PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite E-MAN Stories — A 50th ANNIVERSARY Celebration

The celebrated Mr. K pays tribute to the classic series by Nick Cuti and Joe Staton…


In 1973, word that a batch of new titles, including a superhero and a martial arts character, were coming from Charlton Comics was big news. The Derby, Connecticut, company’s last real push of their “Action Heroes” — including Captain Atom, the Question, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Thunderbolt, and others in the mid-1960s — was fondly remembered but short lived, and Charlton had mostly stuck with their tried and true genre anthologies and licensed properties ever since.

The higher-ups at Charlton Press were famously indifferent to what ran off their presses, as long as they were rolling and earning. And for large chunks of the company’s history, the men in charge of editorial didn’t much care either. They published comics that reflected the popular genres of the day, filled with stories that had been produced as inexpensively as possible. More often than not they got what they paid for: dreck! It took artists like Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Pay Boyette, and a few others to make the books worth reading, artists content to work for Charlton’s Poverty Row page rates if only for the creative freedom the company afforded them.

But in 1973, something happened. To be more accurate, someone happened: assistant editor, former underground cartoonist, and Wally Wood studio assistant Nicola (Nick) Cuti (October 29, 1944 – February 21, 2020). As occurred under Dick Giordano’s 1960s editorial reign that produced the Action Heroes line, Nick lit a fire under Charlton’s creativity, out of which sprang Doomsday +1, Yang, House of Yang, Ghostly Haunts, Haunted, Midnight Tales, Scary Tales, Haunted Love… and E-Man.

Incredibly, E-Man #1 (cover-dated October 1973) was published 50 years ago this month! Inspired by Jack Cole’s Golden Age Plastic Man strip, Nick Cuti and Joe Staton created a whimsical sentient packet of energy that came to Earth and assumed human form. And hilarity ensued! Not that I ever got the sense Nick’s stories were making fun of superhero comics per se, but E-Man (also known by his alter ego, Alec Tronn) was a wacky innocent from the stars who took our strange Earthly ways at face value and with tongue planted firmly in cheek… five years, I must point out, before Robin Williams’ analogous Mork from Ork! (Happy Days, Season 5, Episode 22, “My Favorite Orkan,” February 28, 1978).

Even beyond E-Man and the rest of the new titles, Charlton’s brief 1970s renaissance under Cuti was an exciting time for fans and wannabes like me. I was working on a fanzine that originally reported on the birth of the title (The Comic Reader #98, June 1973) and by the time the last issue hit the stands, I had just sold several scripts to editor Cuti for their horror comics. According to what Nick once told Back Issue, “E-Man was Charlton’s lowest-selling title on newsstands but was the company’s best-selling subscription. When (editor George) Wildman told Cuti that the title was to be cancelled after Issue #10, he explained that the publisher had allowed it to continue publication to that point only out of loyalty to Cuti.”

But thanks to that pesky Law of Conservation of Mass (you know… matter can be neither created nor destroyed), you couldn’t get rid of this orange and yellow energy being so easily! A final, unpublished Charlton story ran in Charlton Bullseye #4, and then wonder of wonders, found new life under the First Comics brand in 1983… then again for a few issues from Comico… followed by some one-shots… until we get to the last Cuti/Staton collaboration in Charlton Neo Comics.

Charlton Arrow #1

Just so you know, the facts that I credit Nick Cuti with kicking off my career as a comic book writer and I adore my friend and long-time collaborator Joe Staton, have nothing to do with how much I’ve liked E-Man from the very start, which was years before I knew either gentleman. Cole’s Plastic Man has always been one of my favorite strips and I recognized a kindred spirit when I read one. And, in a case of things too good to be true, I was offered one of those opportunities to work on (yet another!) character I’d long loved, dialoguing what turned into three issues of the 1980s First Comics E-Man run.

Sometimes that first time writing a character is an intimidating experience. It happened to me when I finally got to tackle Superman, Phantom Stranger, Batman… and, yeah, E-Man. I have nothing but respect for what Nick and Joe accomplished in their original run, and when Nick hadn’t been available to write the First Comics run, they put my old friend and one of my favorite writers Martin Pasko on the book… and then Marty wanted me to script over his plots when he ran into some deadline conflicts.

So, yeah. Only four people have ever put words in this iconic character’s mouth: his creators, Marty Pasko. And me. Cool!


E-Man #1 (Charlton, October 1973). Because: Meet Alec Tronn and Nova Kane and the birth of a notion!

E-Man #3 (Charlton, June 1974). Because: Introducing… P.I. Michael Mauser! I love Mike Mauser! (See my two Joe Staton Mike Mauser convention sketches from decades ago.)

E-Man #6 (Charlton, January 1975). Because: The back-up story. Not only does it star everybody’s favorite 1970s robot Rog 2000 (story by Cuti, Rog 2000 created and with art by John Byrne), but it’s set in “Duffy’s Tavern,” bartended by one-time Marvel staffer, my old friend, Duffy Vohland. Also, I love Rog 2000! (See my 1974 John Byrne Rog 2000 sketch.)

E-Man #8 (Charlton, May 1975).  Because: A lovely painted cover by Joe Staton!

The Charlton Bullseye #4 (CPL/Gang Publications, March/April 1976). Because: The E-Man #11 that never was!

E-Man #1 (First, April 1983). Because: E-Man was back, more satirical than ever!

E-Man #8 (First, November 1983). Because: Me, given the opportunity to work with good friends who were a favorite writer and artist on a favorite character.

E-Man #10 (First, January 1984). Because: Me again, ditto!

E-Man #11 (First, February 1984). Because: OK, that’s the last of me. But ditto that last ditto!

E-Man #21 (First, December 1984). Because: Satire that earns a grade of “A+” for smacking down “The B-Team.”

E-Man #1 (Comico, January 1990). Because: You can’t keep a good alien energy force down and E-Man and company were back again for the first time… I mean, for the Comico time!

The Charlton Arrow #1 (Charlton Neo, 2017). Because: E-Man was back again… again!

The Charlton Arrow #3 (Charlton Neo, 2018). Because: The last chapter of the last collaboration between Nick and Joe. Parting really is sweet sorrow.


— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite Collaborations with JOE STATON. Click here.

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite DC and CHARLTON Horror Covers of the 1970s. Click here.

PAUL KUPPERBERG was a Silver Age fan who grew up to become a Bronze Age comic book creator, writer of Superman, the Doom Patrol, and Green Lantern, creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate, and Takion, and slayer of Aquababy, Archie, and Vigilante. He is the Harvey and Eisner Award nominated writer of Archie Comics’ Life with Archie, and his YA novel Kevin was nominated for a GLAAD media award and won a Scribe Award from the IAMTW. Now, as a Post-Modern Age gray eminence, Paul spends a lot of time looking back in his columns for 13th Dimension and in books such as Direct Conversations: Talks with Fellow DC Comics Bronze Age Creators and Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in Their own Words, available, along with a whole bunch of other books he’s written, by clicking the links below.



Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Thank You for reminding me of “E-Man” . I too, liked the comic. I especially liked Mr. Staton’s rendition of Nova. The stories were fun. I personally think E-Man and Company should be brought back because “we” need the Fun back in a few comics. What say You all?

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  2. Oh wow! I literally stumbled across #1 (The first #1!) when I was a Jnr. High kid sent by my Mom to grab some milk from the convenience store. Took a few minutes to bum through the issue, loved it, got the milk, didn’t have cash for the comic but I was an E-Man fan for life! Paul, thank you for this!

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  3. I’ve been a fan of Joe’s pencils since his DC work. I love his JSA…..especially the Golden Age BATMAN. I recently discovered his work on the Dick Tracy newspaper strip. Unfortunately that run or E-Man do not seem to be in any form of a collection reprint. I do have 1 or 2 Charlton issues in the old spinner rack. Very enjoyable read with my morning’s coffee. Thanks, Paul.

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  4. I have been hoping for a complete e-man collection forever!

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  5. Loved E-Man. I was fortunate enough to buy First’s Collection of the Early Years signed by Joe Stanton. The stories hold up very well.

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