Sunday, August 7, 2011

The E-Man Reports #3

E-Man Volume 2 Number 3 is dated June 1974. To see what else was available when this issue hit the stands check this amazing link.

The six-month gap between this issue and the last was the result of a paper shortage which seriously crimped production for Charlton in early 1974. This was a time of shortages as the United States was still feeling the effects of the 1973 Oil Embargo and the "Energy Crisis" was something that affected all aspects of society. As it turns out the story for issue three, "The Energy Crisis" was suggested by George Wildman the editor and the original story already produced was delayed until issue four. As a result this story features a more mature art style by Joe Staton who supplies the cover too. This is a landmark issue in other ways as well. More later.

"The Energy Crisis" is written by Nicola "Nick" Cuti and drawn by Joe Staton. It begins in New York City during an energy crunch when the entire town is suffering a brown out. Things are tough all over, and even the Gala Theater where Nova Kane performs as an exotic dancer is suffering. This is pointed out by fellow dancer Rosie Redd to the studious Nova as she changes. The two girls decide to walk to the hospital together where E-Man, Nova's boyfriend is helping during the power crunch. They are assaulted by a mugger but Nova is able to fend him off with her battery-laden purse. But Rosie disappears into the wall of a warehouse before Nova's eyes. She rushes to E-Man for help but he's too busy helping the city stay safe during the crisis. As he rushes off to a fire she decides to get help in the form of a private detective.

She uses a flyer to find the rundown office of Michael Mauser who quickly tells Nova she mustn't call him "Mickey". The grubby P.I. is cleaning his gun, a Mauser of course, while Nova explains Rosie disappearance. Mauser and Nova got to the scene of the disappearance and find suspicious tracks and a sign for the town of "Boarsville" the home of Samuel Boar an oil magnate of some reputation. They head to Boarsville but are waylaid on the road by a mysterious ray and both are captured but not before Nova is able to phone E-Man who uses the open phone line to trace Nova's call to the area just outside of Boarsville.

In Part II "The Battery" E-Man is just outside Boarsville and goes to the inn of one Mrs.Clover where he checks in. He see suspicious activity outside, specifically a truck being loaded with human-sized cannisters and he follows the trail in the phone lines once again. Mrs.Clover reports on his absence to Samuel Boar. There is a break in the line and E-Man is cast to the ground where a mysterious figure in leather jacket and an ominous helmet absorbs the Energy Man right into itself. This robotic servant called The Battery takes E-Man to Samuel Boar who it seems has solved his personal energy crisis by kidnapping people and using them as batteries until they run dry at which point he replenishes his supply. He puts E-Man in a chamber identical to ones which contain both Nova and Mauser but E-Man converts to energy and escapes. The Battery hunts him down in the Boar mansion and but is tripped up by E-Man disguised as a rug and is damaged in the fall. Boar is swiftly arrested and matters are put as right as they can be.

The story ends some time late with Nova paying Mauser for his time and nixing his idea that E-Man might be a good private detective. She doesn't want Mauser's cynicism corrupting E-Man's lovable nature. Mauser calls Nova a "tough broad" which doesn't go over well as the story closes.

There is one final panel with E-Man sitting in a bucolic setting surround by flora an fauna making a plea to readers to be mindful about resources and to "Save the Earth".

To read this story in its original form check out this groovy link.

"E-Mail" offers up three letters of comment, all complimentary about the new E-Man comic. One writer makes the common mistake of thinking "Nicola" is a woman's name and gives team props for having that perspective. He is put right.

"The Dragon Killer" is written by Nicola Cuti and drawn by Wayne Howard. This story stars Travis a time-traveling hero. The tale begins with a young Travis saying farewell to his two time-traveling parents who leave him in the care of his computer steed, the time machine named "Anachrom". They do not return and Anachrom takes on the care of the boy named Travis teaching him and caring for him through time.

As an adult Travis travels to the time of the dinosaurs and finds much to his surprise other time travelers, a man and his daughter who use much more primitive time-traveling equipment. This machinery accidentally sends a Tyrannosaurus Rex through a time warp. Travis follows on Anachrom and they find themselves in the Middle Ages where they find a fallen and deceased knight. Adapting the knight's armor for his own purposes Travis seeks out the T-Rex or "Dragon" which is threatening a maiden and slays the beast. The princess thanks him and takes him to her father's castle but indicates they need not hurry.

To read this story in its original form check out this groovy link.

This story has been reprinted under the Modern Comics imprint in 1978 and later in 1985 by First Comics.

Reading this tale of an America besieged by energy woes and suffering from economic pressures really makes me speculate on today's headlines. With the United States currently suffering energy pressures, the weakest economy in decades, wars that seem never to cease, and having just suffered blow to it credit reputation brought on by political incompetence, I'm very much reminded of those days in the 70's when Americans dealt with rationing of resources and a feeling that America's time had come and perhaps was going. The more things changes the more they stay the same.

This E-Man story spoke to its times, and sadly speaks to ours as well. It's incumbent on all of us to approach these times with the spirit of volunteerism exhibited by E-Man and not so much the cynicism embodied by Mike Mauser, though the latter is all too easy to understand. We were promised a time of hope and change, and since the change is taking so much longer than we expected (not really) the hope is the part we need to focus on.

As I read this story of one man's greed brought low and made of service to his fellow citizens, I hope that we find a means to deal with the issues that confront us today.

The Travis story is hoot, a bright bit of sci-fi fluff in stark contrast to the more glum E-Man story up front.

Next time a return to fantasy and the missing E-Man #3 turns up.

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