Animal Man

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Animal Man

Animal Man. Art by Brian Bolland.

Publisher DC Comics/Vertigo
First appearance Strange Adventures #180 (September 1965)
Created by Dave Wood
Carmine Infantino
Alter ego Bernhard "Buddy" Baker
Justice League
Forgotten Heroes
Notable aliases A-Man
Abilities Can gain the powers of any animal that exists or has existed on a planet via access to "The Red".

Animal Man (Buddy Baker) is a fictional DC Comics superhero. As a result of being in proximity to an exploding extraterrestrial spaceship, "Buddy" Baker acquires the ability to temporarily “borrow” the abilities of animals (such as a bird's flight or the proportionate strength of an ant). Using these amazing powers, Baker fights crime as the costumed superhero, Animal Man.


[edit] Publication history

Created by writer Dave Wood and artist Carmine Infantino, he first appeared in Strange Adventures #180 (September 1965). Animal Man was a minor character for his first twenty years, never gaining the popularity of other DC heroes such as Batman or Superman. However, he became one of several DC properties—such as Shade, the Changing Man and Sandman—to be revived and revamped in the late 1980s for a more mature comics audience. As seen in the comic below he was billed as a "full time hero" an aspect that would be the most changed by Morrison's revamp.

Grant Morrison’s Animal Man was innovative in its advocacy for animal rights, willingness to break the fourth wall and portrayal of Animal Man as an everyman hero with a wife and children. After that series ended in 1995, the character has made brief appearances in DC crossover events. Animal Man recently was a major character in the weekly series 52.

[edit] Fictional character biography

[edit] Beginnings

Animal Man's original costume. Art by Jack Sparling.
Animal Man's original costume. Art by Jack Sparling.

Animal Man debuted in Strange Adventures #180 in 1965, in a story written by Dave Wood and drawn by Carmine Infantino and George Roussos. Animal Man was given his costume and name in Strange Adventures #190. He continued as a semi-regular feature in the book, making occasional cover appearances, until the introduction of Deadman, who became the main feature with issue #205.

His subsequent appearances were sporadic and sparse. In 1980, Animal Man made a notable guest appearance in Wonder Woman #267-268.

His main appearances in the 1980s were as a member of the "Forgotten Heroes", a team of minor DC heroes. It was in that capacity that he appeared in the company-wide crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths.

[edit] Revival

In the late 1980s, following the slate-cleaning Crisis on Infinite Earths event, DC began employing innovative writers — mostly young and mostly British — to revamp some of their old characters. In the period that saw Alan Moore reinvent Swamp Thing, and Neil Gaiman do the same with The Sandman, Animal Man was re-imagined by Scottish writer Grant Morrison. Morrison wrote the first 26 issues of the Animal Man comic book, published between 1988 and 1990, with art by Chas Truog and Doug Hazlewood; Brian Bolland provided the covers.

Although the series was initially conceived as a four issue limited series, it was upgraded into an on-going series following strong sales. Consequently, Morrison developed several long-running plots, introducing mysteries, some of which were not explained until a year or two later. The title featured the protagonist both in and — increasingly — out of costume. Morrison made the title character an everyman figure living in a universe populated by superheroes, aliens, and fantastic technology. Buddy's wife Ellen, his son Cliff (10 years old at the beginning of the series), and his daughter Maxine (6 years old) featured prominently in most storylines, and his relationship with them, as husband, father, and provider, was an ongoing theme.

The series championed vegetarianism and animal rights, causes Morrison himself supported. In one issue, Buddy helps a band of self-confessed eco-terrorists save a pod of dolphins. Enraged at a fisherman's brutality, Buddy drops him into the ocean, intending for him to drown. Ironically, the man is saved by a dolphin.

A jacket was added to Animal Man's costume (so he could have pockets and a place to put his keys). However, this jacket was not a leather jacket: Buddy specifically discusses that he won't wear leather, he considers this immoral.

An early aspect of the character was his desire for fame, as is manifested by his wish to be in the Justice League. Buddy joins the newly-formed Justice League Europe and bonds with Dmitiri of the Rocket Reds over the shared experiences of being fathers. (Justice League International, vol. 1 #24) However, he soon resigns due to personal problems. (Justice League Europe #12)

Breaking the fourth wall. Cover to Animal Man #19.  Art by Brian Bolland.
Breaking the fourth wall. Cover to Animal Man #19. Art by Brian Bolland.

During his run on the title, Morrison consistently manipulated and deconstructed the fourth wall — the imaginary barrier separating the reader from the setting of the story which also extends to the characters and their creators. One visual expression of this theme was to present characters in a state of partial erasure — often juxtaposing the artist's pencil drafts with the finished art. The series notably contained the only overt references to the various Earths of the pre-Crisis DC Multiverse.

[edit] Breaking the Fourth Wall

Issue #5, "The Coyote Gospel," features Crafty, a thinly-disguised Wile E. Coyote (of the Road Runner cartoons). Weary of the endless cycle of violence which he and his cartoon compatriots are subject to, Crafty appeals to his cartoonist-creator. A bargain is struck: he can end the violence only by willingly being condemned to leave his cartoon world, entering Animal Man's "comic" world instead. The issue concludes with a series of "pull-back" shots beginning with a close-up of Crafty's bleeding body (and white blood), culminating with a panel depicting the cartoonist's immense hand, coloring Crafty's blood with red paint.

The culmination of this self-referentiality is Animal Man's discovery that all of the actors in the DC universe are fictional characters. He even meets Grant Morrison, the callous "god" who controls his life.

Buddy fought several menaces, such as ancient, murderous spirit that was hunting him; brutal, murderous alien Thangarian warriors; and even the easily-defeated red robots of an elderly villain who was tired of life.

Buddy suffers a tragedy when his wife and children are brutally murdered while he is away on a case. (Animal Man #20) Buddy tracks down the killers and exacts vengeance. Animal Man ultimately confronts his creator, and his family is restored to life. (Animal Man #21-26)

Morrison's run on the series is collected into three trade paperbacks entitled: Animal Man, Animal Man: Origin of the Species (which includes the Secret Origins #39), and Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina.

Following Morrison's run, Peter Milligan wrote a 6-issue series featuring several surreal villains and heroes, exploring questions about identity and quantum physics. Tom Veitch and Steve Dillon then took over for 18 issues in which Buddy goes to work as a movie stuntman and explores mystical totemic aspects of his powers. Jamie Delano wrote 29 issues with Steve Pugh as artist, giving the series a more horror-influenced feel with a "suggested for mature readers" label on the cover, beginning with issue #51.

Animal Man is a man of great compassion toward all creatures, an ardent animal rights activist, an environmentalist, and a vegetarian. His link to the M-field has been passed on to his daughter, Maxine, who is also connected to the animal kingdom. Although he wears a mask, he goes to no great lengths to conceal his true identity.

[edit] Vertigo

Starting with issue #57, the series became one of the charter titles of DC's new mature readers Vertigo imprint, and its ties to the DC Universe became more tenuous. Vertigo was establishing itself as a distinct "mini-universe" with its own continuity, only occasionally touching the continuity of the regular DC Universe. The super-hero elements of the book were removed — Buddy discarded his costume, stopped associating with other heroes, and generally abandoned his crime-fighting role.

The title evolved into a more horror-themed book, with Buddy eventually becoming a non-human animal god. A brief run by Jerry Prosser and Fred Harper featured Buddy as a white-haired shamanistic figure before the series was canceled after 89 issues due to declining sales.

[edit] Back in the DCU

Although Animal Man served as an occasional character in other titles after the cancellation of his own series, he did not disappear altogether. Baker continued to split his time between his family, his career as Animal Man, and regular stunt work for films. He occasionally lent his talents to various super groups, including the JLA, Forgotten Heroes, and played a prominent role in the Swamp Things's task force, Totems. [1]

This marked the reappearance of Buddy in costume, and heralded his return to the DC Universe. He subsequently appeared alongside Aquaman, Hawkman and Resurrection Man (Resurrection Man #24-27). In JLA #27 (March 1999) Buddy officially joins the League to battle a rampaging Amazo in the Florida Everglades. He, and many other emergency recruits, are defeated and their powers copied on a conceptual level; since Amazo is programmed to copy the League, anyone who is a member can have their powers copied. Superman literally disbands the entire team, defeating Amazo. Buddy does not stay for the reorginization. During a JLA crossover event, the Martian Manhunter seeks out Animal Man's expertise in the morphogenetic field to assist the League. (JLA #40) During this encounter, Martian Manhunter was disturbed by his accidental glimpse of Buddy's understanding of the true nature of the DC Universe.

Animal Man also makes an appearance in the Identity Crisis limited series, helping to search for the murderer of Sue Dibny.

After encountering danger signs from the animal world, Animal Man is recruited by Donna Troy as part of a team journeying to New Cronos to stop the Infinite Crisis, mirroring his role in Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which he journeyed into space with the Forgotten Heroes on Brainiac's ship. During this adventure, he formed a mentoring friendship with Firestorm, Jason Rusch.

Starfire, Cover to 52 #20.  Art by J.G. Jones.
Starfire, Cover to 52 #20. Art by J.G. Jones.

Due to a malfunction of the zeta beam which Adam Strange deploys to return to the team to earth, Animal Man, along with most of the heroes, go missing after Infinite Crisis. Eventually some of the heroes are recovered but Adam Strange, Buddy and Starfire are still missing. They become core cast members of DC's weekly series 52.

[edit] 52

See also: 52 (comic book)

In 52, Animal Man, Starfire and Adam Strange are stranded on an alien planet. The trio escape, but are pursued by bounty hunters. They are joined by Lobo. In issue #36, during a battle with Lady Styx and her horde, Animal Man is killed by a necrotoxin, which causes its victims to rise again in the service of Lady Styx. Animal Man makes Starfire promise not to let him come back as a zombie. He gestures to the reader, saying, "Look, they're cheering us on. I told you the universe likes me." At the moment of his death, Ellen, still on Earth, senses his death and begins to cry.

In issue #37, moments after Starfire and Adam Strange leave Animal Man in space, Buddy comes back to life. The aliens who originally granted his powers stand next to him, saying: "And so it begins." After plucking him out of the timestream and repairing his body, they leave him in outer space. Animal Man must reach out to another life form in order to survive, and claims the abilities of a group of Sun-Eaters, including their homing sense. He observes his wife from a wormhole in space; Ellen is seeing another man.

Buddy returns to earth, describing the marvels of space to his delighted family. Ellen throws a party to celebrate his return, but some followers of Lady Styx appear, bent upon killing the family. They are eliminated by Starfire, who has only partially recovered from wounds suffered in space. She delivers Buddy's jacket and faints from weakness and surprise when she sees him alive, leaving the family to care for her.

[edit] Countdown To Adventure

Animal Man is to join Adam Strange and Starfire in the upcoming series titled Countdown To Adventure written by Adam Beechen.

[edit] Powers and abilities

Buddy can mimic any abilities of any animal as a result of his encounter with a crashed alien spacecraft. He does this by either focusing on a specific animal near him, or, as he learned later, by drawing power from the animal kingdom in general (this enables him to even mimic animals that are extinct). The nature of these powers has been described in various ways, including the superficial "alien radiation" explanation of his early appearances, the reconstruction of his body by aliens with "morphogenetic grafts" at the cellular level, and currently, mystical access to a "morphogenetic field" created by all living creatures, also known as "the Red". He does not grow wings to fly as a bird (instead he flies in classic "Superman style"), nor does he form gills to breathe underwater when mimicking a fish, but he has occasionally been known to mimic the actual appearances of animals, such as adopting the claws of a wolverine temporarily, or his metamorphosis toward the end of Delano's run on his series.

Among the "animal powers" Buddy has been known to use are:

  • The strength of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  • The flight of a bird.
  • The swimming ability of a fish.
  • The speed of an ant.
  • The wall-crawling of a spider.
  • The sonic blast of a pistol shrimp.
  • The sense of smell of a moth.
  • The stench of a skunk.
  • The color changing of a chameleon.
  • The agility of a snake.
  • The electricity of an electric eel.
  • A worm's ability to re-grow lost body parts.
  • The reproduction abilities of protozoa.
  • The durability of a cockroach.
  • The ability to "fire lighting from [his] face" from an unidentified alien creature.

The level of Buddy's abilities are proportional to the size of the animal they are drawn from. Hence, drawing the jumping ability from a flea would allow him to cover great distances. However, taking the abilities of a larger animal does not result in diminished power for him. In some appearances, he can also talk to animals and enter their minds.

Tapping into the Red, Animal Man can also fire blasts of force or unidentified energy. He can even use the primordial energies to start a new universe.

In 52, Buddy experiences an upgrade that allows him to connect to the Universe's morphogenetic field, providing him unlimited access to all animals in the universe regardless of origin. Though he gains their abilities, Animal Man knows nothing about the creatures he's taking them from.

[edit] Awards

The series bearing the name won the Squiddy Award for Most Improved Series in 1992. In addition, issues #5 and #19 tied with eleven other comics for the Squiddy Award for Favorite Single Issue of Any Series in 1989. [2]

[edit] Other Versions

Animal Man appears in Justice League Unlimited #29, helping Superman and B'Wana Beast against Queen Bee.

In the Titans Tomorrow alternate future from Teen Titans vol. 3 #17-19, Buddy Baker died in a crisis along with most of the other main DCU superheroes. His replacement as Animal Man in that future was Garfield Logan (aka Beast Boy).

[edit] Bibliography

  • Animal Man #1-89 (September 1988 - November 1995)

Grant Morrison's run on the series has been collected in the following graphic novels:

Volume Title Material collected
Vol. #1 Animal Man Animal Man #1-9
Vol. #2 Origin Of The Species Animal Man #10-17 plus the 19-page story from Secret Origins #39
Vol. #3 Deus Ex Machina Animal Man #18-26

[edit] References

[edit] Footnotes

[edit] External links

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