Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"OMAC lives... so that MAN may live!"

Colin Smith started writing about OMAC, and if anything's going to assure I pop up out of the woodwork, it's somebody talking about 70s Jack Kirby comics. I wrote the following comment on part one of Colin's post and, being the narcissist I am, decided it was TOO GOOD just to leave in a comment gallery. So here's what I scraped together:

OMAC is one of my favorite Kirby works. I mean, obviously New Gods ranks higher from a more considered standpoint, but OMAC is barnstorming stuff.

We're most likely not supposed to care about Buddy Blank. Look at that name-- he's a cipher trapped in a world he never made, a world that's in the throes of becoming Orwell's 1984, a "world that's coming." It's some kind of left-wing nightmare world, where the Global Peace Agency is a vaguely sinister, faceless group of deciders with an omniscient sentient satellite on the payroll, and *they're the good guys*. Where OMAC is the hero because he is a one-man military who has the might to be right. He's an apotheosis of an individual but the antithesis of the world that made him-- note how he doesn't say he's bulletproof, but that his body "is rejecting the bullets!" That is some fine hyperbole, but it also speaks to the nature of OMAC's character in this world.

It is interesting that OMAC never transforms *back* into Buddy Blank between adventures. This isn't Captain Marvel, where a child lives out his fantasy of being a cool adult. This is a cog in a machine being transformed into a living weapon that can break that machine. Buddy Blank's only friend is Lila, who isn't even real, and he becomes OMAC, who is equally unreal, or, this being Kirby, uber-real, realer than Buddy Blank. It could be read either way. But look at that story where he fights "Kafka," who is clearly a sci-fi Castro, but with the name of an existentialist writer. What the hell does it mean?

Kirby wasn't trying to make literature here, just crazy action comics, but his 70s DC work, particularly the Fourth World, has a lot of personal philosophy bleeding into the pages. I imagine OMAC is the same, but it's a much more cynical philosophy.

Now you've got me wanting to write an article on the book, and I have thought about doing so before. I'd also love to resume the series with #9, just picking up with the story 35 years later like a day hasn't gone by, and keeping Kirby's original series going. There's so much you can say with OMAC's world, and from a modern perspective, there's so much more you can do with the concepts Kirby brought up but didn't quite flesh out.