Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dojo Classics - Charlton's E-Man #2

Joe Staton

Volume 1, Number 2 is dated December 1973, a bimonthly comic from Charlton Publications Inc. The cover art is by Joe Staton. George Wildman is the editor.

In the Prologue to the first story written by Nick Cuti and drawn by Joe Staton, the Brain from Sirius defeated in the first issue repairs itself and sends a message to its home that more weapons are needed to subdue the Earth and to have revenge on E-Man.

Chapter One of "The Entropy Twins" begins in Nova Kane's apartment during breakfast as E-Man in the shape of toast surprises the lovely Nova. He says he wants to go to the zoo, familiarize himself further with aspects of his adopted home the Earth. Since her breakfast is ruined Nova allows him to buy her a hotdog at the zoo. The scene shifts to upstate New York where the Brain has gotten his new weapons, two humanoid figures called the "Entropy Twins". The scene shifts yet again to the zoo and specifically the lake where E-Man and Nova are enjoying a boat ride. But E-Man bumps another boat with a couple in it and the young lady's purse falls into the water, which E-Man using his shape-changing powers discreetly rescues.

The two couples agree to have lunch together. Nova introduces E-Man as "Alec Tronn" (which surprises him) while the similar-looking couple say their names are Michael and Juno. Despite their similar looks they say they are not related, merely good friends. After lunch Nova reveals that her real name is Katrinka Colchnzski, "Nova Kane" is just a stage name. Suddenly a giant mass of ameobas working in concert rise from the lake and attack folks at the zoo, but E-Man reverting to his superhero mode defeats the "monster". Then a weird creature seemingly constructed from various zoo animals threatens them and he likewise is able to defeat it. As soon as these two threats are solved though, suddenly Nova's Jeep flies up into the air.

Chapter Two begins with not only Nova's Jeep, but all cars being lifted into the sky as if being pulled by magnetism. Then an earthquake erupts beneath their feet opening up the streets. E-Man notices the couple Michael and Juno at the scene. Nova falls onto the top of a subway train and E-Man seeking a safe way to stop the speeding train rides the third rail as energy and gets ahead of it then becomes a vast spider-like web across the tunnel catching the train and gently slowing it down. He has figured out what the nature of the threat, and Nova injured but safe, he knows what he must do.

The Entropy Twins meanwhile have returned to confront the Brain and request that since they have completed the test of their powers they should return to Sirius. But the Brain says that they have not completed their mission since E-Man lives. They are to use their powers of Entropy, Michael being Order and Juno disorder and they must destroy him. The reluctantly agree. Suddenly a cloud appears overhead and then before a grim figure of E-Man appears. Wordlessly he fires an energy bolt at Michael seemingly killing him. Juno pleads but E-Man without a word fires another bolt into her. His face is implacable as the twins lay upon the hillside.

Later at the hospital where Nova is recuperating E-Man explains how Michael's powers of Order caused the Ameobas to work together and the atoms to form magnetism, and how Juno's disorder powers caused the zoo animals to cohere as a chaotic beast and cause the earthquake. They once had to be apart for their powers to work, but he did not kill them, but changed them so that now they cannot be together. It is a brutal penalty for young lovers.

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

"E-Mail" features three letters from fans who have read of the new superhero comic from Charlton. One writer has read an advance copy of the comic.

Steve Ditko

"Killjoy" is written and drawn by Steve Ditko. The story begins with Robber Hood and his Merry Men being defeated by the silent Killjoy. The reporter Ed Gab shows up at the end. Then the dictator General Disaster is also interrupted and defeated by Killjoy and Al Ace a counter intelligence officer appears. Jungle Jake, a villain who uses zoo animals is next to meet and be defeated by Killjoy and Jud Lah shows up. Mr.Hart of the "Foundation to Protect the Guilty from Justice" is crying about these "injustices" wrought on these three villains by Killjoy but finds himself accosted on the street by the three villains who are working together. Then a mysterious woman named Flame appears and agrees to get revenge on Killjoy for the villains. She pretends to be a Countess under threat from the Abductors who do appear as does Killjoy but when she gets him in her embrace, she suddenly erupts into flame. But Killjoy is unaffected and the assembled forces of all the villains charge into the room to attack him. He beats them all and rounds them up for the police who wonder if Killjoy will show up again.

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

This is a zany comic book. The story picks up nicely after the previous issue, this sense of continuity a relatively rare thing in Charlton comics of the time. I really like the breezy way that elements of the E-Man myth are introduced. That Nova is the one who names E-Man "Alec Tronn" is ideal. She is the who in many ways defines who he is since he is taking a form to please her, so it's completely fitting that she should name him.

The nature of Nova's and Alec's relationship seems clearly implied, though never directly stated. They appear to be lovers, a situation underscored by the Entropy Twins who seem to mirror them in many ways. But E-Man's naive nature undercuts any overtly sexual tension in the story, making it safe I suppose for the Comics Code folks.

In this early issue though, we get to see E-Man as a darker figure. His two-page assault on the Entropy Twins is rather grim for this lighthearted comic and is surprising since he usually comes across as affable and open. For him to suddenly appear to be a silent avenger similar in style to Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name is startling and given the confines of this comic a tad scary. I'd point those folks who want to write off the series as a comedy to this scene. There's more going on here than just a spoof of superheroes. This is at once a bit of a deconstruction of superhero tropes but simultaneously a serious treatment of same.

The lead E-Man story was reprinted in 1977 under the Modern Comics imprint and again in 1985 by First Comics, and most recently in E-Man - The Early Years.

E-Man the comic has a bit of a hiatus before the third issue, which as it turns out is not the third issue. More on that day after a bit of a hiatus of our own.

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