The World That’s Coming Revisited!

August 28th is Jack Kirby’s Birthday, and rather than go with my usual tribute post–because really, I said about all I can about the guy with last year’s–I thought I might take the opportunity to revisit one of my favorites because hey, it worked out pretty well last time.

Anyway, I’ll be honest with you: When I was a kid, I did not like Kirby. I remember picking up the first few issues of X-Men: The Early Years when I was around thirteen and thinking that the art and character designs were just awful. To be fair, those early X-Men issues aren’t Jack’s best work, and when you stack them up against other stuff he was doing at the time, you can tell that his heart’s not in it the way it was for stuff like Fantastic Four. Still, even before then, his work turned me off.

Or to be more accurate, it scared the hell out of me.

I must’ve been about six or seven when I got a copy of Captain America #195, from Jack’s mid-70s return to the title. It was the first Marvel Comic I’d ever read, and until I hit the seventh grade and was issued my mandatory copy of Amazing Spider-Man #33, it was the last one. I should probably explain here that when I was a kid, I took things way too seriously, and when I saw this…


(Click to enlarge)



The weird, distorted figures, the floating head with the hangman on the American flag, the mob of people driven to murderous frenzy and tearing the “Freedom Freak” effigy limb from limb… it blew young Chris’s mind to the point where even today, I’m always surprised when I grab the trade off the shelf and find out that they aren’t huge splash panels.

Of course, it didn’t scare me away for that long, and from what I’ve heard from friends of mine, it wasn’t an unusual experience. Not the part about being scared by an issue of Captain America–that one, it seems, was just me–but just not understanding what the big deal was with Kirby until the one magic summer where you all the sudden realize that holy crap Jack Kirby is awesome.

For me, it was the New Gods that won me over, but that wasn’t the book that made me the die-hard fan I am today. No… that was this guy:




For those of you unfamiliar with him–and if you’ve been reading the ISB for any considerable length of time, this cannot possibly apply to you–OMAC is the One-Man Army Corps, who polices The World That’s Coming with the help of an all-powerful satellite named Brother Eye that uses “electro-hormone surgery” to give him super-powers and the greatest mohawk in comics history.

That’s right, I said greatest. Suck it, Mr. T and the T-Force.

Anyway, with all that I talk about OMAC, it occurs to me that I rarely talk about anything past the third page of #2–because really, once you’ve seen those dudes try to keep OMAC out of that city even though he straight up told ’em he was going in , what else is there?–so instead of going back to the City of the Super-Rich tonight, I’m going to focus on this one:



OMAC #4’s The Busting of a Conqueror, wherein OMAC follows up the previous issue’s act of fighting a literal One Hundred Thousand Foes by dragging a “little Hitler” called Kirovan Kafka downtown, which in this case is represented by a criminal court at the top of Mount Everest.

And that’s the thing: For all its huge Kirby concepts and bravura that go into it, the World That’s Coming is unique among comic book futures for the simple fact that it’s not the shiny paradise of Legion of Super-Heroes or the grim, terrible dystopia of… well, also of Legion of Super-Heroes. Instead, the setting Kirby gives us is a world that, once you get past the shock of his designs, is one that we can believe is coming because for the most part, it’s already here.

He takes everything that could go wrong with technology and all the fears that go along with a world where the ability to destroy every bit of life on the planet is at hand and just extrapolates it out to the fantastic–with stories of artificial water shortages and plastic surgery gone crazy as the rich pursue eternal youth–and gives us a hero who has to act alone because a full-scale war is just too dangerous. In essence, it’s the world we live in, but with giant green robo-tanks.

And that’s why we need a lawman like this:



So back to the story: OMAC brings in Kafka to face trial at the Top of the World, but when the would-be dictator keeps going on and on about an alleged “avenger” coming to rescue him from his court date, OMAC heads out in a jet and..

Well just check this radness out:


“Animal, mineral or vegetable? It could be all three!


But wait.

It gets better.



Yes: In order to bring a criminal to justice in the World That’s Coming, OMAC has to take out a giant purple fire-breathing nuclear insect monster.

And that is why I love Jack Kirby.

22 thoughts on “The World That’s Coming Revisited!

  1. I might have to get that recent OMAC trade mow.

    You comic bloggers are murder on my wallet, by I love you anyways. :)

    happy birthday to The King.

  2. OMAC is unstoppably awesome, but I’d like to just say a word about that first comic you mentioned – the one about a scrawny little nobody who was chosen for a top secret military experiment and genetically reconstructed into a superhuman fighting machine who spent years striding across an dystopian, apocalyptic warscape doing nothing but setting foot to ass. I am referring of course to Captain America, or as I like to call him, GOLDEN-AGE OMAC!!! And now you know…the rest of the story.

    Happy Birthday Mr. Kirby.

  3. I think it was Scott Simmons’ re-telling of those first 3 pages of OMAC number 2 that got me hooked on OMAC.

    For Kirby, it was that summer where I checked out that Marvel coffee table book from the library that re-printed the classic FF “This Man, This Monster.”

  4. Mark Evanier actually said that OMAC started as a pitch for a Captain America of the future comic. Or at least Jack took whatever ideas he had from there and extrapolated them in to the mohawked, fire breathing insect monster stomping, character with the greatest initials ever that we know and love around here. So, you know, pretty appropriate that you drew those parallels there, Tim C.

  5. I agree– those 8 issues of Omac are Kirby’s greatest achievement and the best way to win over new fans to his writing.

  6. I’m with you on Kirby and youth — I had the same reaction, and I think my introduction was through FF reprints. Having cut my comics teeth on Byrne, Adams, Swan, Infantino etc., the blocky inks and crazy-ass foreshortening of Kirby really threw me.

    I had a similar curve developing an appreciation for Mignola: I remember when that “Wolverine Fights Apocalypse in the Savage Land” comic came out, and I was all excited because I thought Jim Lee Wolverine was so RAD, and Mignola just freaked the hell out of me.

  7. I first came across Jack Kirby right around the time he returned to Marvel, and I recall both loving and hating him.

    I didn’t like his then-current work (ETERNALS, DEVIL DINOSAUR, BLACK PANTHER), although I bought his CAPTAIN AMERICA month after month (and AVENGERS, IRON MAN & THOR when he did the covers – the man could sell a book!)

    What I really liked was the Kirby work you could find in the blessed plethora of Marvel reprint titles sold in the mid ’70s (the F.F. in MARVEL’S GREATEST, the CAPT. A. half of MARVEL DOUBLE FEATURE, and THOR in MARVEL SPECTACULAR).

    It was a great time to be reading comic books.

    Oh, by the way, “Meteor shower in his mouth?” HA! Chris, you cracks me up!!

  8. I’ve got a love/hate relationship with OMAC. Some of those images (like the disassembled girl in a box that kicks the series) are incredibly striking, and then so many other pages just look like Kirby was just running down the clock on his DC contract.

  9. If you’ve never read KAMANDI, do so now! It’s one of the most fun comics ever published (and when singling out Kirby, that says a lot, since they were all the most fun comics ever published). It encompasses EVERYTHING that Chris Sims stands for, and has giant gorillas, PIRATE LEOPARDS, a giant bug named “Devil,” radioactive mutants, punches, face-kicks, robot gangsters, mutant bat-people, beasts riding motorcycles, lions, and tigers, AND BEARS! Oh my!

    Hopefully DC will get off their butts and either release the final two Archive Editions, or re-package it into an Omnibus.

  10. I tolerated his work in the 60’s until my young mind was boggled by Kamandi. Later when I reread his earlier work, my opinion was reassessed and fell in love with it.
    O-tanjobi omedetou, Kirby-san!

  11. OMAC was what Jack Kirby captured me with–there’s something intensely captivating about a bad-ass with a Mohawk and orange tights.

    “the setting Kirby gives us is a world that, once you get past the shock of his designs, is one that we can believe is coming because for the most part, it’s already here.”

    That, and your following statements are completely dead on. I love all of it for precisely those reasons.

  12. As a kid I always wondered why “old” comics always seemed to have such bad art. I eventually realized it was because all of those comics were drawn by the same guy, and that my younger self was a moron. I think it might have actually been the first Freedom Force game that made me realize that Kirby was awesome, and then Devil Dinosaur sealed the deal. Happy Birthday to the King!

  13. My favorite OMAC moment comes from OMAC #3, where he defeats the evil dictator’s army using only the ARMED EJECTOR SEAT OF HIS ROCKET. That is some good stuff right there.

    I didn’t get Kirby as a kid, but when I went back to read the New Gods after the various appearances of Darkseid in the DCAU, I got him big time. My bookshelf has more Kirby than I can easily count-we can’t live in too bad a world if Devil Dinosaur got a hard back collection, now can we-and I can’t wait for the Demon trade to hit.

    And if nothing else, Kirby as writer has so many memorable lines that just stick in your head-“I salute you, deadly microbe!” from the Eternals Annual might be my favorite line in a comic ever. I love Kirby’s work. Even when it’s subpar, Kirby’s work just had such power to it. The man was awesome.

  14. First Herbie, now Omac.

    Are you TRYING to make me go bankrupt on comic books, Mr. Sims? Is this some kind of sick joke to you!?

  15. So, Kirby isn’t just like jazz, he’s exactly like Jazz? I mean who likes that stuff when they’re a kid? But at some magic moment, bam!

    Plus, hey politics doesn’t ever stop being topical does it, Cap fans?

  16. OMAC is also one of my favorite Kirby works. I would love nothing more than to set foot in a comics shop and find OMAC #9, thirty-five years late, waiting for me with open… fists?…

  17. I was turned on to comics in general in part by Marvel Double Feature, and then to more Kirby by the humongous Marvel Collections like the collection of Thor Meets Hercules and the FF (featuring the Galactus Trilogy) and followed Kirby right through the Eternals. Why couldn’t Morrison have adapted that instead of Roy goddam Thomas?

  18. Animal, mineral or vegetable? Doesn’t matter — OMAC will punch its clock.

    Why stop there? OMAC also does conceptual.

    War Crime
    1: n. “I’m OMAC! Evacuate this dictionary entry! I’m going to destroy it!”

    War Criminal
    1: n. A person who was, is, or soon will be punched by OMAC.