Another find in the 3-Bags of new Modern Comics that had appeared at my local Two-Guys department store outlet was this issue of E-MAN, the last issue in its short run as it turns out. That painted cover and the way the piece is framed seems to be trying to conceal that this is a super hero title–it’s set up to look more like one of the supernatural mystery titles that Charlton had long put out. Perhaps this was done to try to impact on sales, I don’t really know. But it’s a strange cover, with all of that dead space almost dead center. I wonder if the intention had originally been for there to have been copy in that area, a balloon or two coming from the woman perhaps.
E-Man was a more whimsical approach to a super hero title released during an era where baroque narration and trippy mind-games were more the norm. This was its great strength, and perhaps its great weakness in terms of capturing an audience. It certainly stood out at the time as having a very different flavor to it. This particular issue opens up with Nova being angry at E-Man for concealing the fact that Maisy-June, a woman E-Man had known before meeting Nova, was coming to visit. Nova demands to know who she is.
E-Man is actually an energy being, born in the heart of a dying star. He explains to Nova that when he first arrived at Earth, he began studying the native life forms, learning how to transform himself into matter in imitation of them. After a few pages of E-Man prancing around as a fawn and scaring the local wildlife, Maisy-June shows up. She’s come to read her storybook of fairy tales to the animals–and E-Man, sensing an opportunity, speaks with her, transforming himself into the characters from her book.
Maisy-June’s interpretation of all of this is that E-Man is a genie, and he does nothing to dissuade her of this impression, so happy he is to have somebody to talk to. Unfortunately, the stereotypical rednecks of this backwater community, having seen some of this, decide that Maisy-June must be a witch, and proceed to mob up in order to burn her at the stake. Not quite understanding everything that’s going on, E-Man nevertheless defends her, transforming into his very first super hero costume along the way.
To save his friend, E-Man does the obvious thing: he transforms himself into a duplicate of Maisy-June and shows off the extent of his “witch powers” hoping to frighten off her pursuers. Unfortunately, one of the yokels finds the real Maisy-June hiding in the bushes, clonks her on the head and drags her away to be burned. In a fun bit of business, as he tries to speed to her rescue, E-Man trips over his own cape, and then decides to discard it.
E-Man transforms himself into a demon to scare the holy hell out of villagers–but as he chases them off, Maisy-June’s pleasant facade crumbles and she freaks out, screaming for E-Man to kill them all. It turns out that Maisy-June is emotionally troubled. Realizing what he has to do, E-Man assumes the guise of a storybook prince and escorts Maisy-June to the mental institution, where she can be cared for. Since then, E-Man relates, she’s been cured of her psychosis– and when she shows up, Nova is relieved to learn that she is also married. (To a character clearly inspired by L’il Abner.)
The back-up strip was another installment of Rog-2000 by a young John Byrne. In this one, the robot cabbie is conscripted by a lunatic general into participating in the hunt for a swamp-creature that’s been eating people all across the city. Ultimately, Rog-2000 is able to save a little girl from being similarly consumed–and the Sog self-destructs, having eaten itself to death. It was a fun story.