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Nostalgia November Day 25 — E-Man #7

Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s E-Man #7.

The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.

eman07E-Man #7 by Martin Pasko and Joe Staton is a comic I have fond memories of. I think I only read it once, but I remember really enjoying it and wanting to read more E-Man comics. I wish I could agree with my younger self, but I found it a chore to get through. The plot involves E-Man going up against a cosmic giant that feeds on fear until he gets so big that his weight crushes the planet and his partner in crime, a televangelist. An absurdly fun idea that’s killed under the weight of too much exposition (the first quarter of the comic is all exposition) and a plot that’s too complicated and trying to serve too many masters. It tries to be satire of televangelists, satire of superhero stories, and a straight-up superhero story all at the same time, and none of the elements work well as a result. Honestly, halfway through, I felt the urge to begin skimming the issue — I didn’t, but it required work to keep reading it completely.

Where the writing fails because it loads everything on to the point of tedium, Joe Staton’s art is perfect. It manages to find that right tone between the absurd and the serious. E-Man isn’t exactly the most serious of heroes (sort of a Plastic Man-type… but with a Superman role) and his supporting cast is drawn very cartoony. The Feeder is drawn more seriously, but his absurd toga outfit requires no more embellishment really. Staton also knows where the jokes are and plays to them. It’s a shame that his art is buried under Pasko’s overwritten and bland dialogue… he should have trusted Staton to do the job through the art, because he could.

If you simplified the plot (which I’ll sum up now in a simplified fashion: Feeder needs fear, uses televangelist to scare people, wants to kill E-Man and his friends in the process because they know too much) and how it’s told, this could be a fun comic. It also needs to decide if it’s a regular superhero story or a comedy… the two elements can mix, but usually when the hero is a pure superhero and everything surrounding him is absurd, or vice versa… but when both are stupidly absurd, trying to play any of it straight doesn’t work.

Tomorrow, Transformers #66.

4 Comments

Great Joe Staton art, so-so Marty Pasko scripts: that’s pretty much E-Man in a nutshell. It also suffered (as you say) from blurriness of concept — Plastic Man in a Superman role didn’t really work. It’ was a mildly interesting part of comics early-80s Cambrian Explosion, but it’s not really surprising that no one has ever tried to revive it.

Gantry Babbitt, BTW, is from two Sinclair Lewis characters — Elmer Gantry and Babbitt.

Doug M.

None of the later incarnations caught the magic of the original ten-issue Charlton run done by Staton with Nicola Cuti writing the scripts – it was basically a light-hearted straight-up satire of the superhero genre. The problem with the First series, especially in the issues scripted by Pasko, is that the light-hearted fun all too often got replaced with heavy-handed satire.

Nostalgia November Fun Fact: The same month E-Man #7 came out… so did American Flagg #1. While Lil Chad didn’t buy this comic when it came out (since he was only, like, eight months old, I kind of wish he’d gotten that other First Comic instead… that would have been sweet.

I used to have an issue of E-Man years ago, when it was from Charlton (I guess. Actually, the cover said ‘Modern Comics’, but on the letter page, writers referred to it as a Charlton comic. Does anyone know what ‘Modern Comics’ was? Was it Charlton under a new name just before they folded, or was it Charlton reprints, or did the name reflect the distributor, as with Whitman? I had a few other Modern titles back then, but I don’t remember what they were.)
I thought it was a very strange book. The story was a parody of Lil Abner, believe it or not. And it had a back-up Rog 2000 story by John Byrne, which was kind of strange, too, but I don’t remember much about it.

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