Some people refer to the 70s as a time of malaise when comics weren’t any good. Those people have never met Alec Tronn… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of E-Man #1 awaits!
Writer: Nicola Cuti
Penciler: Joe Staton
Inker: Joe Staton
Colorist: Petra Goldberg
Letterer: Joe Staton
Editor: Roy Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $25.00
Previously in E-Man: With a publishing history dating back to 1945, it’s a little bit weird that Charlton Comics is treated as a forgotten footnote today. The original home of Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and a host of gory 50s horror books, Charlton also gave us a long-running ‘Abbott & Costello’ comic and tons of licensed properties over the years. Though their output slowed and eventually ceased entirely during the 70s, Charlton managed to give us a few final gifts. Like all good stories, it begins with a star going nova…
A disembodied consciousness in a ball of energy emerges from the exploding star, setting off in search of meaning. Unfortunately, what he/it finds is a strange alien craft, devoid of any life other than automatons, led by a strange disembodied brain. Their plan is to land on planet Pluto and attack the Earth from space, something that our energy creature can’t abide. Figuring out how to make a solid form, he causes the ship to crash on Earth. Smash-cut to… a strip club?
Our energy friend takes on human form for the first time, and introduces him to his new friend, who introduces herself as Nova Kane. Declaring himself an energy-man (E-Man for short), he travels to Nova’s home, getting involved when her landlord suddenly goes mad and attacks them! Realizing that the man had just returned from vacation upstate, our intrepid hero transforms and sends himself through the telephone lines. Nova follows by car, only to find more maddened people ready to kill whatever moves. Fortunately, her hero has already fully scoped the situation.
Man, I *love* Joe Staton’s art on this book. There’s a whimsical quality to E-Man #1 (one that used to drive me crazy when I was a kid, especially on pseudo-serious books like ‘Millennium’) with figure work that makes E-Man’s adventures and transformations great fun. Tracking the source of the angry people, Nova and E-Man find the crashed ship, manned by the evil Brain, who still intends to blow up the planet, crash-landing or not. Fighting their way through the ship, E-Man discovers the downside of being solid.
That costume is amazing, by the way. Tracking the evil Brain, E-Man acts with only seconds to go to save his new home…
The bomb is taken care of, but despite the seeming demise of The Brain, its evil recurs throughout this early run. E-Man’s book went dark, along with most of Charlton’s line circa 1977, but was thankfully revived at First Comics in the 1980s. This issue doesn’t even have a guest-appearance of Teddy Q, the koala that walks like a man, and E-Man hasn’t yet dubbed himself the sublimey punny “Alec Tronn”, but it’s still a really strong first issue full of entertaining moments. E-Man #1 doesn’t concern itself with drama or continuity, but delivers a fast-paced, fun story with elegantly goofy and perfectly apropos art from Staton, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. If you’re a collector of 70s Charlton books, or Bronze Age key issues, this one should definitely be on your list.
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A stripper and an energy being meet cute, and history is made! It's a good-looking, fun comic worthy tracking down.