Friday, August 5, 2011

The E-Man Reports #1

(Nick Cuti & Joe Staton)

E-Man Volume 1, Number 1 is dated October 1973 and was published bimonthly by Charlton Publications Incorporated. The cover art is credited to Nick Cuti and Joe Staton. To get a glimpse of what the comic book environment was like when E-Man debuted check out this amazing link.

The lead story is written by Nicola "Nick" Cuti and drawn by Joe Staton. George Wildman is the editor of the issue.

Part One "The Beginning" starts millions of years ago and millions of miles away from Earth in the deep of space when a star goes nova and packet of energy escaped the grasp of the star and began to drift through space seeking to know itself, and eventually seeking communication with other beings. It chances upon a spaceship and penetrates through the exhaust finding an array of robot slaves in service of a great and powerful Brain enclosed in a protective shell. The Brain speaks of a lethal weapon it hopes to unleash to support the "forces of peace" on the planet Pluto. The energy packet is confused by this contradictory comment and assumes the material form of one of the Brain's robot servants. But that tiny addition of mass and weight is enough to throw the spaceship off course and causes it to head for the center of the solar system. It's headlong plunge into the sun is interrupted by the Earth and the space crashes. The offending energy packet assumes the form of a rabbit and escapes.

In a nearby city the beautiful ginger-haired Nova Kane is just finishing her performance as an erotic dancer when a voice speaks to her out of one of the light bulbs and instructs her to break said bulb. She complies and the energy packet filters into the dressing room and assumes the shape of a blonde man who quickly requests a place to stay. When he sees Nova's Jeep which she uses in her Geology studies, he takes up residence in its battery for the night.

A New Superhero Is Born!

Part Two "The Brain and the Bomb" begins the next morning as Nova prepares breakfast for her alien guest. He is asking about the famous formula "E=MC2" he spies on a poster of Albert Einstein. She explains and the energy packet adopts the name "E-Man" since the formula seems to explain what he does transforming from energy to matter and back again. There's a knock on Nova's door and her landlord Mr.Walon appears and unexpectedly fires a pistol point blank at the beautiful girl. E-Man defeats the addled man and they figure his time up north in the area of Pine Hill might explain his actions since the alien spaceship crashed in that vicinity along with its deadly payload of a gas bomb. Nova dials the phone and connects to that area and E-Man transforms himself into energy and rides the lines to his destination. Nova gets in her Jeep and heads in that direction more slowly.

Later that day around noon, she arrives at a local store and while asking directions is attacked by the people there for no apparent reason other than she's a stranger. Arriving in the shape of cat, E-Man joins her where she's hiding from the abrupt attack and her tells her to go to Wakely's Motel where he will call. She answers, he appears and for the first time assumes the superheroic form of E-Man. The head together in the Jeep into the countryside where they find the wreckage of the spaceship. Some of the Brain's robotic servants appear and attack forcing E-Man to take refuge along with Nova inside a sealed compartment. Leaving her relatively safe inside he goes to find the Brain as it is only seconds until the Brain's gas bomb will explode overwhelming the entirety of the human race. But with two seconds to spare E-Man fires an energy bolt that cracks the Brain's protective shell and the threat seems to have ended as Nova and E-Man figure out how they'll get back to her home.

To read the story in its original form see this groovy link.

"Melifera Adamsonii on the Warpath" is a one-page text piece pondering the nature of apocalyptic literature and how such a narrative might well be written given the nature of Africa Killer Bees in Brazil and their clearly hostile nature to humans. The threat of armies of bees and possibly ants is offered as a cautionary note.

(Tom Sutton)

The back-up series The Knight begins with a tale called "Operation: Rotten Apple!" written by Nicola Cuti and drawn by Tom Sutton. George Wildman is again listed as editor. We encounter the spy organization C.H.E.S.S. (Command for the Hindrance of Espionage, Sabotage and Subversion) and its lead operative Link Chain the Knight. He meets up with powerful Marko Tulsa the Rook and the beautiful Mari Halliday the Bishop and the trio appear before the King and the Queen to receive their mission which is to infiltrate Molly Electronics and uncover the spy or "bad apple" in its midst. Link and Marko do so and that night Link is able to photograph some secret files which he smuggles out to Mari. The next morning Marko sends an urgent message to Link to meet him and the pair arm themselves for a confrontation as it is revealed that the entire outfit at Molloy Electronics are spies and that it is Link and Marko who are the "bad apples". They fight their way through the enemy forces and in a final barricade wait for reinforcements which do arrive lead by Mari. Link then takes Mari out to dinner, but his fatigue gets the best of him and he snoozes through the date.

To read this story in its original form see this groovy link.

(Jack Cole)

This debut issue is a humdinger. As has been discussed many times E-Man is inspired by Jack Cole's classic shape-changing hero Plastic Man, and not only in the powers accorded to the lead character, but also in the zany tone adopted throughout the story. There's a great sense of playfulness in the manner of the storytelling. Some is the compression of space forcing issues like E-Man's emergence in Nova's dressing room to be dealt with summarily, but it also points to Nova's openness and willingness to engage other people. E-Man could not have found a better person to help him find his way on Earth. The interplay between E-Man and Nova is the heart of this series and Cuti gets to that core quickly.

E-Man's bright look is also key I think to his long-standing as a cult figure. Being orange is unusual for superheroes, but it suits E-Man exceedingly well. The brightness of the costume represents well his sunny personality. The symbol of Einstein's equation is nerdy and ideal for this idiosyncratic superhero. The logo of the series, which has rarely been tampered with, is also directly connected to the nature of the characters. It's a blaze of energy crackling across the top of the cover. It's at once rough but also elegant, a beautiful one-off that cannot be beat.

The Brain will become E-Man's arch-nemesis, and it is elegant that the two alien entities come to Earth together, though for far different reasons. Their motivations again speak to the themes of the comic, and it's not too much to say that this comic does have themes about the nature of life and way people behave. The slavish power of the intellectual Brain is defeated by the exuberance and emotional intensity of youth and the longing for freedom embodied by E-Man. He's a million years old but only a day young. The story begins with his search for meaning and while that search is far from over, we feel by the story's end that he is well underway in finding what he's looked for all those millions of years.

The Knight back-up story is a lean effective tale and effectively evokes the Steranko super-spy stories which doubtless inspired it. Tom Sutton is in fine form.



This comic has been reprinted twice, once in 1977 under the Modern Comics label and again in 1985 by First Comics.

In the next issue, the search for understanding will continue.

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2 comments:

  1. I remember buying the first issue of E-Man sometime in 1973 from a dingy newsagents in Glasgow. That was the only issue I remember seeing until First Comics reprinted them in the early '80s. I re-acquired that #1 from the '70s some years back, and have now had it for far longer than I ever had my original copy.

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    1. They are treasures. These are comics I will NEVER give away or sell. That will fall to my heirs.

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