Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dojo Classics - Charlton's E-Man #10

E-Man Volume 3, Number 10 is dated September, 1975. It was published by Charlton Publications, Inc. The editor is George Wildman. The cover was painted by Joe Staton.

"The Witch of Hog Wallow" was written by Nicola "Nick" Cuti, drawn by Joe Staton with colors by Wendy Fiore. The story begins in the apartment of Nova Kane and Alec (E-Man) Tronn when E-Man is reading a fairy tale to the unusually intelligent koala bear Teddy. Nova bursts into the room and blasts E-Man angry and wanting to know why a beautiful blonde woman named Maisy-June is wishing to come and visit her old friend. E-Man calms the jealous Nova by relating a story that happened soon after he came to Earth but before he met her. He too the form of a fawn and wondered the woods looking for friendly folk and encountering a bear which he gives a shock to by becoming a fawn with extremely large fangs.

He then spies the lovely blonde figure of Maisy-June Braggs carrying a book which she then reads to the animals in the forest, E-Man among them. He listens to her stories for several days then one day decides to speak and show himself becoming a heroic figure like the ones from the stories. Maisy-June is not frightened but delighted by this powerful creature she dubs a "Genie". They have fine and innocent fun in the woods until one day they are seen by some of the locals who imagine that Maisy-June must be a witch.

The community rises up and tries to capture Maisy-June but she escapes and is saved from being shot by the arrival of her Genie who then adopts a superhero costume like he'd seen in the comics complete with flowing cape. Maisy-June now afraid no longer seeks to frighten those who frightened her by showing them her power assisted of course by the Genie. They make the locals think that Maisy can transform into a panther but nonetheless she is taken unaware and captured and taken back to the community where the frightened people try to burn her at the stake.

E-Man arrives but trips over his cape, at which point he disappears the silly accoutrements. In an effort to scare off the threatening folk, he appears before them and then frees Maisy-June from her bonds. He then transforms himself seemingly into a giant image of Satan himself sending the locals screaming away in terror. Maisy-June though becomes different and very violent wishing that her Genie destroy the people. Her mother arrives and tells E-Man that Maisy-June is mentally ill and though she has tried to keep her from it, needs to be admitted to a sanitarium. E-Man recognizing the truth of the situation creates the illusion of himself as a charming prince and leads Maisy to a beautiful castle which in reality is the asylum. He walks away sad, but sure he's done the correct thing.

Nova is affected by the story but still wonders what Maisy-June wants with her boyfriend when the doorbell rings. In walks Maisy-June seemingly cured and happy and much to Nova's relief she introduces her husband a familiar looking cuss named Dabney Slocum.

To get a look at this story in its original form see this groovy link.

"E-Mail" offers up three letters of comment in response to the eighth issue. The reactions are mixed on the transformation of Nova into a superhero. Some think it's a positive move and others fear it undermines the unique quality of the series. Sadly there is an announcement at the bottom of the page saying that this is the final issue of E-Man and that despite "spectacular" fan interest, there simply have not been enough comics sold to keep the title going. It is noted that thanks to Bob Layton and the CPL Gang the E-Man saga will continue in The Charlton Bullseye.

"Rog 2000 Vs. Sog" was written by Nicola Cuti and drawn by John Byrne. The story begins in a New York City evacuated and under siege as Rog-2000 decked out in a soldier's helmet and armed with an exotic rifle stalks the streets. He thinks back on how at the bottom of the ocean the pollution gave rise to a creature soon to be called "Sog" made of pollution and muck and animal remains which rises to overwhelm a fishing boat and its crew, and then comes ashore and begins to overwhelm the city absorbing people and getting larger and larger as it goes. Unaware of these goings on, Rog finds a deserted church and then is confronted by General Dove in a tank who tells him of the threat and offers the robot the chance to help by giving him a "Neutron Gun". That brings the story back to the present and Rog confronts the creature dubbed Sog but just as he is about to fire the weapon a little girl gets in the line of sight and he has to save her. Sog comes forward relentlessly until in the final moment collapsing into a mass of crud and pollution. The theory is that Sog died from overeating overwhelmed by the garbage in NYC. As General Dove and his men clean up Rog takes the little girl home.

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

This comic was reprinted completely under the Modern Comics label in 1977.

The E-man story was reprinted in 1986 by First Comics and later in E-Man -The Early Years, and the Rog-2000 story was reprinted in 1982 by Pacific Comics.

The end of E-Man was a sad day in comics. The industry had in the Bronze Age been a chaotic environment full of experimentation in the Big Two and briefly it seemed also in Charlton, the perennial also-ran publisher. E-Man was an attempt to break out of the doldrums and reestablish an identity on par with Marvel and DC. It failed. To its credit Charlton seemed to give E-Man a good long try-out, and they did follow it up with other inventive books. But alas the company then needed to focus on licensed material and the moment which was kindled with E-Man began to flicker and wane. Soon Charlton would be a shell of its former self and then after a few more years defunct.

E-Man continued to have fun with the superhero dynamic right up to the end though, as one of my favorite scenes in the series is when E-Man trips over his cape. A similar scene was a highlight of Steve Englehart's Nomad stories in Captain America. This kind of thoughtful comment made the books seem smart and made the reader feel as if they were in on the secrets.

Also this story brings E-Man right into my backyard. I'm a product of the hills of Eastern Kentucky and the yokels of Hog Wallow that E-Man encounters in this tale are versions of Al Capp's "hillbillies" from his famous Li'l Abner comic strip. Maisy is Daisy and Dabney is Abner for sure. Staton even puts a few shout outs to Capp in the story. But the land of Dogpatch, the home of Abner though famously thought to be in Arkansas and around that area, was originally identified as Kentucky, specifically the Appalachian hillsides I grew up on. So this story has a special echo for a country boy like myself.

But it wasn't quite over, as indicated in the announcement of cancellation. The stories by Cuti and Staton found a new home briefly in Charlton Bullseye. I'll touch on those efforts next time.

And while E-Man would eventually return many times in his own title, these ten issues will always be special in the minds of fans. They are of a time and have a special magic, that certain something which makes comics particularly fun.

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  1. I'm back from vacation (right back in those Southeastern KY hills!) and catching up on your far-freakin'-out E-Man entries. Seems I've skipped a couple E-Man issues on my blog. Gonna have to fix that! My favorite issues are #6 (which you seem to dig a lot as well) and #8 (but of course!), but I love every issue of the original run. Didn't get many issues of the First run (at least not until Nick Cuti returned as writer), so I'm looking forward to reading about those. Thanks, Rip!

    1. Alas while I've been reading the First Comics E-Man books, I've decided to opt out of reporting on those right now. Other things are looming. Love issue six, my first E-Man comic and it still holds up exceedingly well. So far nothing in the First run is as good as what was going on at Charlton, but I'm not up to the return of the awesome Cuti as writer yet.

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  2. I have to say the Comico, Alpha, Digital Webbing, and Charlton Neo E-Man issues were pretty great. I thought Digital Webbing in particular captured sone of the old Charlton magic.

    1. I agree with you. The classic team was doing it and they were right out of the vintage Charlton mold. I'm looking forward to reading those yet again. I have a letter in one of the Digital Webbing ones too -- a dream come true.

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  3. Wow that's cool! I will have to pull that out and read your letter!