Brand Echh – E-Man #2

In 1973, Charlton took one last late stab in getting a foothold into the super hero market with the publication of E-MAN, a light-hearted and whimsical super hero series about an energy being birthed in a star who came to Earth and became a costumed adventurer. It was a fun title and well-remembered, but it didn’t last very long. But we’re not really here to speak of E-Man at all.

Instead, we turn our attention to the back pages of E-MAN #2 for the first appearance of one of creator Steve Ditko’s most unheralded characters, Killjoy. Killjoy was an overtly comedic super hero series–only two installments ran in the back of issues of E-MAN, though I seem to think that Ditko returned to the character in later years. It was a goofily wonderful strip that nonetheless embraced Ditko’s personal politics, albeit in a slapstick fashion.

Killjoy is a silent crusader–he never says a word. And we never learn much more about him than e wears a red harlequin costume and enjoys pounding on bad guys. In the course of this first story, a number of characters show up in the aftermath of one of Killjoy’s battles, each of whom is clearly meant to be a suspect for Killjoy’s civilian identity. Are they all Killjoy in a variety of garbs? Are none of them? Is there more than one Killjoy? Who can say. But they do have great Ditko-style names like Ed Gab, the reporter.

The message, such as it is, seems to be that bleeding heart liberals are too soft on crime and those who commit it, and all of the crooks Killjoy pounds on make a show of protesting that their right to the pursuit of happiness is being infringed upon by his actions. The word that keeps turning up like a mantra throughout the Killjoy series is “unfair!” Ditko had no sympathy for such sentiments. This is the guy whose Mr. A overtly told you that he’d never risk his own life to save that of a criminal, who would only be getting what he deserved.

But Killjoy also has some of Ditko’s best and most expressive action artwork since is days on Spider-Man. And he crams his pages full of panels, but not to the detriment of the movement and energy. It’s a great looking strip.

I suspect that Killjoy wouldn’t have been sustainable as a long-running series–that the limits of the point of view and the fact that the character was such an absolute cypher would have drastically truncated the number of different stories that could have been done with him. But as a novelty, his two stories are a great deal of fun, and I love them quite a bit.

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