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Year of the Artist, Day 113: Keith Giffen, Part 5 – O.M.A.C. #1

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Keith Giffen, and the issue is O.M.A.C. #1, which was published by DC and is cover dated November 2011. Enjoy!

As I mentioned yesterday, in the late 1990s and for most of the 2000s, Giffen didn’t draw a whole lot, and I own very little of what he did draw. He drew Ambush Bug: Year None, which I own, but I figured we’d had enough of the Bug, and anyway, this comic came out more recently and is in the same vein as Year None, so I thought this would be a fine way to go out. Plus, as Giffen imitated Kirby early in his career, it’s nice that we come back to him imitating Kirby on one of Kirby’s own creations. It’s all circular, people!

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Let’s see … the bulky, geometric hero? The loose limbs of the victims in the first panel? The square face? The oversized, squared-off fingers? The precise, sharp edges to the spot blacks? Yep, this is a very Kirby-esque page. Scott Koblish, who’s a good artist in his own right, inks this, and I suppose that Giffen was perfectly happy with the sleeker inking lines, as he’s definitely trying to make this more “superheroic.” Koblish/Giffen gives us some rougher inking, but for the most part, it’s a far cry from Giffen’s heyday, as we saw a few days ago.

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The circle is complete, as this is so much like Giffen’s 1970s work that it could easily be from that decade but for the higher production values. Instead of his late 1980s/early 1990s angular style, we get a more rounded face on Jody. Like a lot of Kirby women (especially from the 1970s), her face is a bit wide, with eyes a bit farther apart than we might expect, and Giffen hints at the devastating cheekbones that Kirby loved giving his women. She’s also not a waif, as Kirby built his women like he built his men – to last, damn it! She’s certainly not a big woman, but she doesn’t look like someone you could push around. The shift from the way Giffen had been drawing 20 years earlier back to the way he was drawing 35 years earlier is odd. I mean, it’s not shocking, as he’s working on a Kirby book, but maybe DC told him his more idiosyncratic stuff just wasn’t going to cut it in the lockstep DCnU. This is as “mainstream” as Giffen gets, I guess.

Tony is a douchebag, by the way, because he has that goatee. Why is everyone in fiction with a goatee like that a douchebag? There have to be people in real life with goatees like that who aren’t douchebags, right?

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More Kirby homage here, as O.M.A.C. tears through the cannon fodder. Once again, we see the looseness of the limbs of the cannon fodder – for crying out loud, they’re even masked, because they are there simply to be overwhelmed – and the blocky anatomy, both Kirby staples. In Panel 3, we get some nice Kirby hands – that brown-suited scientist at the bottom could have modeled for the King – and some nice exaggerated facial expressions from our hero and the other scientist. It’s a nice page, flowing well, full of action, and very clear. It’s a big contrast to, say, Trencher.

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Hey, look! It’s Big Barda’s Evil Twin!

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Big Barda’s Evil Twin turns out to be that evil robot in Panel 1, because of course she does. Man, that’s another super Kirby panel, from the distended skin around the mouth as it expands for the guns to come out of it, to the guns themselves. The machinery is very Kirby-esque, even though we can’t see it too clearly because of the brightness of the gunfire (this issue is colored by Hi-Fi; I’ve already expressed my disappointment with their brand of coloring in the post about Yildiray Cinar’s work on Legion of Super-Heroes). Panel 3, as weirdly disturbing it is, is another good example of Giffen channeling Kirby. The impact O.M.A.C. makes on the robot is impressive, and even the explosion reminds us of the King. O.M.A.C.’s hands are, naturally, quite large, bigger than even we expect from a Kirby homage, as O.M.A.C. seems to burst forward toward the robot. It’s a neat panel.

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Once more with the Kirby pastiche! We get the Kirby Krackle in Panel 1, and the machinery on this page is very Kirby-ish. It’s gigantic, oppressive, seemingly superfluous, and apparently fragile. That’s everything a Kirby machine is!

Giffen seems to be comfortable with his Kirby homages, as he’s firing up another Kirby book in near future, presumably with this kind of art. I miss his late 1980s/early 1990s stuff, though, because that stuff was really cool and unlike pretty much anything that you could find in comics. Oh well, if Giffen’s happy, that’s all that matters! I hope you had fun going through his career, and tomorrow, I’ll check out another artist who, at one point, became almost incomprehensible before coming back from the brink (to a degree; I’m sure there are people who still think he’s incomprehensible!). Who could it be? You’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out! Soothe your impatient soul in the archives!

15 Comments

Maybe you can find scans of the style Giffen shifted to right before the first Legion series ended to make way for the Five Years Later group. That was a distinct style from any other as well…

Ricardo Amaral

April 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Funny you didn’t include two iconic works from him that set him apart from everyone out there: his Legion of Super Heroes (both runs, which were VERY distinct – the Levitz era and the Bierbaums’ – this one as my all-time favorite Giffen style) and his Doctor Fate run with Dave Hunt, very oblique and artsy.
You could argue your choice of Ambush Bug Nothing Special is closely linked to his second tenure at LSH but the mid-eighties is just not represented.
I also tend to disagree with the idea that OMAC could be a 70s book based on his storytelling abilities (which is Giffen’s biggest strenght as artist). See how his pages flow easily and information is right there – dialogues be damned. He didn’t have that flow until his Legion work in the 80s.
One trait that comes from his early 90s era and sets him apart from Kirby is the attention to details in the background and hubris – Kirby was much more direct, with only broad strokes, focusing details on the characters. Get Giffen and he goes ALL the way on details even on the background (see the above panel) – NOBODY does this nowadays.

Steve: Well, I have a special month planned for December, so maybe by then I’ll find some scans of his Legion work.

Ricardo: I’ve noted this before, but I just can’t get into the Legion of Super-Heroes. I used to own The Great Darkness Saga, and over the years I’ve picked up an issue or two, but I just can’t get into it, so the fact that Giffen did a lot of work on the title means I have a big gap in my Giffen artwork.

I thought about using Doctor Fate, but I thought it was close enough to the Ambush Bug Nothing Special, which also featured a lot of his parody work, so I used that instead. Doctor Fate is a very cool-looking book, but I had to make a choice! That’s what happens when I limit myself to five days per artist, no matter how long his or her career! And I did use the first Ambush Bug mini-series, which came out in 1985 – you can’t get more mid-eighties than that! :)

I think his work that I showed on Day 1 in The Defenders flowed pretty well – obviously, it had a lot more dialogue and Giffen wasn’t as good, but it was still pretty impressive. And I agree that Giffen does backgrounds a bit more detailed than Kirby did, but the machines and such are still quite Kirby-esque.

LouReedRichards

April 23, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Wow! I haven’t kept very close tabs on a lot of the more recent stuff that been coming out, so I was totally unaware of this.

Now I know I must have it.

It is interesting that he went full circle back to the king, but I do think this looks better (and not just production wise) than the Defenders. I guess if you’re going to do a Kirby homage you might as well crank it up to 11!

Thanks for featuring Giffen, he’s been a favorite for a long time. The fact that he’s had so many distinct looks made him an ideal candidate for this feature, and has made his installment my favorite one so far.

The only mistake I think you made was in assuming that we could ever have too much Ambush Bug!

Keep up the excellent work.

I haven’t really had a chance this week to read through your Giffen Analysis (too busy), but I wanted to note something that I’m not sure if you covered in depth earlier. Giffen’s art style changes according to his latest influences. His early work is heavily influenced (as you noted above) by Jack Kirby. His first run on Legion is heavily influenced by Wally Wood and George Perez, with a Little bit of Steve Ditko for good measure. Later on that turned into a look heavily influenced by Jose Munoz. Later (when he returned to Legion to close out the Paul Levitz era), Giffen’s style starts out heavily influence by Kevin McGuire, his then current collaborator on Justice Leagu/JLI. For the Bierbaum era Legion, he begins to convert that to a blockier style (This by the way is hands down my favorite artwork of Giffen’s, and some of my favorite stuff of all time.) Later, when he does trencher and work for Acclaim/Valiant and Image, you see Simon Bisley and Lovern Kindzierski creep into his work (Kindzierski also colored much of his work during this period.) He’s been channeling Jack Kirby now for the past 15 years or so, beginning with some fill-in work for both Marvel and DC during the late nineties after he spent time away from comics working in animation…

Remember that Giffen layed out a lot of the books he plotted – many Giffen touches can be seen in JLI, for example.

Here, it’s not a straight Kirby pastiche, but it does lend itself to O.M.A.C. well.

OMAC was a pretty fun book. I think Didio’s name scared people off and the Kirby homage fad is over. Too bad. I think lots of readers will warm up to this series after the fact.

I really like OMAC and so far it’s one of the biggest disppointments of the new 52 books that didn’t get a longer run.
But I guess it makes sense, that’s as long as the original lasted.

“Kirby built his women like he built his men – to last, damn it!” LOL!

There have to be people in real life with goatees like that who aren’t douchebags, right?

No. Officially anyone with a chin beard with no moustache is a ‘douchebag’. I read it on the internet so it must be true.

Also, I love Giffen’s work here. Great stuff.

I have a friend who has a goatee and is an AI guy. I have asked him to get rid of the Goatee because he looks like a tool, but to no avail.

@Vin
Giffen is laying out JL3000

tom fitzpatrick

April 24, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I enjoyed Giffen and Didio’s version of OMAC, especially the way they kept coming up of different story titles that begins with the letters that spell OMAC.

I wonder whatever they’ll do with the next book that’s soon to come out and dazzle or infuriate us!

Probably the best thing of DCNew52.
That book was amazing on every level.

Is that funny-looking yellow guy standing next to “Big Barda’s Evil Twin” supposed to be Mokkari, the co-founder of the Evil Factory? See link below for details:

http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/365fourth/2010/10/25/day-23-mokkari-simyan/

Ben: I think it is? Don’t make me go back into my long boxes to find out!!!!

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