"My name is MAUSER...which is also the name of my pistol. In my profession, it's the only reliable friend that I have. I'm a private eye and this is my story..."
MIKE MAUSER, he of small stature, coke bottle glasses and repulsive eating habits, has had one of the longest, strangest trips of any comic book P.I. He first showed up as a sometime sidekick to a superhero way back in 1974. The superhero, E-MAN, is an alien with the power to rearrange his molecular structure at will. In the third issue, Mauser is hired by E-Man's (very) human girlfriend, Nova Kane, a part-time geology student and exotic dancer (stripper) at the Moist Palms Club, to rescue her kidnapped friend, Rosie Redd. Seems E-Man's too busy at the time off saving the world or something to help. So Nova turns to Mauser for help, after spotting one of his flyers which reads, "Michael Mauser, Private Eye. No job too big or too too small."
Eventually, E-Man and Mauser meet and hit it off, and Mike becomes a more-or-less regular in the series, with even an occasional back-up story all his own. (Check out the hilarious MAGNUM P.I. spoof "Mauser P.I." that appeared in E-Man #4) In fact, E-Man assumes the human identity of Alec Tronn, and poses as Mauser's assistant, making Mauser "the only private eye in town with a sidekick who was a superhero from outerspace."
There were other characters who popped up now and then, including Teddy Q., a dancing, singing koala, and Donald Dukes, Mauser's yuppie nephew.
Creator Joe Staton claims he based Mauser on Ratso Rizzo, the Dustin Hoffman character in Midnight Cowboy. He was never intended to be anything more than a sidekick/straightman to E-Man, but eventually he began to take on a life of his own. He started showing up regularly as a backup feature in another short-lived Charlton mag, Vengeance Squad, in 1975. Unlike the E-Man stories, though, these were straight-ahead detective tales, on the hardboiled side. No superheroes, no dancing, singing koalas. It was in Vengeance Squad that Mike first acquired a secretary, Bambi Baxter, soon to be replaced by Nova's old friend, Rosie Redd, who in turn was eventually fired for breaking Mauser's favorite coffee mug. His current secretary is Angela Thi Phuong, a Vietnamese war refugee.
Charlton, alas, finally petered out in the late seventies, and Mauser, E Man, et al faded into history. And cult status. But you can't keep a good idea down for long. In 1983, First Comics brought E-Man and Mike back for more original stories, (including Mauser's origins in #24) as well as reprinting the entire Charlton series. And in 1985, Mike teamed up with Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty's Ms. Tree in The P.I.s, a special three-issue miniseries. In late '91, Mike even landed his own comic book, although it only lasted for one issue. Still, Mauser's a plucky little scamp, and he keeps popping up in the weirdest places.
As does his co-creator, comics vet Joe Staton. He's currently doing Femme Noir, a web comic featuring a mysterious female private eye, with our pal Christopher Mills. You can catch the latest installment right here. And Mike himself recently spotted, in February 2002, on Mills' Supernatural Crime site.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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