Saturday, September 10, 2011

E-Man Part Six--Wunderworld

by Jack Seabrook

E-Man and Nova visit Florida's Wunderworld, a thinly-disguised Disneyworld, where Nova wins a beauty contest, defeating a bevy of lovelies that includes her friend Rosie, last seen in E-Man #3.  Our heroes are given a tour of the park by its owner, William Wunder, who turns out to be a robot controlled by the Brain From Sirius (last seen in E-Man #2).

In part two, E-Man and Nova investigate a mysterious swamp shanty in Fearland, one of the sections of the park, only to find that it is the home of the Toyman and his young daughter, Annie.  E-Man deduces that the Brain must have created the William Wunder robot, and he sets out in search of his old nemesis.

Dexter Duck is scaring me . . .
E-Man battles a war machine sent by the Brain, followed by a group of frightening toys.  Meanwhile, the Brain sends a monster to capture Nova; the monster kills Annie, breaking the Toyman's heart (even though Annie is revealed to have been a robot herself).

The orange war machine is E-Man.
The Brain tells Nova of his plan to convert the entire United States into an amusement park, a plan that is foiled when the Toyman throws an orange wrench and shatters the Brain's protective dome.

The story is capped when Nova's friend Rosie is revealed to be the Toyman's long-lost daughter, and E-Man explains that the orange wrench was yet another of his unusual disguises.

"Wunderworld" is another outstanding story from Cuti and Staton.  E-Man is now so well known that a young woman at Wunderworld recognizes him out of costume and knows his history.  The usual humor is present, as E-Man mistakenly attends a beauty contest for children while looking for Nova.  Joe Staton's talent for drawing beautiful women is on display with the adult beauty contest and the dressing room scene that follows it.

Wunderworld is both funny and scary in its satire of Disneyworld, and the return of the Brain is welcome.  Staton moves seamlessly from science fiction, in the scene where E-Man battles the Brain's war machine, to classic horror, in the scene where the Brain sends monsters to attack our hero.  In the story, the monsters are variations on a vampire, a werewolf, and Donald Duck.  The duck on the cover, however, reminds me of Howard the Duck, who was not yet at the height of his popularity when E-Man #6 was published in late 1974.

For the first time, the second story in an E-Man comic is worth reading, as this issue features the premiere adventure of the wisecracking robot, Rog-2000!  "That Was No Lady" is written by Nicola Cuti and drawn by John Byrne.  It features in jokes for comic fans, as well as the same sort of satire found in Cuti's E-Man tales.

Rog-2000, a very modern robot, enters a bar with a beautiful young woman on his arm, and proceeds to tell Duffy the bartender about how he and the woman met.  Rog drives a taxi, and one night he picked up a mysterious man, who turned out to be a hero/villain named Magno.  Magno used a powerful ray gun to destroy slums in the Bowery.

Rog and Syntac
Rog travels to Canada and confronts Burns, his creator, who shows him Syntac, a robot in the form of a beautiful young woman.  Rog and Syntac return to New York, and she quickly uses a Cyclops-like eye beam to disarm Magno.  She and Rog walk off arm in arm, and Rog tells Duffy that they will just be good friends "so long as she can do that."

Rog visits Burns, his Canadian creator.
Among the in jokes for 1974 comic fans is bartender Duffy, based on the late fan-turned-Marvel-inker Duffy Vohland.  Rog's creator, the Canadian Burns, is artist John Byrne, another fan-turned-pro (and the artist of this story).  This was Byrne's first color comic story--he would take over Marvel's X-Men less than three years later.  And, in a nod to Joe Staton's little touches in the E-Man stories, one of Byrne's panels features an ominous newspaper with a headline that reads, "Staton Dies!  Famed cartoonist eaten by frogs."

Rog and Duffy
E-Man #6 has a cover date of January 1975, which means it followed the bi-monthly schedule for only the second time in the series' run to date.  The letters column in this issue features a well-written article reprinted from "The New York Review of Comics and Books," in which Steve Stern argues that E-Man is the comic of the year.

I would really like to know
more about this!

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