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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 100: Omega the Unknown #3

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This pseudo-week: Steve Gerber. Today’s page is from Omega the Unknown #3, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 1976. Enjoy!

Oh, Jonah - don't you ever change!

Someone at Marvel in the 1970s – Marv Wolfman, maybe? – thought this series was a good idea. It died a quick death, which isn’t a surprise, but it is one of those weird hidden gems that show up in comics all the time. Marvel, wisely, collected the whole thing a while back, and even though Gerber was unable to finish this the way he wanted (Steven Grant finished the story a few years later in The Defenders), it’s still an interesting comic to read.

This was back in the day when Marvel still had that banner over the title, so Gerber wouldn’t necessarily need to recap anything about the main character. We learn that Omega is a “lone survivor of an alien world,” that there’s a kid named James-Michael Starling, whose parents were robots, and the link between the two. It’s all very clear!

So Ruth, the nurse, who found James-Michael in the hospital after his parents “died” and inexplicably was allowed to give him a place to stay (a 12-year-old boy staying with two foxy single twentysomething chicks? man, the Seventies were awesome!), is holding the newspaper that helpfully recaps the previous issue – Omega fought the Hulk, and Electro showed up. This gives her a chance to exposit about James-Michael having “fainting spells,” which happens whenever Omega shows up (that “link” between them mentioned at the top of the page). And yes, that newspaper looks gigantic. It was the Seventies, man – everything was big! James-Michael lets us know that “Amber” is a photographer, and even though we might now know who Amber is, at least we know she’s important (she’s the other roommate). It is, frankly, hilarious that she’s like Cher or Madonna – her byline is “Amber” with no last name. James-Michael also makes sure that we know that the publisher, “Mr. Jameson,” is a male chauvinist. Of course he is! Good ol’ JJJ! The “grain failure” story in the paper is kind of interesting. I wonder if Gerber was making it up, referencing a real-world story, or referencing some obscure Marvel Universe trivia. I think it’s probably Door #1.

Jim Mooney doesn’t have a lot to do, but he does lay out the page nicely. He frames the newspaper nicely with Ruth and James-Michael, and their lines of vision converge right in the middle of the headline. Like a lot of Peter Parker’s photographs, it’s amazing that Amber managed to get such a good shot, but that’s why JJJ pays her the big bucks, I’m sure! I don’t know if the yellow light was as prominent in the original, but while it’s kind of odd, it does highlight the main portion of the paper, which is kind of the point.

Gerber makes sure there’s a lot of information on this page, and it gets us rather organically into the issue. That’s how it’s supposed to work!

Next: We jump many years and check out a comic that might make you cringe. But that’s probably because you don’t like awesome shit, man!!!! As always, the archives are here for your edification and enjoyment. Use them wisely!

7 Comments

I like trying to guess what the next issue’s going to be, so I’m going to say it will be Hard Time (and I agree it’s awesome).

Pedro: Hard Time wouldn’t make anyone cringe, I hope! “Awesome,” in this case, is a tad ironic. I like the comic, but I bet I’m in the minority! So no, I don’t go quite that far into the future tomorrow, but I will get to Hard Time eventually.

Could it be Nevada?

Or (*shudder*) Codename: Strykeforce? WildC.A.T.s Special #1? I likes me some Gerber, but even I have my limits.

Void Indigo, perhaps?

There was indeed a major wheat harvest failure in Russia in the fall of 1975, and it was in the papers right when this story would have been created. I wouldn’t assume Gerber was responsible for those words being on the newspaper on the splash page, however. To be honest, people usually way overestimate how much authorial control comics writers had or have over what appears in the finished product. All sorts of stuff gets added along the way without the writer’s knowledge or approval. I’d bet Gerber didn’t specify those words, but Irv Watanabe or someone else in the production process added them in — pulling a couple of words or phrases from a then-current front page in order to reinforce the impression this was indeed the front of a newspaper.

(One also notes the Bugle isn’t tabloid style, with only a single news item on the front page, but uses a multi-column format instead. Followup question: does the Bugle slogan “the picture newspaper” make any other appearances, or did someone invent it just for this? I can’t remember…)

Thanks, Richard. Interesting to know.

I hope everyone now knows which book is next!

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