My recent re-reading of Martin Pasko's Swamp Thing (plus the comment below) put me in the mood to re-read the first few issues of one of the few examples of his other work I am familiar with.

ClarkKent_DC said:

That series was my introduction to E-Man, and the only one I've enjoyed, as the ones I've seen since lacked the element (heh) of parody of other comics titles. (The issue featuring a parody of The Uncanny X-Men was pitch-perfect, with one page in particular nailing Chris Claremont's overblown writing, right down to misplaced captions that told you what previous panels showed you.)

I can already see where the cognitive disconnect lies, but I did just re-read the first three issues (probably for the first time since I bought them) with new eyes. First let me say, when I was a kid, I used to get a comic book if I was good at the dentist. One day I picked the first issue of the Charlton series and loved it. Charlton's distribution being what it was in those days, I found only two more of the original series' ten-issue run when they were new, but I acquired the rest by the time I graduated high school. By the time I was in college, a new E-Man series was being published. I was immediately excited, then just as quickly disappointed. Here's what Joe Staton had to say about it years later...

"Charlton's run of E-Man came to an end in 1974; over the years, I attempted to purchase the rights to continue the character, but to no avail. When I was hired as art director by First Comics in 1982, First bought the E-Man rights from Charlton and I repaid all of first's expenses by deductions from my page rate.

"Unfortunately, Nick [Cuti, E-Man's co-creator] was not available to write the book. Even more unfortunately, E-Man was saddled with an editor at First who was convinced that E-Man was a parody book and that 'there's no reason to do a parody unless you hurt somebody.' So, for eight issues, E-Man struggled along under the weight of of heavy-handed put-downs and unintelligible in-group jokes.

"Finally, that editor was removed from the book and, along with Rick Oliver (who co-wrote and edited E-Man beginning with issue #9), I attempted to salvage some trace of the original, easy-going E-Man. But by then, the damage had been done, and when Nick became available again, he wrote only two issues before the book was cancelled with issue #25." [Mike Gold was E-Man's editor back then, but I believe that Martin Pasko is the "editor" to whom Staton refers because he was gone after issue #8 and Mike Gold stayed on as editor through #24.]

Something was just... off about First Comics new E-Man #1, even the art. Issues #2-3 were the X-Men parody and, I must admit, Martin Pasko has Chris Claremont's overblown expository writing style down pat, but the art was still off. I thought Pasko's depictions of the "A'tari" (the "water-chestnut people") and the "Shi'hedd Empire" were pretty funny, but if I had to guess, I'd say that Staton was uncomfortable in the way Pasko depicted fellow pros. for example: Chris Claremont - "Ford Fairmont"; Stan Lee - "Stanley Presents"; Jim Shooter - "Sniper"; John Byrne - "Companyman". Also, Roy Thomas ("Rascally"), Steve Ditko ("Sturdy") and Jack Kirby ("King") were depicted as Three Stooges hairpieces on wig-stands. 

The art began to improve with #4, but another thing that hampered #1 through #5 is that each was "hosted" by the ghost of Albert Einstein. In my opinion, the title began to turn around with #6 (although that was one of the last three written by Martin Pasko). I haven't changed my opinion at all about those first three issues (reinforced it, maybe). The one thing I did like about about the "F-Men" parody (although Joe Staton did not)  is that they gave Nova Jean Gray's intended fate from "The Dark Phoenix Saga": they removed her powers. 

I see now that you, Kelvin, enjoyed the aspect of parody of those early First Comics issues, but I happen to agree with Joe Staton that it's out of place in E-Man... social satire, yes; outright comic book parody, no. That's what Cerebus is for. I have liked every incarnation of E-Man, but those first ten Charlton issues are the best

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I loved the original Charlton E-Man (with Mike Mauser!) also. I've never read any of the later versions.

E-man is one of my favorite characters, and that's based on my love for the original ten-issue Charlton run from the 1970s. I've read the First series and did not like it nearly as much (esp. that first bit with the X-men parody). I like some of the later oneshots and specials done by Cuti and Staton, but for me nothing beats that original Charlton run.

For those interested in Charlton's original run of E-Man comics (ten issues), I recommend The Original E-Man reprint series (seven issues) published by First Comics. Probably easier to find would be the E-Man: The Early Years tpb (2011).

THE ORIGINAL E-MAN:

  • All ten original issues
  • Original covers at reduced size in black & white
  • Faithful re-coloring by the original colorist on Baxter paper stock
  • All of the Mike Mauser solo back-up stories from Vengeance Squad
  • E-Man back-up story (in color) from Charlton Bullseye fanzine
  • Unpublished E-Man story

E-MAN: THE EARLY YEARS:

  • All ten original issues
  • All covers, full size and in color, plus unpublished cover of #1
  • All First Comics Original E-Man reprint covers
  • State of the art coloring on slick, glossy paper
  • No Mike Mauser, but includes the two E-Man short stories mentioned above
  • Checklists of all other E-Man and Mike Mauser appearances

I am not a huge fan of Mike Mauser; I am in the mood to reread the Mauser stuff about half as often as I am the E-Man stuff. [Joe Staton, BTW, based E-Man's looks on Roger Moore (probably on The Saint more than James Bond), and Mauser's on Dustin Hoffman (specifically, Ratso Rizzo from Midnight Cowboy).] Nevertheless, I prefer the reprint series to the tpb based primarily on the coloring. I think the tpb color is too dark and "murky" and doesn't really fit the overall tone of the stories. OTOH, the full-size color covers of the original issues is a nice draw. If you've never read E-Man before, you really can't go wrong with either package. 

I'd pretty much completely forgotten about that tpb. It was published a few years too late for me, because - as as I just mentioned today in another thread - I simply collected the original Charlton issues and had them bound. For me, the original issues also have added bonus of letters pages and back-ups like Rog 2000 and Killjoy.

Otherwise, I'm not sure if the 'Early Years' tpb is easier to find; my impression is that it's now pretty rare, and the few listings I've seen online have hefty prices attached.

You're probably right about that. I tend not to price things on the backmarket that I already own. My primary and secondary LCSs are both quite well-stocked and I just naturally expect to find anything I may want on the shelf at cover price. Plus I tend not to overvalue things that were originally available during my own lifetime, especially as recent as eleven years ago. "What? $3000.00 for Hulk #181? Why, I paid a quarter for that in 1975!" 

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