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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 126: E-Man #3

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from E-Man #3, which was published by Charlton Comics and is cover dated June 1974. Enjoy!

It's not the original, but it'll do!

A few years ago, Larry Young and his new cohorts at First Comics reprinted all the original E-Man stories that Charlton published in the 1970s. These comics, I guess, are notable for featuring Joe Staton on art, but Nicola Cuti’s stories aren’t bad, either. The color on these has been “reconstructed,” as you can see, so I can’t really comment on the coloring, but let’s check out the rest of the page, ‘k?

As this was released in 1974, the lack of gasoline in the United States was particularly troubling, and Cuti takes advantage of that. I was only 3 in 1974, so I really wonder if people believed that the world would be uninhabitable in a decade or two, because it seems so silly now. That’s not to say that environmental disaster isn’t coming, because it probably is, but the world moves a lot more slowly than people think, and I wonder what the mindset was of people in the mid-1970s, who thought we were going to be eating our children by 1986. Anyway, Cuti’s doom-and-gloom narration at the top of the page sets the tone for the story, in which a fat rich guy has figured out a way to beat the energy crisis … by sucking the energy out of human beings! Cuti should sue the Wachowski Bros. tout suite! Cuti also gives us a glimpse of how bad New York had become in the 1970s, as Broadway looks deserted. Then we meet Nova, E-Man’s girlfriend, who’s the stereotypical “exotic dancer by night/student by day” and her pal, Rosie, who also alludes to the energy crisis when she mentions that the theater is often dark. After we get past the melodramatic set-up, Cuti’s writing does a nice job setting up the theme of the comic.

Staton does a good job, too. He gives us a very gloomy Broadway, with one sign completely dark and another showing Eugene O’Neill’s play “The Iceman Cometh” with a “closed” sign posted over it. In the background looms a building, which is also completely dark. People on the street are actually walking around with flashlights – I don’t know if this is taken from real life or not, but it hammers the point home pretty well. We can make out a creepy dude on the left of the panel with his face hidden – he’s either a mugger or just some poor schlub trying to stay warm. One newspaper proclaims a “gas riot,” and while I don’t know what “Big Allis is dead” means, Charles Luce was the head of Con Ed at this time, so it makes sense he would be in hiding. Staton draws a foxy Rosie, showing us that Nova’s place of business is probably a step up from a typical sleazy strip club, and he gives Nova some totally 1970s pants, which is fun. In the corner, of course, is a bottle with a candle in it, not because Rosie or Nova wants to set a romantic mood, but because the electricity is probably out.

As you can see, this page is packed with narrative and visual information. It flows fairly well, and there’s no reason why writers and artists can’t do stuff like this more often. I don’t want to get too nostalgic for “compressed” comics – these stories aren’t that great, after all – but it’s nice to see a page that has a lot going on and that gives us a lot to process.

Next: A comic most people like, it seems, a lot more than I do. But it’s pleasant enough, I suppose! You can find some other pleasant comics in the archives!

4 Comments

The 60′s spawned the Nuclear/Population/Energy/Military/Industrial/Political/Fringe Interest Crisis-es. Social problems were written about with much hyperbole and hung their opinions upon the sleeves of the covers which wrapped their books. E-Man, like Howard the Duck (as an example) was a great read. There were many others.

Travis Pelkie

May 6, 2012 at 12:56 am

Curious, I looked up Big Allis on the wikipedia, and it’s a power generator in Queens, that at the time was owned by Con Ed. If I’m reading right, it’s still in operation. Cool.

Even cooler is the continuous background of the dressing room panels.

E-Man is a damn good comic, one of the best humor ones around. I think I have one of the First reprints of this, so while it’s not the original coloring, it’s closer than this. First had newsprint and it didn’t hold the color as well as it could. I’m one that doesn’t like a lot of the recoloring, but Wald does a really nice job here.

How nice, after 40 years, to read comments about my stories. They’re solid comments but realize we were living, not only with the Energy Crisis, but with the Cold War. We were a paranoid generation who were absolutely certain there was going to be a World War III. Look at the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast of 1938. Those people sure were “silly” to panic the way they did and some even committed suicide. Silly people. Besides hindsight is 20/20. Try living through the great depression of the 30′s and think how “silly” those soup lines were. Things always seem trivial when you are looking back but we were making comments on what was current and, sorry, if we didn’t have the “this too shall pass on” attitude but they seemed very real problems at the time maybe even world changing ones. By the way, a lot of those signs in the background, like the one about “Big Allie” belongs to Joe Staton. Actually, it is nice to read these comments. Lots of authors and stories have been forgotten in less time than 40 years. So glad my tales can still arouse some controversy.

Nicola: I wasn’t trying to belittle the feelings of people who lived through that time period – in hindsight, a lot of what worried people looks less important. “Silly” was a poor choice of words, perhaps, because the problems that you wrote about in the issue are still with us, after all. I just wondered if people believed that society would collapse so quickly, because I’m not old enough to remember. It’s kind of like what happened in this country after September 11th – we got so many apocalyptic predictions about what would happen, and I don’t think any of it has come true. That’s not to say it won’t, but things usually take longer than we think they will, and shocking blows to society like the Great Depression are rare. That’s all I meant – I don’t know if people living in that time really believed that the United States would collapse in less than a decade.

Thanks for stopping by. I always enjoy hearing from creators, because it’s very cool hearing your thoughts on the stories you worked on.

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