E-Man Volume 3, Number 6 is dated January, 1975. The editor is George Wildman. The cover art is supplied by Joe Staton.
This to my mind is the first fully-realized and fully-mature issue of E-Man. Joe Staton's style has developed a distinctive edge, and Nick Cuti's combination of humor and adventure and sci-fi is thoroughly blended in the right proportions.
"Wunder-World" is written by Nick Cuti and drawn by Joe Staton. The story begins in Florida at the amusement park named "Wunder World" where E-Man is wandering among the crowds trying to find a beauty competition his girlfriend Nova is taking part in. He sits and down and announces proudly that his girlfriend is in the show but when he realize he's found a pageant for "Litte Miss Wunder", he transforms into an organge dog and slinks off. He finds the right pageant and is there to see Nova win and be congratulated by her friend Rosie who we met originally in issue three when she was kidnapped by Samuel Boar and rescued by Nova and E-Man. As the girls are dressing the "E-Mutt" appears and changes into Alec Tronn, but Nova is embarrassed and angry that E-Man would violate the privacy despite the fact the girls are more dressed than at the pageant itself. E-Man, perplexed, slinks off again as an abashed "E-Mutt".
As part of her prize, Nova is invited along with E-Man by William Wunder himself to tour the amusement park. He takes them to Idealland, Pleasureland, and Fearland. All cater to adults and are populated by robotic creations. In the case of Fearland, the the frights are of a mythic nature such vampires, werewolves, and the sort since the really horrible stuff of life such as crime, pollution, and corruption art too much to handle. The tour ends but when Nova gets a shock from Wunder's hand when he leaves them, along with the fact he doesn't seem to breathe, she gets suspicious that there is something going on. There is, as we follow Wunder as he removes his head and in his robotic slave form reports to his master the Brain from Sirius.
"E-Man or, can Charlton Create the Next Comics Revolution?" is an article which takes the place of the usual letters page. This article is a review by Steve Stern from the fanzine publication The New York Review of Comics and Books. Stern is very high on the comic E-Man and suggests it offers up some sophisticated black humor and compares it positively with the work of Kurt Vonnegut. Also included on this page is a blurb advertising the publication of The Charlton Portfolio which I took a look at earlier in this series.
Part II begins at night in Wunder World as the park is being cleaned. Hiding in a Dexter Duck trashcan Nova emerges and discovers the trashcan has been E-Man all along. The pair go back to Fearland and explore a house they spotted on the tour which seemed to make Wunder hesitant when they asked about it. In the house they find an old man who calls himself "Toyman" and his young daughter Annie. It turns out Toyman is the guy who is responsible for much of the technology which runs Wunder World and his partner William Wunder was the promoter. But Wunder has since died and another mysterious partner took his place. Since only the Brain from Sirius could construct a robot of that sophistication, E-Man is convinced of the Brain's involvement and goes out to find his foe. In the swamps of Fearland he is attacked by the Brain in the form of a giant two-legged war machine. E-Man becomes an armored tripod and machine and the two battle furiously with E-Man getting the losing share. He then changes into a massive wall to repel the charging war machine and crushes it. Then the various monsters from Fearland attack and E-Man is swarmed by vampires, werewolves, and ducks. In the melee he is tricked in firing a blot into a hidden copse and instead hits a mirror reflecting the blast into himself. He is unconscious.
At the house a Frankenstein monster robot attacks kidnaps Nova and destroys Annie who turns out to be a robot herself. Nova is taken before the Brain who describes how he plans to overrun the country with amusement parks and rule the Earth as opposed to destroying it as it had originally planned. But his just about to slay Nova when a wrench comes flying and cracks his protective shell, allowing his special atmosphere to escape and again the Brain seems to die. The wrench was thrown by Toyman. After the attack at a motel Nova and Rosie and Toyman are comparing notes. He says that since he now realizes his Annie was a substitute, he must find his own daughter named Roseann Gilletti, and that just happens to be the real name of Rosie. The father and daughter reunited, E-Man turns up and says that after his battle he had changed into a monkey wrench for safety's sake but someone picked him up and threw him.
The stranger reveals himself to be Magno and reveals a super-villain costume complete with cowl and cape. He uses his gun to destroy buildings and other things in the city. The police are unable to stop him and Rog takes it upon himself, but gets disassembled like his cab for his trouble. After putting himself back together he eventually finds his own creator named Burns who he suspects also created the Anti-Magnetic gun used by Magno. It turns out he was right and he forces Burns to help him which Burns does by introducing him to the beautiful female named Syntac. While Magno continues his spree, he is confronted by Syntac but when he tries to shoot with the gun it fails to have an effect and further she fires a ray from her eyes that destroys the gun. It seems Syntac is made of plastics and is invulnerable to the effects of magnetism generally. Rog finishes his tale and shows the melted gun as proof to Duffy the bartender.
To read this story in its original form see this groovy link.
The E-Man story was reprinted by First Comics in 1985 and most recently in E-Man - The Early Years, and the Rog-2000 story was reprinted by Pacific Comics in 1982
As I said this is to my mind the first fully-functioning issue of E-Man. It turns out this was also my very first issue of E-Man, and it is one of the most significant comics in my collecting life. This issue along with the three debut issues of Ironjaw, The Phoenix,and Grim Ghost hit on the stands at the same time. See this amazing link for a look. These four issues rocked me, and as I read them I knew that I was no longer a mere Marvel Zombie but a comics fan who wanted some variety. These comics struck me at just the right time with just the right material and I began my appreciation of all things Charlton and more.
The addition of Rog-2000 as the back-up at last gives the lead a companion which has the same salty tone. This addition makes the book feel complete and solid, really for the first time.
So it's no wonder I hold this comic is such esteem, but there's also no denying it's quality. It's a fantastic mix of funny and scary and the characterizations are utterly precise. The jabs at Disneyworld are obvious, and most potent is the critique of Walt Disney himself, reduced in this story to an automaton slave to an alien invader. The naivete of human beings is hung out to dry by Cuti and Staton in this tale as the amusement park is revealed to be a hollow environment in which more is hidden than revealed. The fact the Brain wants to cover the country with them, says more about what Americans are willing to put up with in terms of self-delusion than anything else. This is a pretty damning, but still pretty damn funny comic book story.
Here's the original art for this vibrant cover, a rare one in which E-Man's transformational nature is on display. Many reviewers of the time call Joe Staton's work "sculptural" and that's a very good term to describe it I think.
Next time E-Man loses control and Rog-2000 returns.