Thursday, June 7, 2018

Dojo Classics - Charlton's E-Man #5

E-Man Volume 2, Number 5 is dated November 1974 and was published by Charlton Publications Inc. The editor is George Wildman. Joe Staton did the cover artwork.

"The City Swallower" is written by Nicola Cuti and drawn by Joe Staton. The tale begins on the crowded summer beach of Coney Island where Nova Kane is bringing E-Man his first taste of ice cream. She trips over a concrete sand castle that turns out to be E-Man who abandoned sand as a substance because kids kept knocking him over. After a refreshing dip in the ocean (conveniently de-polluted by E-Man) Nova goes to get another ice cream. Almost at once E-Man spies a beautiful girl wearing odd clothing and peculiar goggles. He follows this siren into the sea but in following her goes through a weird barrier and finds himself in another dimension fill with floating cities connected by fragile roadways. He follows the girl and introduces himself to her and her friend. The girl's name is Heidi and her friend is a small man named Peter Bolo. After Heidi leaves, Peter reveals to E-Man that he adores Heidi but she has many many boyfriends and has no time for him. He introduces E-Man to his world filled with floating cities connected but not united where the citizens flit from town to town. But there is a threat and it is named Norwol.

An alarm sounds and an incredibly huge creature appears named Norwol which swims slowly in the space between cities and then leisurely chooses one of the cities to consume utterly in its vast maw. E-Man flies out to intercept the city-killer and despite making himself into a rocket harpoon is unable to affect the monster. He is dazed but is rescued by Heidi and Peter in an air-car. Peter then reveals his plan to unite the cities into one vast structure called "Uni-City" to the leaders of the cities, but they reject him because of the relative lack of power they will suffer and a lack of raw materials to make the connections secure. The Norwol reappears and threatens Heidi who has gone off sky-skiing with her other boyfriend Rog who abandons her when the monster threatens. Peter and E-Man fly an air-car to her rescue
and then E-Man bravely attacks Norwol again. His attacks are puny then he makes the tactical decision to allow himself to be swallowed by the monster. Inside the creatures vast mouth he makes his way to its heart and despite coming under attack by giant white antibodies which behave like leeches, he is able to fire a burst of energy into Norwol's heart killing the monster.

E-Man escapes the dead beast through a tear duct and finds that Heidi has turned her attentions to Peter. Before leaving E-Man reveals to Peter that the largley unused roads connecting the cities would be useful material to make the "Uni-City" structure. Heidi then leads E-Man to the barrier between dimensions and he returns home. When he emerges from the ocean along Coney Island, Heidi gives him a kiss of farewell which Nova returning with ice cream sees. She smacks E-Man with the ice cream leaving our hero to explain his adventure to a disbelieving Nova.

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

"E-Mail" offers up to letters of comment, both complimentary to the series. One writer promotes his own hero "Cog Man" and the other brags on Charlton's subscription service which both cheap and great for the collector since the issues are delivered flat.

Liberty Belle stars in the next story titled "Freedom Star". It is written by Joe Gill with Steve Ditko supplying the artwork. The story begins in the modeling agency of Caroline Dean who rejects an offer from the local mob to become her partners. She kicks the mobster out of her place helped by her beautiful but capable models. Caroline then gets a call from the President who orders her to go to Cape Kennedy where she is to uncover a threat to Skylab III. Donning her costume Caroline becomes Liberty Belle and heads to the Cape arriving in her special jet. She introduces herself to the powers that be and goes to inspect the three astronauts headed in launch area. She realizes one of them is a Soviet spy named Kalovsky and after a very brief stuggle she knocks him out. She then takes his place on the rocket and joins the surprised team on their way to Skylab III. Once on the Skylab she reveals that an attack of Space Pirates is imminent. But the story ends on that cliffhanger with a request for fans to let the editors know if they want more Liberty Belle. To my knowledge this story is it.

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

The lead E-Man story has been reprinted once in 1985 by First Comics and most recently in E-Man - The Early Years.

This is a brisk sci-fi adventure tale told a by the ever-increasingly confident team of Cuti and Staton. The characters of E-Man and Nova are well established and the introduction of new elements is handled deftly leaving plenty of room for some outrageous action. We even get a wild full-page splash featuring the monster Norwol.

The anti-establishment thematic strain in the book also reasserts itself in that the political leaders of the flying cities seemed more concerned about their individual power than the welfare of the populations they seemingly protect. It's a grim reminder of how power sometimes works, and sadly reminds me of modern headlines too.

The character "Heidi" I believe might have been inspired by Heidi Saha the lovely young girl who was promoted by Warren Publications and wowed comics fandom with her provocative portrayals of Vampirella at comic conventions.

The Liberty Belle story has some "hip" elements but is a chaotic micro-adventure. I appreciate the talents of both Gill and Ditko, but it's no wonder she never appeared again despite her charming mini-skirt costume.

The month though was not over for E-Man. In Ghost Manor Volume 4, Number 21 dated November 1974, E-Man gets his first cameo. It comes in a story titled "Death in a Darkroom" written by Nicola Cuti and featuring Steve Ditko artwork. E-Man makes his "appearance" as part of a float in a parade which is being photographed by the story's protagonist. Blue Beetle and Captain Atom make one-panel cameos also.

Steve Ditko
Then the story turns as the photographer finds he has actually photographed a murder committed by an old man. He finds that his lens has crystal ball characteristics which have shown him murdering his own nagging wife in the future. As the story ends, he wonders what took him so long.

It's been a big month for E-Man. What does he do next? He goes to Disneyworld! More next time.

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  1. Great summary. Believe it or not, Liberty Belle recently made her second appearance in Mr. Jigsaw #13 (himself a later E-Man backup character).

    1. I've seen those and want them. She is a visually arresting character and worth a new adventure.

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