers me greatly that Marvel, who it feels like each and every week are trying to bury Kirby’s legacy, are only celebrating #Kirby100 by rereleasing “True Believer” reprints… of books already freely available on Marvel Unlimited… and charging a buck for ’em. It’s pretty sad when you stop and think about it. When I think of the genesis of Marvel… it’s Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko that come to mind… and it’s DC carrying the torch.
Anyhoo… Happy 100th to the King of Comics!
(Not the) Letters Page:
More #Kirby100 Fun:
Coffee and Comics Podcast
The Pop Culture Palace
Episode 4: 100 Years of Jack Kirby