Jonatham Lethem's Comic-Book Woes

Jonathan "novelist-hot" Lethem's Omega the Unknown is a project that you might not know about unless you're a geeky comics reader. Then again, even if you are a comics reader, sales figures indicate that you might not know about it either. The most recent numbers place Omega's third issue at 177th among the most sold comics at retail—trounced by Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #4, but kicking the butt of Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons #1.


Lethem's tale for Marvel Comics focuses not on a spandex-and-cape hero, but instead on a mysterious young boy orphaned by robot parents and protected by, well, a spandex-and-cape hero. The take is an original one, or at least it was in 1977. Instead of tackling one of Marvel's big guns, Lethem chose to retell Omega, lifting much of the new comic's plot and dialog from that of first issue, published 30 years ago.

Originally announced in 2005 to debut in 2006, the book faced many delays, added a co-writer (Lethem's childhood friend Karl Rusnak), and finally came out in 2007. First issue sales neared a respectable 20K, but decreased to just under 14K for the second issue. The ten-issue limited series is planned to be eventually released as a hard-cover graphic novel, to be published after the series finale in late summer. It has received generally positive reviews from comics fans, who have described it as "very last episode of St. Elsewhere-ish".