Omega The Unknown #1-10
Issue(s): Omega The Unknown #1, Omega The Unknown #2, Omega The Unknown #3, Omega The Unknown #4, Omega The Unknown #5, Omega The Unknown #6, Omega The Unknown #7, Omega The Unknown #8, Omega The Unknown #9, Omega The Unknown #10
Starling is picked up by a friendly doctor named Dr. Thomas Barrow, and his nurse Ruth Hart, a supporting character from Man-Thing. Due to a lack of funding, Starling has to live at Hart's house, along with her roommate Amber. Ruth is fairly strict and old fashioned, but Amber, a freelance photographer at the Bugle, is more carefree, and possibly has a history of mental illness. Starling gets along with her better than Ruth. Through Starling's outsider status, Gerber and Skrenes deal with poverty, crime, and the failings of our education system. Starling makes friends with a girl named Dian...
...and a boy named John Nedly, who is beaten to death by a school bully named Nick.
Starling had previously had several encounters with the bully himself, which are used to illustrate his strange dispassionate ignorance of the world.
Parallel to Starling's plots is an interconnected plot about a Superman-ish alien called Omega.
Omega is some sort of robotic or genetically bred warrior from another planet. It is strongly implied that Starling is a younger version of whatever Omega is, but in these ten issues we don't get too far into the connection.
On Earth, Omega finds himself in a super-hero role, one that he doesn't quite fit into. He fights the Hulk, Electro, and a few other villains, as well as petty criminals.
He actually lets one villain, an old Cap foe previously called Man-Brute but now renamed Blockbuster, go free when he learns that he is robbing for his son, to the derision of a crowd of spectators.
During a rematch fight, Blockbuster is killed by the Foolkiller.
Omega winds up living with a shopkeeper who is just named 'Gramps'.
The book is canceled mid-plotline due to low sales (despite a "By the writer of Howard The Duck!" tag on the covers of later issues), with a note saying that the story will be concluded in a future issue of the Defenders, something that does not actually occur during the Gerber run.
This series had a lot in common with the Eternals, in my opinion. It set off to tell a non-traditional super-hero story but took such a winding route getting there that people lost interest before it could be concluded - or more likely, there was no specific conclusion in mind, this being years before the concept of a mini-series, or even a story arc, was solidified. The book has its moments but the dialogue is strangely stilted (not counting Starling himself, of course, who is deliberately odd) and after a few issues it just feels like it is going nowhere. It ends with Omega and Gramps in Las Vegas, facing off against a strange woman who will eventually turn out to be Ruby Thursday, although it's not 100% clear that this was Gerber's intention.
There was outrage by Gerber and his loyal fans when it was announced that Marvel was going to do a new Omega The Unknown series in 2007. The argument was that this was a personal work by Gerber and it did not 'belong' to Marvel, whatever the legalities. That argument might have some merit if it didn't take place in the thick of the Marvel Universe, but it clearly does, utilizing a number of characters not created by Gerber.
Peter Parker makes a brief cameo as Amber negotiates over the price of her photos with JJ.
Richard Rory, coming off a stint in prison, joins the cast with issue #8.
Maybe this series would have went somewhere. It definitely has its moments. But it meanders too much and over ten issues (which was a long time in the 1970s) it never goes anywhere.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #2 takes place in between Defenders #35 and #36. Since i've got the whole series in one trade, i've placed it all between those two issues.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Omega The Unknown Classic TPB
Inbound References (8): show
According to Gerber in a 1978 interview, the series was profitable but not profitable "enough" and it was cancelled because nobody in the Marvel offices liked or understood it.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 15, 2012 6:20 PM
Some possible solutions to mysteries left over from the series here:
Posted by: Nathan Adler | March 31, 2013 7:57 PM
Per Scott Edelman,he and Stern wrote their issues not as actual fill-ins, but because they were having lunch with Jim Shooter who asked them on the spot if they wanted to write this book because he was sick of Gerber's tardiness.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 11, 2014 6:34 PM
According to an article in Amazing Heroes #166, Roger Stern hated this series so much that he called it "Smegma The Unknown".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 23, 2015 11:47 AM
Tough to believe Stren would say such a thing.
Posted by: Jack | July 12, 2015 9:09 AM
Betty Brant may possibly be Jonah's secretary in #5.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 18, 2016 10:14 PM
I love the way poverty, bullying, and the jungle of public school thread through these stories. I adore Amber! I don't know what it says that I didn't pick up on her having a history of mental illness. I dig the offbeat approach to Omega's superhero-like antics. Super hero comics were the only way to go, commercially, in 1977. There are moments where Gerber's being experimental and thought-provoking that might not make clear sense, and maybe there aren't enough moments for which you can cheer or feel inspired. Mary and Steve both have said they knew the answers and had an ending in mind, but Gerber was obviously going to fly by the seat of his pants, getting there. It's a Vertigo Comic two decades early. I enjoyed Johnathan Latham's inspired sequel, with its tight story arc and clever satire.
Posted by: Cecil | April 19, 2016 5:59 AM
Found Betty and listed her. Thanks Mark.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 19, 2016 1:21 PM
According to Omega's OHOTMU page, he was created in the "Regreb" system and lived on the planet "Srenesk". Those sound rather familiar...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 20, 2016 10:58 AM
Ooh, i know! It's an anagram for "berserk genres". ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | April 20, 2016 11:15 AM
Is there a reason why Amber and Dian aren't listed as Characters Appearing? They reappear in Defenders 76-83 and in fact play roles in the Mandrill story. (Amber betrays the team under the influence of the Mandrill's powers and Dian helps save Jan since she's too young to be affected by them.)
Posted by: Michael | November 25, 2017 7:13 PM
Is James-Michael Starling's name a reference to Jim Starlin?
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 25, 2017 8:53 PM
Added Amber and Dian.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 4, 2017 2:22 PM
Comments are now closed.
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