Omega hurtles through space. Artists: Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1976
Creators: Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes (writers), and Jim Mooney (artist)
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In mid-1970s Marvel Comics (like today's) it was superheroes, superheroes, and more superheroes. During 1975 and the first few months of '76, they came out with a new version of X-Men, introduced The Moon Knight as a supporting character in Werewolf by Night, gave Tigra a new series, turned …

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Patsy Walker into Hellcat, brought Kid Colt and other western characters into the superhero world, put a bunch of heroes together as The Champions, and did any number of other superheroey things. The closest they came to edging away from the genre was to give Howard the Duck his own series, and he, tho a funny animal, wasn't all that far removed from superheroes himself.

Into all this came Omega the Unknown, with a first-issue cover date of March, 1976 — a superhero, to be sure, but at least he was a little different from most. To begin with, he didn't have a secret identity, but seemed to have some connection, very much undefined, with a boy named James-Michael Starling, who looked just like him, and who had just found out his recently-deceased parents were actually robots. No, finding out a kid's parents are really robots isn't all that unusual in a superhero comic book. It was the fact that readers couldn't figure out what this had to do with an alien, newly-arrived on Earth in a stolen spaceship, who, for unknown reasons, functioned as a superhero in the "Hell's Kitchen" section of New York City. And as the issues went by, the mysteries only multiplied.

Omega was so-called because of a head band with the Greek letter omega in front, and because the force beams he emitted from his hands (much more parent-friendly than using the same hands to hit anybody) left omega-shaped stigmata. He never said it was his name, or, in fact, spoke at all. This, too, went unexplained. In fact "The Unknown", which was part of the comic book's title, pretty much described Omega all around. If anybody knew any of this, it could only be writers Steve Gerber (Son of Satan, Thundarr the Barbarian) and Mary Skrenes (unknown as a writer at the time, but she's since scripted TV animation such as Transformers, G.I. Joe and Jem & the Holograms), who created the series. The artist was Jim Mooney (Tommy Tomorrow, Supergirl).

Apparently, this didn't set well with readers, because Omega the Unknown lasted only ten issues. Gerber and Skrenes didn't reveal any particulars in the final issue, dated October, 1977, but did take the trouble to kill the character off.

A couple of years later there was an attempt to provide a final explanation, when writer Steven Grant (Whisper) guest-starred the Starling boy (who had started exhibiting Omega's powers) in The Defenders #s 76 and 77 (October and November, 1979). There, it was posited that the two were prototypes for a line of artificial warriors to be manufactured by the Protarians of the Regreb ("Gerber" spelled backward) System, and that Omega had stolen his ship while en route to the planet Srenesk (a near-anagram of Skrenes) for training. The story ended with all loose ends neatly tied up, i.e., every character from the series dead.

Omega's fans, who may not have been numerous enough to keep the series going but were reasonably vocal anyway, tended not to like this ending, which they deemed too typical of the superhero genre. But they may get another chance, as decades later, Marvel announced a new Omega the Unknown series for 2006. This brought immediate response from Gerber, who was outraged over any continuation of the character without his participation.

After an unsuccessful attempt to get Gerber's blessing on the new series, Marvel announced that because of conflicts in the new writer's schedule, Omega would be put off until at least 2007. It remains to be seen whether they'll actually revive a character, over its creator's protest, that failed to generate very much interest when it was originally published, a generation back.


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Text ©2006-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.