Sunday, September 4, 2011

E-Man Part Five--The City Swallower

by Jack Seabrook
A day at the beach for E-Man and Nova gives Joe Staton the opportunity to place our favorite heroine in a skimpy green bikini!
But all is not well at Coney Island.  E-Man spots a mysterious blonde emerge from the ocean waves and he follows her under the sea, quickly passing into another dimension, where cities are menaced by a Norwol, depicted by Joe Staton in a full page of horror!
These shades are very 1974!
E-Man turns himself into a harpoon, but his attempt to spear the behemoth is thwarted by its thick hide.  Meeting up with Heidi (the blonde, in very 1970s sunglasses) and her boyfriend Peter, E-Man learns of Peter's plan to defeat the Norwol.  His idea involves joining cities together in order to succeed through cooperation, but this is quickly voted down by the oligarchs who tell him that they don't possess the necessary raw materials.  Meanwhile, Heidi is out air-skiing, unconcerned with the Norwol, which soon bears down on her with a lean and hungry look.

E-Man battles the beast without success, until he decides to imitate Jonah and attack the problem from the inside.  Battling off antibodies, he destroys the beast's heart with an energy beam and saves the city.

Returning to our world through the portal beneath the waves, he receives a parting kiss of thanks from Heidi, which leads to an angry confrontation with Nova, demonstrating a streak of jealousy that hints at her feelings for E-Man.

The fifth issue of E-Man shows Joe Staton's art continuing to improve, with ever more Gil Kane influence apparent.  In this series of articles, I have focused mostly on Staton's work, but the scripts by Nicola Cuti are excellent as well.  The series succeeds in mixing humor, science fiction, and suspense, and the characters are always engaging.  Cuti's importance would become even more clear in retrospect when he was replaced by Martin Pasko for the initial issues of E-Man's run in the 1980s with First Comics.

I have a hard time
accepting that anyone
in 1974 looked like this!
Once again, the eight-page backup story is a Steve Ditko disaster:  "Liberty Belle in Freedom's Star."  This story seems dated even for 1974 and Ditko's art strongly suggests that this story was pulled from the file cabinet of 1960s rejects, or that Ditko was unaware of what people in 1974 actually looked like.

On the splash page, Liberty Belle remarks, "You talk too much Commie... like most of your breed!"  Yet the story's heroine becomes the first woman launched into space, ready to work on "Skylab III."

What had looked so fresh and exciting ten years before now looks dated and awkward.  Compared to the rushed, early 1960s Marvel work of Kirby and Ayers, Ditko's art was exciting.  By 1974, comics had matured, and artists like Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Frank Brunner and Gene Colan had raised readers' expectations to a level where Ditko's work--at least in his three E-Man backup stories--seemed like a relic from comics' childhood.

Notes:  My copy of E-Man #5 does not include a British price on the cover, unlike the past two issues.  The "bi-monthly" publication schedule also continues to be haphazard; this issue has a cover date of November 1974, three months after that of the prior issue.

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