Monday, June 11, 2018

Dojo Classics - Charlton's E-Man #8

E-Man Volume 3, Number 8 is dated May, 1975. It was published by Charlton Publications Inc, and the editor is George Wildman. The cover was painted by Joe Staton.

"The Inner Sun" was written by Nicola Cuti, drawn by Joe Staton with colors by Wendy Fiore. The story begins after midnight when two policeman on patrol (who disregard Plastic Man making a cameo and waving at them from the sidewalk) get a report of a disturbance at the seemingly abandoned Boar Electronics Company. The encounter a giant blonde woman dressed in animal hide who attacks them and escapes. The scene shifts to a Michael Mauser's office where he is teaching Alec (E-Man) Tronn to play poker. Nova arrives and is upset that Mauser is corrupting her naive thousands-of years-old boyfriend. Despite changing to Charlie Chan, E-Man is snagged by his irritated other. Then the giant woman appears in Mauser's door, says his name and collapses. The woman is taken to the couch and mutters words about the North Pole and the name "Boar". E-Man immediately realizes this is Samuel Boar and learns from Mauser that Boar had escaped prison three months earlier. Leaving Nova and Mauser to tend to the giant woman E-Man uses radio waves and specifically the ham radio set of kid Clifford Bailey to get to the North Pole quickly. He encounters at the Pole a rough looking customer named Alfie Alcott and his pet Teddy a Koala, since both of them are from Australia. It turns out though that Alcott works for Boar who suddenly appears along with his new improved and larger Battery.

Cover Art by Staton
Part II begins with a battle between the Battery and E-Man with the latter ultimately gettting sucked into the Battery's headpiece storage unit. The Boar, Alcott, the Battery with E-Man and Teddy get into a flying snowcat and head to a vast cavern which leads to the center of the Earth. They descend into the cavern and ultimately emerge in the land of Nuclia a sprawling territory where dinosaurs still thrive and roam alongside many mammal species including man. The Battery releases E-Man and they group head to a native village of giant people led by Kotulka who immediately asks about his daughter. Boar threatens her life if the chief interferes with his plans to gather resources from Nuclia. Specifically Nuclia is given its warmth and energy by a great glowing sunlike globe atop the most prominent mountain. Boar wants E-Man to package this globe so that Boar can take it and its power back to the top. But a Tyranosaurus Rex suddenly attacks and while the Battery defends them by sucking in the entirety of the great beast, E-Man slips away and hides pretending to be a small grass-eating dinosaur.

Nova by Staton
Part III takes us back to New York City where Nova and Mauser are teaching poker to Rega, the giant girl. They need some vittles so Nova goes out and meets up with men pretending to be FBI agents. While running from them she encounters the seemingly friendly figure of Alfie Alcott. A quick cut takes us forward in time and back to Nuclia where Nova finds herself tied between to large stone pillars in front of the Nuclia "sun". She is being held hostage threatened by the "sun" which might erupt any moment to lure E-Man back. He does appear but before he can free her the Nuclia "sun" does erupt and for several moments it appears that Nova has been killed. Actually her atoms have been dispersed and further she has become in many ways like E-Man himself an energy creature who can reassemble into various types of matter. She at first speaks then reassembles herself in a really attractive and brief version of E-Man's costume and makes her big debut. The two partners then go to stop Boar and get to the native village by turning their feet into rockets. At the village Rega has been returned and they speak of a prophecy of two firey angels who will save the vilage when suddenly E-Man and Nova descend from the sky to engage the Battery in battle. The Battery catches hold of the over-eager Nova but is crushed by E-Man who descend upon him in the shape of a massive stone. Boar gives up quickly and the scene shifts back to New York City where he and Alcott are being turned over to the police. Teddy the Koala looks on as Nova gives E-Man a kiss which results in large mushroom cloud ascending over the cityscape.

"E-Mail" offers up three letters from fans, all of them complimentary to the story in issue five "The City Swallower" in particular and the series as a whole in general.

The story was reprinted in 1986 by First Comics and later in E-Man - The Early Years.

This is the only full-length E-Man feature in the Charlton run. It's got a sprawling story suitable for its larger scope and a broad cast of characters.

Roy Krenkel
The introduction of Nuclia creates an vibrant sci-fi environment that can yield a lot of stories if the series had gone forward. Nuclia follows in the tradition of underground worlds and seems very reminiscent to me of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar which was introduced in the novel At the Earth's Core.

The change to Nova was apparently a bid by Cuti and Staton to drive up sales on the series which were lagging. The experiment to re-introduce superheroes to Charlton had garnered strong fanboy support but overall was failing to reap the kinds of sales needed to allow the project to thrive. So changes were made both the cast, in this case making Nova Kane a superhero, and by adding to it.

Teddy is an attempt to add more humor to the comic and also respond to the reader interest in the Bools which were little other-dimensional critters in a previous story. Teddy gives the series a furry mascot, but one with an ironic sense for sure.

Mike "Don't Call Me Mickey" Mauser's role in the story is odd, since clearly Rega is recaptured but we don't see it, nor is it referenced. Mauser is about to be spun off into his own series and maybe this appearance is just an attempt to remind readers about the irascible gumshoe.

One nitpick I've noticed in the series this time, is that although in the debut issue the energy packet that became E-Man was said to have been trolling across the universe for millions of years, Cuti quickly in subsequent issues says that E-Man's age is in the thousands of years. I prefer the former, and I don't really understand why it was changed.

The cast though is nigh well complete, but then came a Dove. We'll give peace a chance next time.

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