Saturday, August 20, 2011

E-Man Part Three--The Energy Crisis!

by Jack Seabrook

Back in 1974, the energy crisis was a serious concern.  Our parents got up before dawn to line up at the gas station on alternate days, depending on whether their car’s license plate began with an odd number or an even number.  In New York City, Broadway was no longer the Great White Way—it was the Brown Way.

Nova Kane and her fellow dancer, Rosie Rhedd walk home in the dark when they are attacked by a mugger.  Things take a turn for the worse when Nova sees Rosie pulled through a solid brick wall!  E-Man, being made of pure energy, is busy helping out at a hospital where power is in short supply.  He tells Nova that Mayor Beame has put him on 24-hour alert, so he can’t help.  Nova sees a handbill advertising “Michael Mauser, Private Eye,” and she goes to visit the seedy investigator.

Nova's friend Rosie is NOT
working her way through college!
Mauser agrees to look into Rosie’s disappearance with Nova, mainly because she is able to pay for his services.  After visiting the scene of the crime, they are attacked on the road by a powerful yet mysterious beam of light.  Nova telephones E-Man, who has been occupied with boosting generators for the power company.  He travels at the speed of light through the telephone lines only to find Nova and Mauser already gone.
Michael Mauser does not
accept personal checks.
In chapter two, E-Man checks into a boarding house in Boarsville, then uses power lines to try to infiltrate Boar Mansion.  Along the way he confronts The Battery, a walking cell that looks like a biker and absorbs energy.  E-Man is carried into Boar Mansion, where he meets Boar, the richest, most powerful man in the world.  Boar has been buying human beings and using their energy to supply his need for power during the energy crisis.  One of the people he has collected in glass tubes is Nova!

The aptly-named Boar!
E-Man escapes and defeats The Battery with trickery, then arrests Boar.  The government dismantles Boar’s empire, saving Nova, Mauser, and Rosie and distributing his energy among the general public.  Nova pays Mauser, who teaches E-Man a handy new phrase to describe his girlfriend—a “tough little broad.”  The story ends with a plea from E-Man to the readers to save the Earth!
Menacing, with a hint of
the Village People.
This month’s letters column features rave reviews of E-Man #1.  Of interest are the comments that discuss Charlton’s 1960s entries into the superhero market, such as Captain Atom, as well as the new “bullseye” logo on the cover.

This issue’s second story is called “Travis in the Dragon Killer!”  It is written by Nicola Cuti, E-Man’s scribe, and illustrated by Wayne Howard, a Charlton artist who studied under Wally Wood and was heavily influenced by his style.  Unfortunately, the story is trite and the art not very impressive.  Travis is a boy who is left alone with a time-traveling robot babysitter.  His parents never return, and he grows up under the robot’s tutelage.  They visit the Jurassic era and a T-Rex accidentally passes through a time warp, emerging in the time of knights.  Travis dons knightly garb and slays the “dragon,” winning the love of a beautiful maiden.

Not bad Wally Wood art, just Wayne Howard art.
Upon rereading E-Man #3 I was struck once again by how good this series is!  Staton’s art is cartoony and evocative at the same time, and the character of Michael Mauser, who would become a long-term, recurring character, is drawn in a “comic-noir” fashion that fits the story perfectly.  Nova continues to be a feast for the eyes, and Boar is the second major villain to challenge E-Man.  Like the Brain, he would return.

It is also interesting to be catapulted back to the social problems of 1973 and to remember the energy crisis and the looming problems in and around New York City.  It’s both funny and sad to see that E-Man’s plea to conserve energy is one that continues to resonate almost 30 years later.

Even blown up, this
Wayne Howard signature
is not easy to make out!

2 comments:

Martin O'Hearn said...

The artist on Travis was certainly influenced by Wally Wood, but his name was Wayne Howard.

Jack Seabrook said...

Martin, thanks for pointing that out. I have revised the post. It was interesting to read about Howard online and discover that I was not the only one who had to look twice to see that Wayne Howard's art wasn't Wally Wood's work!