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CSBG Archive

Meta-Messages – The Dark Albatross Saga

All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Based on a suggestion from my pal Peter, let’s take a look at E-Man #3, a parody of the Dark Phoenix Saga by Marty Pasko and Joe Staton titled, “Dark Albatross Must Be Rendered Inoperative, Lifewise”

As you can see, the whole thing is meant to spoof the style of the X-Men comics of the era, right down to the lettering!

Dave Cockrum and Chris Claremont appear here…

Pasko mocks the thought balloons of the X-Men characters….

E-Man is after his friend, who has been kidnapped to be the Phoenix of the X-Men (or rather, Albatross of the F-Men). This goes poorly…

Note the biting Marvel parodies at the end.

In the end of the story, Fairmont signs away his rights to the F-Men to Marvel, in exchange for high royalties but no ownership. A pretty sharp statement.


Harsh, but funny!

Man, this was a great comic. I never missed an issue of E-Man back then, even at a time when I was otherwise buying mostly Marvel. (I would have been 12 or 13.) I’ve still never read any of the older Charlton series, though. I wish all of it would be reprinted somehow.

Buttler, if you like these, you’ll have to read the first Charlton series. Cuti’s take on the character is generally better and funnier than Pasko’s – I found that Pasko’s writing on these often got overly wordy and his satire could get heavy-handed at times.
Speaking of the original Charlton issues, I think they can be found pretty inexpensively, although I share your wish for reprint volumes.

I normally like Pasko’s writing, but I always thought his work on E-Man was a bit too mean spirited.

I also think the First Comics revival of E-Man lacked the subtle mix of humor, action, and drama that made Nick Cuti’s original so great.

All that said, this was by far the most spot on X-Men parody ever. The sample shown here isn’t even the funniest stuff.

All that said, this was by far the most spot on X-Men parody ever. The sample shown here isn’t even the funniest stuff.

Definitely. I went with the more metafictional stuff rather than the funniest stuff.

I love it that he included an armadillo in The Bullpen, it always intrigued me as a child when Stan referred to his staff as armadillos.

One of the nastiest (but arguably deserved) shots was Byrne’s “It’s a Cog, It’s a Wheel, It’s COMPANYMAN!” t-shirt, a reference to his Comics Journal article wherein he professes his happiness and being a cog in Marvel’s corporate machine. E-Man wasn’t the only place he took heat for that statement, however.

First Comics reprinted the Charlton run in seven issues as Original E-Man. While it was the 80’s they are not that difficult to find and are cover price if not sometimes criminally in quarter bins. Have trade paperbacks made everyone lazy? Does no one check back issue bins anymore? Especally with what Marvel and DC charge, it is usually cheaper to buy the actual comics. I even tracked down the original E-Man issues for not too much money at all, and I have a very tiny budget.

Hurm… How did I miss this entry?
And especially since I am the PETER who suggested it?!

I’ve always LOVED this arc of E-Man (it was a fave comic when I was buying pretty much one of everything on the rack – no matter what publisher).

Thanks for showcasing it!


I never got these artists/writers who take swipes at Stan Lee, all the while working at the industry he basically revolutionized.

Its one thing if thee were indie underground guys, but both these men worked at the major companies.

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