Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Top 10 OMAC Covers

It's funny how delays work. I started developing this list before the launch of the New 52, and I fretted over the lack of diversity in the covers. I had the bare bones down around the time the third issue of the relaunched series was released. Now that I'm finally getting ready to publish over a year later, the New 52 series has already ended, a slew of guest appearances related to membership in the new defunct Justice League International have come and gone, and Kevin Cho still made little impact on the list as completed in 2011. Well, at least this'll be relatively stable for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of which, after the failure of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Saga, the King scaled back his ambitions considerably. His one success at DC was Kamandi, a riff on Planet of the Apes, so he seemed to riffle through his junk drawer looking for self-contained ideas that could be similarly commercial. One was an unpublished idea for a Captain America legacy hero in the future that he'd decided not to give to Marvel. Fueled by the socially conscious science fiction of the day, Kirby offered DC the One Man Army Corps. A schlimazel appropriately named Buddy Blank is picked by the seemingly omniscient satellite computer Brother Eye to receive an instant surgery that turns him into a superhuman powerhouse with wicked fighting skills. This gift is bestowed in service to keeping a world on the brink from collapsing into war and chaos. OMAC was always pitted against superior forces, in numbers and/or raw power, that he could pulverize into submission to the positive New World Order. It was decidedly blue collar speculative fiction, but ended up being surprisingly prescient. Still, the world is hard on prophets, and OMAC wasn't selling well enough to bother continuing with it after Kirby left DC with the eighth issue.

Very little of note was done with the concept over the years, surely in part due to DC's shying away from alternate futures after they streamlined their continuity in the 1980s. In the 00s, elements were recycled into a new, contemporary concept wherein forces of a shadow government infected unsuspecting citizens with nanites that turned them into sleeper agent T-1000s. It was an okay if highly derivative premise (a summation of writer Greg Rucka's entire career,) and was more successfully implemented thanks to ties to several major company events. What heat there was cooled down though, and an attempt to offer comics a single prime OMAC came to nothing. A new Asian OMAC hewing closer to Kirby's original, as a hero but not as a world building prediction engine, bit the dust after exactly eight issues.

10) Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth #50 (May, 1977)

I have to confess that there are any number of better covers that I could have put in the #10 spot. The truth is, I couldn't be bothered to strain over deciding who rated highest in last place. Meanwhile, this cover was my introduction to OMAC, tied the two Kirby properties together, and was inked by the underrated Alfredo Alcala. So there.

9) OMAC #8 (April, 2007)

Renato Guedes did some very attractive work on this series, including detailed, cinematic covers. Unfortunately, it's hard to get excited over robots smashing cars on the Las Vegas strip when Kirby was draining whole oceans and scooping out the brains of America's unsuspecting youth decades prior. Even here, with OMAC battling a Brother Eye built out of space junk, it's hard not to notice our hero looks like the Tick after getting punched in the face by a Megadeth album cover.

8) O.M.A.C. #1 (November, 2011)

Doom was predicted for this one right out of the gate, and I find an OMAC set in the world that is misses the point entirely. Still, I've heard the book was fun while it lasted, and it was nice to see a new Asian hero who didn't fit any sort of comic book ethnic mold. Keith Giffen seemed to be having a good time, but his simplistic covers paled against Kirby's, or even reference happy Renato Guedes.

7) Countdown Special: OMAC #1 (April, 2008)

This is a little more Magnus Robot Fighter than OMAC, but it's also a nice Ryan Sook image in the iconic Steranko mold. Okay, I'll admit that there are only six great(ish) OMAC covers, and this is where the line gets drawn between relevant (below) and merely pretty.

6) OMAC #4 (March/April, 1975)

What a difference the lack of a colored border makes. Kirby doesn't draw one damned thing once the logo barrage kicks in, but by simply allowing for breathing room under the clear blue sky, the world expands. It tricks you into thinking that monstrosity fills the entire cover, and really sells OMAC as David to its Goliath. Those are OMAC odds!

5) Firestorm #18 (December, 2005)

Yeah, this Borginess is very much divorced from the Kirby original, but it's creepily effective, and has the Nuclear Man ever had a cooler look? You will be assimilated!

4) OMAC #3 (January/February, 1975)

So here's OMAC in his goofy little Kirby flying machine with the suggestively placed stick, coasting out of the sun against a lemon yellow sky, tra-la-la. But wait, what about that semicircle of cannons as he is confronted by A HUNDRED-THOUSAND FOES! So, so OMAC.

3) The OMAC Project #5 (October, 2005)

For me, one of the defining characteristics of a great OMAC cover is to have as much stuff going on as possible. The future is coming so fast and hard that our puny 21st century brains should struggle to process it. Here we have a central figure generating multiple weapons amidst an explosion of pieces on a chessboard that's being written in binary code. Yeah, that's about blipvert enough for me.

2) OMAC #6 (July/August, 1975)

This one is awesome because of how it goes whole hog. OMAC isn't just bounding at the reader, but carrying a bound woman with him. They aren't just leaping off a wrecked train; you've got three cars of shattered windows and wrenched wheels. You know it's a dilapidated subway station because it's covered in battered signage and platform docks. You know the place is crawling with mutants, because the ones not reaching for our heroes amidst the wreckage are grasping from outside the frame. The only major flaw is that nearly half the image is taken up by clumsy, flat negative space drowning in bad copy and obese logos.

1) OMAC #1 (September/October, 1974)

This is actually kind of a terrible cover. There's an absolute vacuum for background, there's all manner of copy everywhere, the layout is awkward, the hero is a tiny figure, and there appears to be some question as to whether he is in fact a "One Man Army." On the other hand, was there a more twisted vision of sexuality in the Bronze Age (anticipating Realdoll by decades) than Lila the "Build-A-Friend?" Was there a more deliciously hyperbolic come-on than "A Startling Look Into... The World That's Coming!?" It's all so off, it's somehow on.

Honorable Mentions
OMAC #2 (1974)
OMAC Book One (1991)
Wonder Woman #221

Cornucopia of Top Comic Covers


The Irredeemable Shag said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Irredeemable Shag said...

Top 10 OMAC covers? Do you mean, the 10 OMAC covers that suck the least? ;) Just kidding, love the classic OMAC by Kirby!

#7, #8, and #2 are the only ones I really love.

And for the record, Firestorm ALWAYS looks cool.

Finally, "blipvert". NICE!

The Irredeemable Shag