Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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!
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!
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