Sunday, October 9, 2011
E-Man Part Ten--The Witch of Hog Wallow
by Jack Seabrook
The tenth and final issue of E-Man features another painted cover by Joe Staton, a sixteen-page E-Man Story, and a seven-page Rog-2000 story.
In "The Witch of Hog Wallow," we learn for the first time that E-Man spent some time on our planet before he first met Nova Kane. Nova comes home and finds a note tacked to his mailbox from a woman named Maisy-June, promising to visit at noon. Jealous, Nova demands an explanation and E-Man tells her how he met Maisy-June.
When he arrived on Earth, he took the form of a fawn, copying the shape of one of the first creatures he saw. He lived among forest animals until seeing a beautiful blond country girl walk by. He transformed himself into a handsome prince from a fairy tale book she carried, and his demonstration of his own limitless powers led her to call him her genie.
The local hicks saw her in the woods "conjurin' up all sorts of things," and decided she must be a witch. E-Man protected her by transforming into a super hero like the ones he'd seen in her comic books. When the locals captured Maisy-June and tied her to a stake for burning, E-Man scared them away by transforming into the Devil. Maisy-June was not sane, though, and E-Man had to use his powers to convince her that the local asylum was actually his castle, where she would live happily ever after.
Today, she has been cured and is on her way to visit an old friend. Nova hates her on sight because of her beauty, but quickly warms to her once she meets Maisy-June's husband. The story ends on a happy and humorous note.
The final E-Man story of the 1970s series is a good one, demonstrating that the title had really run its course by issue #8 and had nowhere else to go once Nova had died and been reborn as an energy being. The story in issue #10 is a flashback, which avoids having to figure out how to handle Nova's new powers and any corresponding change in her relationship with E-Man. Cuti and Staton comment wryly on the super-hero genre, as E-Man initially transforms himself into a costumed hero with a cape until he trips over the cape and dispenses with it.
The rural setting is also an opportunity for E-Man's creators to quote from Al Capp's L'il Abner comics; Maisy-June is a takeoff on Daisy Mae, and a small sign in one panel reads "Capp's Little Acre," a nod to Capp and also to the popular 1933 novel, God's Little Acre, by Erskine Caldwell. In one panel, a sign tacked to a tree features a caricature of Al Capp and the slogan, "Capp for Dawg Catcher." In another, a comic book on the ground features Capp's satirical detective, Fearless Fosdick. Finally, the last panel reveals Maisy-June's husband to be none other than L'il Abner himself, here renamed Dabney Slocum.
The backup story in this issue again features the wisecracking, cab-driving robot, Rog-2000. A living garbage heap named The Sog threatens New York City as it consumes garbage and citizens at random. The city is evacuated and Rog is deputized to help the Army; The Sog is finally defeated by its own desires, when it dies from overeating--as Rog comments, "there was too much garbage in New York even for The Sog---!"
"Rog 2000 vs The Sog" is a short, entertaining story that spoofs the creatures like Man-Thing and Swamp Thing that were popular in the mid-1970s after the Comics Code had relaxed its rules and monsters returned after having been absent since the early 1950s purge.
Unfortunately, the letters page of E-Man #10 includes a note to the readers from the editor stating that this is the last issue of E-Man. Poor sales are given as the reason for the cancellation, though I suspect this had more to do with Charlton's spotty distribution and the general glut of comics on the market. E-Man's adventures were promised to continue in Charlton Bullseye, though only one short tale was subsequently printed in that fanzine.
E-Man remains one of my favorite comics of the 1970s. Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton created memorable characters, from the humorous and heroic E-Man to the sexy and smart Nova Kane. The supporting cast was good, as well, including seedy private eye Michael Mauser, and villains The Brain and Samuel Boar. While the backup stories were forgettable during the first several issues of the series' run, once Cuti and John Byrne introduced Rog-2000, those short tales were also worth reading.
Cuti would leave Charlton soon after E-Man ended in 1975. Joe Staton moved on the DC, where he became a popular artist on several titles. John Byrne went on to fame with Marvel drawing X-Men and other hero books. They all served their time at Charlton, the low-paying publisher in Derby, Connecticut, where Steve Ditko toiled on and off for decades, a company that never quite broke through to the top tier of comics but which, nevertheless, was responsible for many memorable books.