Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dojo Classics - Charlton 's E-Man #7

E-Man Volume 3, Number 7 is dated March, 1975 and was published by Charlton Publications Inc. The editor is George Wildman. Joe Staton painted the cover.

"TV Man" was written by Nicola "Nick" Cuti with art by Joe Staton and colors by Wendy Fiore. The story begins in a night club where Nova Kane is dancing in all her glory. After the show she turns down an invitation from Rosie Redd and her father (the Toyman from last issue) to go on a date with Alec Tronn to a philosophy lecture. When Rosie leaves the E-Man poster on Nova's dressing room wall turns into E-Man himself. When they go to retrieve the poster he took down to make his surprise entrance he and Nova are both shocked to find a note which reads "You are doomed to die Ms.Kane. Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper". The prank shakes Nova up, but she is eager to get on with her date with E-Man. As they walk down the street, E-Man undergoes a transformation becoming Mr.Edward Hyde but with a difference, specifically a hatchet formed from his hand. He cuts Nova as she flees and as she screams he changes back with no seeming memory of the event. Nova punches him.

The scene shifts to a rooftop where a hooded super-villain type dials up another television show to use to transform E-Man as he has done all evening. The next horror film the mysterious villain finds is The Brain Eater from Planet X and with that dialed in he beams at E-Man who transforms into the TV monster and again threatens Nova. But the villain is not done with his fun yet and stops before she is hurt. The villain then goes back to his meager apartment and proclaims his revenge some more.

Part II "The Duel" picks up the story about a week later and E-Man has been missing. Michael "Mickey" Mauser a private detective is walking down the street and not looking for our hero because no one is paying him to do so. At his office the villain who dubs himself "TV" says that Mauser must find E-Man and bring him to Rockefeller Plaza the next day, and he gets Mauser to comply by making him an offer he cannot refuse.

The scene shifts to Xanadu University and specifically the library where Nova expresses her wish to find E-Man to her friend Arachne. (Arachne is the niece of Professor Cyrus Coffin who also makes a cameo and together they are the hosts of Charlton's Midnight Tales.) Juno of the Entropy Twins appears and announces to Nova that her partner Michael is the mysterious villain and he is using his scientific know-how to gain revenge on E-Man for making it so that Juno and Michael cannot be in one another's presence. She agrees to take Nova to the showdown.

At Rockefeller Plaza Mauser leaves E-Man, who seems to have found with little difficulty, and "TV" or Michael unleashes his weapon which transforms E-Man into a version of the giant ape Konga. E-Konga goes on a quick rampage and finds Nova and snatches her up in his giant hand. He then does what all giant apes do and climbs to the top of the Empire State Building where jets appear in the sky to defeat the threat. But Juno is able from a distance to finally reason with the distraught Michael and at the last moment he snaps off his TV beam and E-Man changes back just as the jets began firing into nothing. Everyone now safe E-Man accepts Michael's apology and announces he will change the couple back the way they were before so they can be together again.

"E-Mail" offers up three letters of comment, all positive. One wishes to announce an E-Man fan club, another talks about getting his most recent copy at a comics convention, and Bob Rodi, the third writer and veteran LoC man praises the comic and hopes the title reaches the stature of Superman and Spider-Man.

Rog-2000 shows up again in the tale "Withering Heights" written by Nicola Cuti and drawn by John Byrne. The story begins as Rog is lost in the country and his cab (which must be called the "Enterprise"...check out that license plate) runs out of gas. He walks up to a rundown hotel where he asks the beautiful girl named Zenia for some gas. While there he meets two smug guests, a man named Dinsmore and a woman named Boombat. After getting some gas Rog hears a noise and rushes into the hotel and he and Zenia discover that old lady Boombat has been attacked and they see her being dragged into her closet but no trace can be found after. Next they find old man Dinsmoore in the same shape. Rog agrees to stay the night but soon finds himself under attack by a huge transparent blob which he uses his borrowed gas to burn as well as the rest of the hotel. As the hotel crumbles to the ground Rog wonders out loud by Zenia had never been attacked as she begins to transform becoming transparent and announces that her Daddy would never attack his child. Rog realizes he's in trouble.

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

The E-Man story was reprinted by First Comics in 1985 and the Rog-2000 story was reprinted by Pacific Comics in 1982. The E-Man story was most recently reprinted in E-Man - The Early Years.

This is a solid issue of E-Man and calls back some dandy characters from early in the series. It's a clever story that takes full advantage of E-Man's peculiar nature to create some wild visuals of him in monster forms. It was very neat to see Michael Mauser back, his role small but crucial. One criticism possibly is that Michael's return to sanity was a bit abrupt and difficult to swallow, but it works in the E-Man universe of niceness just barely.

The Rog-2000 story was a nice little romp with Byrne offering some properly gothic touches. Putting the gleaming Rog in the old dump of a hotel created some real contrasts in tone which served the story exceedingly well. We all know that Rog will prevail in the end, though we don't see it. This willingness to trust the audience's instincts about how these types of stories work is key.

Wayne Howard
Two other things that helped make this a fanboy object of desire are the knowing nods to other Charlton publications. For the first time we learn that Nova attends or at least uses the library at Xanadu University, home of "The Midnight Philosopher" Professor Coffin and the lovely Arachne. Wayne Howard's Midnight Tales was running at this same time and often featured work by Nick Cuti and Joe Staton. This hint of a larger Charlton universe was cleverly done here without drawing such attention that if you didn't know it bothered you.

Steve Ditko

Also vintage Charlton and movie character Konga gets a callback. Now admittedly the Konga as drawn by Joe Staton is not all that much like the classic giant ape from Charlton's old comics nor the movie they're inspired by, but it's enough for me that the name gets used. Cool beans.

Next time we find E-Man and Nova in a full-blown full-length epic and some big big changes are coming for the lovely Ms.Kane.

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