Welcome to the two-hundred and ninety-third in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and ninety-two.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Movie Legends Revealed for the truth behind the famous quip Laurence Olivier supposedly said to Dustin Hoffman while filming The Marathon Man. Also, which famous movie star was actually publicly censured by the United States Congress for her adultery?!
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With the end of one year and the beginning of a new year coming up, this week’s legends are all somehow related to TIME!
COMIC LEGEND: O.M.A.C. was originally a “Captain America in the future” concept.
More than a few times during his career Jack Kirby found himself in awkward situations from a creative standpoint.
One of these times was the late 1960s/early 1970s, when he was still working for Marvel Comics. Kirby was still a Marvel employee, but, just like Rosemary in the classic Bob Dylan tune Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, “She was with Big Jim but she was leanin’ to the Jack of Hearts.” Similarly, Kirby was with Marvel, but he was leaning in another direction. In 1968, he did not necessarily know what direction that might be – it might have still been with Marvel, just in a different role (Kirby certainly gave Marvel every opportunity to keep him around), but he knew that he was increasingly displeased with his situation as it was at Marvel. So it would not be surprising at all if Kirby began to doubt whether he wanted to provide new characters to his current company when he might want to leave. We know that as he got closer to departing Marvel, that that is exactly what he began to do (hold on to new characters for use at his next company), but, of course, that does not mean that every idea he chose not to use was for that reason. Ideas go unused for all sorts of reasons. It’s only an interesting possibility that perhaps as early as 1968 he was thinking about a possible future beyond Marvel.
In any event, while working on Captain America in 1968 with Stan Lee and Syd Shores…
Kirby came up with the idea of introducing the Captain America of the future. The idea ended up not being used, but it clearly stuck in the back of his head.
Fast forward to 1974, when Kirby was in another awkward situation. He was under contract to DC Comics, but they had already canceled his biggest and most notable idea for them, his Fourth World line of comics and had also just canceled one of the next series he created for them, the Demon. He was still doing Kamandi, the far-out adventures of a teen in a post-apocalyptic future, which was doing well for DC.
By this time, Kirby was already thinking that perhaps DC was no better of a situation for him than Marvel was, and began to give serious thought to leaving the company. However, he was still under contract, and the terms of his contract demanded a remarkably large output of work (fifteen pages of art and story per week!), so you would have a period where Kirby would practically be an idea factory, tossing out new idea after new idea after new idea, hoping some of them would catch on like Kamandi did.
Almost certainly with the success of Kamandi in mind, Kirby went back to his unused “Captain America of the future” concept and introduced O.M.A.C….One Man Army Corps in mid-1974!
As you can see from these pages of O.M.A.C. #1, the parallels to the origin of Captain America are striking…
and then when Buddy gets his powers…
It basically is “Captain America of the future,” although naturally with a bit more of a dystopic flavor to it that I don’t know if Kirby necessarily had in mind in the late 1960s.
Thanks to Mark Evanier for the information behind O.M.A.C.’s origins, which he detailed in DC’s recent hardcover collection of the eight issues of O.M.A.C. (it also did not exactly catch on, and by the time it abruptly finished, Kirby was on his way back to Marvel for a second try)!
Here’s that hardcover…
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