OMAC, What Is Best In Life?

August 28th, 2014

Do you think that he’d even know? I’m not sure. He’s always so busy, isn’t he? The character and the book he starred in are a perfect match that way.

I’ve been spending a lot of time round at Kirby’s recently, and my favourite Kirby is the chatty, energetic old guy who’s perpetually setting up a big picture with the intention of hinting at an even bigger one. I’m talking about the Kirby who’s always happy to sit you down, offer you a drink and ask how you’re doing before the trip so nighttown begins. You’ll find this Kirby in The Eternals, of course, as well as in his Fourth World stories, and it’s hard not to love the guy.

The Jack Kirby you meet in OMAC is every bit as sharp as that other Jack, but he’s forever on the move. You head round to his place only to find him halfway out the door. This situation poses no problem for Kirby: ‘Of course you can come along!’ he barks. ‘I’m about to grab a taxi down to the “Brother” Eye if you’re willing to take a detour?’

Before you even have a chance to say yes you’re jumping out of the taxi and into the “Brother” Eye, a dingy old man’s pub untouched by the smoking ban, the sort of place that’s packed full of cigar smoke and shifty characters. And talking about characters, did Kirby really just tell you that that girl over there is a robot? And what’s that he’s saying about a man so rich he can afford to rent out whole cities for his private parties? You’re sure that he just said that the most recent party had a more sinister purpose, but somehow Kirby’s over at the other side of the bar now, stopping a nasty brawl before it can properly get going. One minute he’s holding a man ten years his junior by the throat, the next they’re heading towards you, talking quite intently with each other about the “Sickies”.

Kirby slaps you on the arm, buys you a drink and introduces you to his new friend Bucky… no, wait, it’s Buck, sorry. Kirby starts to settle down; he stretches his back out, and it looks like he’s about to chat to you when he suddenly decides to throw a nearby chair through the closest window. You’re about to tell the old guy to chill the fuck out, but then he leaps clean through the window and chases a mugger off down the street.

A brief ‘Good to see ya kid!’ and a hastily written check to the bar owner later and Kirby’s off into the night, shouting ‘OMAC lives so that man may live!!’ as he goes. Shit, that was exhausting, you think. But hell, when was the last time you had that much fun with a comic book superhero?

Does OMAC know what’s best in life? I’m not sure, but the man who created him certainly did! Happy birthday, then, to Jack Kirby – still missed, still the only king I will ever bow to.

A funny thing happened after I read Jeet Heer’s twitter essay on the debt popular culture owes to Jack Kirby: I found myself wanting to get some Kirby in front of my eyes again for the first time in a couple of months.

Remembering The Beast Must Die’s classic (#classic) post on The Demon, I decided to start there and I was impressed by the supremely elegant hackwork I found within:

This might sound dismissive, but it’s not meant to be. Mark Evanier’s introduction frames these stories as an attempt to horror comic on demand – “Carmine [Infantino] wants a comic about a demon? Fine. I’ll give him one. I’ll even call it THE DEMON! - and compared to Kirby’s Fourth World books or his work on The Eternals, there’s a lack of grandiose philosophical ambition coded into this particular eruption of granite-faced monsters and face-splitting energy blasts.

The Demon is a formula book through and through, with Kirby sweating away to recapture (& literalise) the magic of The Hulk: Jason Blood socialises in glorious Gotham city until an occult menace emerges, prompting the titular Demon into action; after spending a few pages getting kicked around by this month’s threat while his friends trail or pine after him in a state of groovy bewilderment, Etrigan will best his opponent through sheer energy and force of will; eventually, Jason Blood returns to his wonderful social life with a slightly more sombre look on his face:

And yet, there’s an admirable thematic consistency to these adventures…

PREPARING REACTIONS TO THE NEWLY REDESIGNED DARKSEID DOT DOT DOT

Darkseid Is… An inaction figure/A “21st Century big bad”/A redesign of a redesign of a real design/A quaint plastic monster farting out an unclean sun.

Darkseid Is… Straining for relevance/A big Depeche Mode fan/Dangerously indebted to the robust sartorial choices of a certain Lex Luthor.

Darkseid Is… A dullard’s idea of raw spectacle/Actually quite ripped underneath that hard shell/Pretending to be a pint man now, probably.

Darkseid Is… Representative of nothing/Reflective of nothing/Currently unable to smuggle meaning under his dainty little skirt.

Darkseid Is… Singing the Arkham City blues/A capitalist realist’s dream/Safe now for renewed consumption.

Darkseid Is… Honestly, pretty fucking dull in this incarnation.