Vital Art – OMAC!

O_OmacIconCRAZY Doesn’t Cover It!

I just finished revisiting Jack Kirby’s OMAC opus from 1974, and I’m trying to find a pithy way to encapsulate it for the uninitiated – the best I can come up with is “Like Philip K. Dick if his target audience was 7.”

I was going to “review” it for you, but that seems like an impossible task, for different audiences this is either unreadable crap or a work of stunning creative force. If you like visual storytelling, you owe it to yourself to dive into ALL of Kirby, and this slim volume is as good a place to start as any. If you’re any kind of snob, STAY AWAY, this is unashamed populist pulp. So instead of a linear review, I’m just going to tick off the things that jumped out at me!

Indescribable Writing

O_Omac_LilaThis ain’t an easy read, and not because it’s complicated, quite the contrary. Comic book writing in 1974 was still struggling with the age old “why am I writing this thing and who is it for” thing comics had struggled with since their inception. The idea of a creator just writing what he wanted, the way he wanted for the audience he wanted was years away. No, Kirby had to contend with editorial policies that would have put out wordless books of kitten pictures if that was selling. So as you delve into OMAC, you’re quickly assaulted by the following:

  1. It’s clearly written for kids who are just coming to grips with reading. Kirby’s word choices are stunningly simple.
  2. The premise of the book (that OMAC is a one-man army corp who works for the Global Peace Agency who can’s use violence and can’t show their faces because they represent all nations and people) is repeated over and over and over. This is because it’s a new book and they don’t know if the reader has read any previous installments.
  3. This thing is the very height of “tell don’t show” – people are endlessly saying things like “OMAC’s taking off!” while looking at OMAC taking off – it gets pretty annoying.

All that being said, even with all of these bizarre stipulations, this stuff still shimmers with creativity. The stories are WILD, they have mad scope, and Kirby always brings it back to real (albeit simplistic) emotion.

 Color Schemes From the Lizard Brain

O_OmacJumpKirby’s complete lack of concern over realistic color schemes makes this a singular experience. I’ve never noticed this about Kirby’s work, but he makes COMIC BOOKS, these aren’t analogs for the “real world”, these are realities to be held in your hand. From cover to cover, Kirby designs a tactile reading experience you’re supposed to focus on – it’s a universe built to exist in two dimensions, on paper, an nowhere else. Huge fields of green, orange, yellow, blue applied to the page not to indicate the colors of the objects, but to hold the page together as a printed design. This guy was the four-color Picasso.

Amazingly Accurate Future Predictions

I can’t stress this enough, using a child’s vocabulary, Kirby just tosses off prophetic concepts like “computer dating”, “pocket phones”, interactive 3-D movies via what’s basically the Oculus Rift, drones, the super-rich who buy the bodies of hot young people to transplant their brains into (okay, this hasn’t happened yet, but you get the idea). I’m just scratching the surface – this guy was a flat out visionary.

Produced Under INSANE Deadlines

O_Omac_SmashThe one thing above all I took away from reading this trade was from the forward by Mark Evanier recounting that Kirby’s contract with DC stipulated write/pencil/edit 15 page a WEEK! Knocking out rambling blog posts five times a week challenges me – looking at the creative output of this master (under this same contract he created New Gods, Mister Miracle, The Forever People, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, OMAC, Kamandi, The Demon, and Kobra, “The Losers” in Our Fighting Forces and more) reinforces the idea that anything is possible. 15 PAGES A WEEK! If you’re a creative person whining about how tough it is to get your projects done, keep this number in the front of your consciousness, it’ll serve as powerful motivation.

Okay, enough gibberish, just wanted to give a shout out to a creator who can’t have enough accolades. If you want to see how much of a fanboy I am, check out my Kirby-a-Day project, 30 days interpreting the King.