Water Is Life: OMAC versus The Ocean Stealers (1975)

« The marine life is crushed and broken
by its own atoms — which cannot reduce
as fast as the water. »

I’ve been sitting on this particular entry awhile, having realized that the most opportune time to share it would be today, March 22, which happens to be World Water Day*.

In comics, few if any creators have generated so many explosive, pulse-pounding images as did Jack Kirby (1917-1994). And yet… this solemn, understated scene has likely haunted me most of all. The visuals are splendid, sure, but it’s the nature of the situation, the conceptual ramifications of the thing, that make it stick.


This splash appeared near the opening of OMAC’s final adventure, one that pitted him against Sandor Skuba, a rogue genius seizing and hoarding the planet’s water in view of controlling humanity. Threat-wise, all the adversaries that the One Man Army Corps had tangled with were mere preludes to this impressive madman. As Kirby left DC before he could wrap up the storyline as he intended, no-one walks away from this skirmish**, notwithstanding the final panel, subsequent revivals and reboots and corruptions of Kirby’s ideas by (inevitably) lesser hands and minds (and conversely bigger egos).

This is OMAC no. 7 (Sept.-Oct. 1975) and « The Ocean Stealers! », scripted, pencilled and edited by Jack Kirby, inked and lettered by D. Bruce Berry.
Could that unseen appendage be Adam Smith‘s « invisible hand of the market » ?
And here’s how it’s done.
In light of the current practices of certain corporations, notably the Swiss transnational Nestlé, Kirby was sadly prescient and clear-eyed again. As evidenced by recent events, given the technological means, today’s robber barons would not hesitate.
Writer and comics historian Mark Evanier, who spent some years as Kirby’s assistant in the ’70s, writes, in his foreword to the DC’s exemplary reprint collection Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps (2008): « So consider this fair warning: the last issue comes to a whiplash-inducing sudden stop. Jack had been setting up something big for number 9, but since he was gone and there wasn’t going to be a number 9, a new last panel (not by Kirby) was inserted to remove the immediate cliffhanger.» … a panel created, at that, with the finesse of 10-year-old unburdened by a sense of pacing. “Wharoom” to you too.


*Don’t buy the duplicitous hype, though! A perfect example of the fox guarding the henhouse.

**more accurately, everyone is stranded in limbo.

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