Friday, June 15, 2018

Dojo Classics - Charlton's E-Man In The Bullseye!

As promised several months after the cancellation of the E-Man regular series, stories did begin to appear in The Charlton Bullseye. After a cover-shot on The Charlton Bullseye Volume 3 Number 2 he would get a full story eventually.

The Charlton Bullseye Volume 3, issue 4 of the fanzine published by CPL/Gang Publications showed up in the spring of 1976. The fanzine was edited by Bob Layton. The color cover for this black and white magazine is by Joe Staton.

"...And Why the Sea is Boiling Hot" was written by Nicola "Nick" Cuti and drawn by Joe Staton. The story begins with E-Man and Nova on duty disguised as water buoys in the ocean. They are part of an investigation in conjunction with Michael Mauser and the military to investigate the disappearance of ships and aircraft in this area of the ocean. They soon detect what seems to be a ghostly galleon flying the Jolly Roger, the symbol of piracy. They board the ship and discover that it is powered by alien technology but then they are attacked by classic pirates armed with rayguns which send them both confused and dazed into the sea. Nova recovers and spies a weird submarine which she follows into a cavernous dock and to escape detection she pretends to be a bat, but not before she is slightly wounded. After some confusion E-Man appears and the two of them join forces to fight off the aliens who seem to want only Earth's resources as any pirate might. Implementing Plan 25 Nova and E-Man bond their mass to become a great cannon which allows them to fight through to the ghostly alien galleon. They commandeer the craft but are chased by the alien subs. They lead the aliens into the air above the ocean where Mauser is waiting as well as General Dove along with a squadron of military fighters who engage the aliens. The Earth appears to be save again but as Mauser notes man continues to pollute this world he claims to treasure.

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

This story was reprinted by First Comics in 1986 and later in E-Man - The Early Years. But there was another story included in these reprints.

There is a blurb in the "The Charlton News" section that E-Man will appear in every other issue but alas this single story is the only one to see print since The Charlton Bullseye ceases publication after the very next issue.

But another story was already prepared for publication. It would not see print for many years.

In 1985 and 1986 First Comics made an effort to put all of the E-Man material into print again in a series of comics which combined stories from the E-Man title and also Michael Mauser stories from Vengeance Squad. The stories done for The Charlton Bullseye were also included and that counted a story done for the Bullseye but never published.

That story titled "Vamfire" was written by Nicola Cuti and drawn by Joe Staton. Bob Layton is listed as editor and Wendy Fiore did the colors for the reprint, though the original would've been published in black and white.

The tale begins way back when E-Man himself was first created when a distant sun went nova and spewed out the energy packet which would become E-Man. Another packet of energy was also released, this one of a more "vampiric" nature which followed the first through space eating up the trail of energy left behind. Eventually after a vast number of years the second packet finds its way to Earth and trails the energy to a meager dinner named "Joe and Nicks" run by two familiar faces and who cater to Nova Kane who powers up their neon sign with her energy powers. Thinking this is the energy trail it has been following for so long the alien assumes a shape similar to Nova's and adopts the name "Vamfire".


New York City is struck by a plague of power outages caused by the alien. But when Vamfire tries to feed from an atomic energy plant at Minnesota Flats she runs into Nova who is trying to locate the cause of the power failures. The two fight and Vamfire learns that Nova is not the energy creature she had followed all those years, but an Earth woman who as it turns out has a stiff uppercut which stuns Vamfire. E-Man appears and applauds Nova's handling of Vamfire's threat and realizes that she must be something akin to his sister, a thought that disturbs Nova and bemuses Vamfire.

To learn more about Vamfire check out this link.

These final E-Man stories done in some manner under the Charlton banner have a more tongue-in-cheek character than the original ones in the regular series. Nick Cuti seems to know of course that he's now writing to a pure fanboy audience and that he can play even more with the conventions of the form.

The Vamfire story seems very much a story for fans, with Nick Cuti and Joe Staton even making cameos in the story. Vamfire seems not so much an actual threat as an excuse to concoct a tale. The story lack any of the real tension that even the funniest of the originals had in some small measure. But it's still a hoot of a story.

One of the clearest examples of playing to the fanboy audience is in the first story from Bulleye in which Nova responds to a comment E-Man makes about the color of some object being confusing because they are now in black and white. I noted that when this story was reprinted in the First Comics series with color, that comment and the bubble it was contained in were eliminated, the only change of such a type that I noticed in those reprints. This wording was returned in the E-Man trade reprint.

It's too bad that Bullseye couldn't have continued and so give us more E-Man stories. But then if Charlton hadn't collapsed then the property wouldn't have been available for First to make use of. While most fans think the 80's E-Man series is inferior to the Charlton run (myself included) it did free E-Man from the servitude in endless cheap reprints most of the Charlton canon fell into when the properties were sold off to Richard Broughton and his ACG/Avalon brands. Along with the "Action Heroes" which went to DC and a few others like Thunderbolt which fell to its creator PAM, E-Man found a way to stay alive popping up every few years here and there. First, Comico, Alpha, Digital Webbing, Twomorrows, and most recently AC Comics under the Charlton Neo brand, have all taken a swing at an E-Man story. In addition E-Man has shown up in all sorts of benefit books over the years. The character is a bit of an icon to indie comics, a pioneer project which seems never to quite thrive, but never quite disappear, though reports indicate the last E-Man story has dropped.

The character touched a nerve with us happy lucky few who stumbled across him all those decades ago now. His smiling mug gave superheroes a happy face when one was sorely needed, in a decade which reminds me much of modern times. A war which seems to grind on ceaselessly and an economy which teeters day to day are stresses which make readers relish a sunny diversion. E-Man by Cuti and Staton is the very tonic!

"E is for Engery...E is for E-Man - From the the ridiculous, from hurling pure energy with his bare lurking in a light bulb/ E-Man's fantastic ability to all the forms of energy makes him a formidable foe of Evil!!"

Thanks Nick! Thanks Joe!

SPECIAL NOTE: This concludes our E-Man coverage for this month. I had originally planned to continue reviewing (albeit less comprehensively) the E-Man stories from First, Comico, Alpha, and others, but frankly I'm enjoying reading these stories and will finish the run, but I don't at this moment have much more to say. These E-Man comics are among my most prized and the E-Man books that have dribbled out over the decades are remarkable in many respects. Maybe later I'll feel like tearing into them with more vigor. But right now, my mind is on other things. More tomorrow.

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