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Comic Book: Animal Man

"When I was young... when I was young I had an imaginary friend called Foxy. He lived in a vast underground kingdom. A utopia ruled over by peaceful and intelligent foxes. I used to signal him. My parents bought me a torch so I could signal him. Not a flashlight. We call them torches over here. I used to stand at the top of Angus Oval and shine my torch out towards the hills. Foxy always signaled back. That was more than twenty years ago. I've come to send a signal out into the dark. It seemed like the only thing worth doing. Are you there? Can you see me? Foxy, I came back. I didn't forget. I came back. ... The line of the hills stays dark."
Grant Morrison

Buddy Baker, also known as Animal Man, was one of many Super Heroes created during the 1960s. He first appeared in "Strange Adventures" #180 (September, 1965). Created by writers France Herron and Dave Wood, and artist Carmine Infantino. The new character was about as fun and exciting as wet cardboard. He could take the abilities of any animal who was nearby and was granted this power by yellow aliens. He mainly used it to be a Flying Brick, though.

Until 1988, when Grant Morrison was given the chance to write Buddy's new series. Then, Buddy became more than just your generic superhero: he started caring about animals, fighting for animal rights. There was also the drama of his family, who fully knew he was a superhero and tried to support it. And then things took a turn for the weird...

Morrison managed to combine family drama, animal rights activism, superheroics, and a heaping helping of Meta Fiction to make this one of the most memorable comic books ever. It's brilliant, poignant, heartbreaking, and heartwarming at the same time.

Morrison left after issue #26, and the series continued for another sixty-odd issues, eventually coming under the Vertigo imprint - but Morrison remains the defining run on the title. Animal Man continues to make appearances across The DC Universe, including a starring role in 52 (co-written by Morrison).

In September of 2011, Animal Man was one of the characters receiving a series as part of the line wide New 52 relaunch. The new series, written by Jeff Lemire, deals with Buddy and his family dynamics, chiefly his daughter Maxine developing her own powers, as well as his attempts to protect "The Red". The series is a very dark one, and has met with much critical acclaim, before ending after 29 issues. Buddy himself will continue to be written by Lemire though, this time under his newly-launched team book, Justice League United.

In 2012, Animal Man made his animation debut in a series of shorts as part of Cartoon Network's DC Nation block, voiced by "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Tropes:

  • All Just a Dream: One of the only times it was done right.
  • All Theories Are True: The morphogenetic field among them.
  • Animal Motifs: Buddy starts off only able to borrow powers of animals near him, but ends up able to borrow powers from any animal, anywhere on Earth, living or extinct. Also, other superheroes with Animal Powers appear, like B'wana Beast and Vixen.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Um,... a little bit, yeah.
  • Art Shift: Crafty's cartoony world.
  • Author Avatar: The yellow aliens. And Grant Morrison himself, of course.
    • In Dwayne McDuffie's JLA run, Buddy meets Anansi, McDuffie's Author Avatar (who shares a similar relationship with Vixen as Morrison/the yellow aliens does with Buddy).
  • Author Tract: Lampshaded by Buddy's friends: "You don't talk anymore, you just make speeches," and later by Morrison himself.
    • Grant Morrison admits to this himself in his final issue.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Lampshaded and made into a Tear Jerker with Red Mask.
  • Badass: Buddy after his wife and children die, the only time when he ever wears leather.
  • Beware the Superman: Overman, a version of Superman from an Earth where all heroes were created by the government. After contracting an STD he went insane and killed everyone, and then planned on destroying himself and the world with a nuclear bomb. This is a Take That at the grim and gritty comics of the 1980s, with Psycho-Pirate providing commentary on what a stupid idea Overman's world was.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending to the New 52 series. Cliff is still dead and so are most of the Totems of the Red. However, Brother Blood and the Splinterfolk are defeated. Shepherd and Socks become the new Totems of the Red. The Bakers repair their marriage. Buddy decides to become the Avatar of the Red in order to prevent Wing from being put in danger.
  • Body Horror: Plenty. It starts in Morrison's run (likely as an exploration of the more unsavory qualities of Buddy's abilities), and just takes off from there.
    • The Rot is pretty much Body Horror incarnate, and the New 52 series dives straight into the scare factor in that regard, especially when the art done by Travel Foreman.
  • Break the Cutie: Buddy starts off as an idealistic funny person, but after his wife and children die, he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and kills people.
    • Of course, this, like many other events in the comic, is meant as a meta-commentary on the Dark Age of comics that had started a year or so after Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At one point, during a peyote trip, Buddy actually sees the reader.
    • Happens again during 52, when — poisoned and on the threshold of death — he looks straight up out of the panel and tells Starfire and Adam Strange that the readers are "out there, cheering them on".
    • Also happens when one of the yellow aliens destroys a supervillain by whittling him down until he's nothing but the rough pencil lines used to draw him.
    • When Buddy meets Grant Morrison, it's actually written as a subversion. Buddy angrily attacks him, smashing him through a window and killing him for killing his family. However, he appears fine later, explaining that he wrote that emotion, that response, that anger—he's the reason Buddy feels at all. He also tells Buddy that he (The Writer) is also a character which the real author put in the book and speaks through, and that Buddy can neither harm nor reach the real Grant Morrison.
  • Butt Monkey: Got this treatment during his time in Justice League International.
  • Came Back Wrong: In the 2011 reboot, Maxine first uses her powers to bring dead pets back to life. As emaciated skeletal versions.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In an early issue, Buddy listens to REM's "Superman" on his Walkman about 10 seconds after having a conversation with Superman himself, making you wonder what the song's lyrics look like in a world where Superman is an A-list celebrity rather than a fictional character.
    • Looking at the lyrics, it could very well (a) exist in the DCU as-is, and (b) have been written by Lex Luthor.
  • Civvie Spandex: Animal Man pretty much started the trend in the 1980s with his denim jacket he wore over his costume, stylish and practical!
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Some people aren't happy with Buddy's stance on animal rights, and show it by hiring an assassin to kill his wife and children.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Buddy again; at one point, during 52 (where his scenes were also written by Grant Morrison), he's poisoned, killed, and brought back to life again, breaking the fourth wall yet again.
  • The Dark Age of Comic Books: Morrison's Animal Man run is one of the earliest examples of a mainstream superhero comic criticizing the then-current tendency of making characters more grim and gritty, as well as abandoning many of the more light-hearted and colourful ones. Quite remarkably, this criticism is mostly aimed at DC Comics, the publisher of Animal Man. The run has appearances by several DC characters who were written out of continuity during and after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Morrison makes it clear he doesn't approve of abandoning these characters in favour of more gritty and violent ones.
    Grant Morrison: "We thought that by making your world more violent, we would make it more "realistic", more "adult". God help us if that's what it means."
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Morrison deconstructs and rebuilds the superhero with Animal Man and completely destroys the fourth wall.
  • Depending on the Writer: Morrison's last issue is kind of the metaMETAexemplary example of this, as Grant Morrison tells Buddy straightup about the 2D nature of his universe, and demonstrates how Buddy only does whatever he does because Grant writes him that way. And he SAYS that "maybe some new writer will make you do something completely different."
  • Deus ex Machina: The title of Morrison's last issue. Played with brilliantly.
  • Driven to Suicide: Buddy almost offs himself when his family is killed.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Morrison's run ends with this.
  • The End... Or Is It?: After Buddy helps superheroes from various other Earths to disappear, there's still a butterfly that the Mysterious Watcher claims is from another Earth.
  • Enfant Terrible: Peter Milligan's run had three of them. The Angel Mob, made up of Matt, Mark, and Lucinda Angel, were fraternal triplets with psychic powers who had it out for the President. They turned out to be well-intentioned, as one of them read the President's mind and discovered that he really hated children and wished he could've rounded them all up and have them shot. After they've formed a deal with Animal Man and the government, the President turns on them and has them captured for dissection. So this turns out to be a Justified Trope as they had very good reason to not like the President.
  • Foreshadowing: During his peyote trip, Buddy sees an image from the Crisis, then another one that tells of a second Crisis. Whether it is foreshadowing the events in the comic (with the Psycho Pirate), Zero Hour, or Infinite Crisis is your own guess.
    • During the early issues of Morrison's run, Animal Man and his family are being watched by a masked man in leather, crying. Later on, we learn that it was Animal Man all along, who traveled back in time to warn his family about their deaths.
  • Fourth Wall Observer: One of the few times it isn't played for laughs.
    "Oh God... I'm important to the plot..."
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Subverted. Psycho Pirate recreates all the lost characters and goes to wage war on the readers who control their lives and judge them, but he's stopped. When Buddy actually confronts Morrinson, Morrinson makes it a point that Buddy (and everyone else to that extent) can't actually break the fourth wall, all his actions, thoughts and dialogue, including the belief that he can see the readers has all been written by him. Morrinson further notes that he can't actually talk to Buddy, but had to create a character in a book to talk to him directly.
  • Funetik Aksent: The (2nd) Mirror Master has always had a Scottish Brogue, with its severity Depending on the Writer. When written by Morrison he becomes downright unintelligible at times. Arguably a bit of Self-Deprecation, as Morrison is originally from Scotland.
  • Funny Background Event: While Morrison is thanking people for their support during the making of the series, Animal Man is getting the snot beaten out of him by two supervillains.
  • G-Rated Drug: Averted. Buddy takes peyote, and man, the trip he has...
  • Happily Married: With two children!
    • The New 52 run under Lemire puts that marriage through the wringer with the death of Cliff, but they're back together again as a family as of the end of the series.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The Gay Ghost, an obscure DC character in Limbo, doesn't want to return to continuity since the word "gay" has a different meaning in today's world. However, he did appear a year before before (in Secret Origins #42). Fortunately, his name was changed to the Grim Ghost. He is "brought back", after he was rescued by Superman, along with all the other inhabitants in Final Crisis.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: A big part of Morrison's original run was focused on showing what a formidable fighter the C-list superhero Animal Man could be if his powers were handled right. Being able to absorb the abilities of nearby animals is a decent power, but it wouldn't be that useful for combat indoors or in a city, right? Well, not unless you consider being able to absorb the proportional strength of an ant (which can lift over 50 times its body weight), or the regenerative healing of an earthworm, or the jumping ability of a flea, or the multiplying ability of a bacterium, or any number of other possibilities.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Mirror Master after Buddy's family is killed, because he believes that was wrong.
  • Heroic BSOD: After Buddy's wife and children are killed.
  • Heroic Dolphins: One story features Animal Man saving dolphins from murderous Scandinavian townsfolk who kill them for fun. At the end, one of the dolphins saves an evil townsperson from drowning.
  • Hero of Another Story: in the Milligan run, it turns out that the Animal Man we've been following is an alternate universe version. The usual one shows up at the end.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: In an issue, a peyote trip helps the eponymous character realize he's a character in a comic book, though he forgets it once the trip is over. Animal Man is accompanied by a Native American called James Hightower, and the peyote ritual is depicted in stereotypical Native American terms, but with the twist that Hightower is a scientist and a not a shaman of any sort. Both of them also get an totem animal guide for the trip.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Almost every arc involves Buddy learning something new about the way his powers work and/or struggling to control them.
  • Justice League of America: Well, technically, Buddy joins Justice League Europe.
    • He's also their unofficial consultant on weird stuff to do with animals, for instance in JLApe ("Oh God, I'm important to the plot...") and the end of Morrison's JLA run.
    • In the New 52, he's also recently joined up with other B and C-list superheroes in Lemire's Justice League United.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Dr. Myers, head scientist of a terrible animal experimentations, got what's coming to him when B'wanna Beast, grieving over the death of his gorilla friend, used his power to merge Myers with the gorilla's body. He ends up getting dissected alive by his collegues.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: In the newest Animal Man series, Buddy becomes infused with more power from The Red (the metaphysical manifestation of the Animal Kingdom, and the animal equivalent to Swamp Thing's The Green), and his power to use animal abilities is morphed into actually physically manifesting animal characteristics. These transformations are visceral and not pleasant to look at.
  • Magic Meteor: In one story a fellow got powers from a meteor only to find out it was being able to kill with one touch.
  • Mind Screw: Both the Morrison and Milligan runs, each in their own way.
  • Missing Time
  • Muggle Born of Mages: Unlike Animal Man's daughter Maxine, his son Cliff did not inherit his powers.
  • The Multiverse: Morrison's series takes place shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and plays with the then-departed DC Multiverse.
    • Buddy's role with the other "Space Heroes" in 52 is that a monster believes Buddy saw the rebirth of The Multiverse following Infinite Crisis and wants to silence them.
  • Mundane Utility: Buddy's jacket looked really cool and helped set him apart by giving him a unique look, but the whole reason he started wearing it was so he had pockets to carry around his keys and notes from his wife reminding him to bring home milk. Also, he admits that he's self-conscious wearing a skintight suit.
  • Not Himself: In Justice League of America, Buddy realizes Anansi is affecting him when he eats chicken.
  • Nuclear Family: With the twist that Buddy is, of course, a superhero.
  • Power Loss Makes You Strong: The miniseries The Last Days of Animal Man depicts a near future where middle-aged Buddy, now a full-time member of the Justice League, sees his powers slowly fade out to nothing. Nearly powerless, he finds a way to defeat two extremely Ax-Crazy supervillains with sheer guts, resourcefulness, and the very last, tiny drop of superpowers he has left.
  • Power-Upgrading Deformation: How his powers work in the New 52.
  • Rage Against the Author
  • Real Is Brown: The real world is a gray, colorless world while Buddy stands out.
  • Reality Ensues: Played with. When Crafty, an anthropomorphic cartoon coyote, comes to the "real world" (the comic books world, actually), he retains his ability his ability to regenerate himself from every mortal wound. But instead of being innocent and bloodless, like on his cartoons, well... let's just say how Morrison describes, and SHOWS it, it goes just gross.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In the 2011 reboot, Buddy starts to bleed profusely from his eyes, which turn red.
  • Red Herring: In Dwayne McDuffie's run on Justice League of America, Anansi (the spirit who gave similarly powered hero Vixen her powers) tried to state that Buddy got his powers from it, saying that it was always the yellow aliens. However, not only is Anansi an Unreliable Narrator, he retroactively rewrites himself out of the event, restoring Buddy's connection with the real yellow aliens.
    • As well, the yellow aliens have stated that they posed as Anansi to make the totem that gives Vixen her power. Which means that either the yellow aliens impersonated Anansi, Anansi impersonated the yellow aliens...or there is simply a man with a typewriter in a room.
  • Retcon:
    • The aliens who gave Buddy his powers rewrite history so that instead of the '60s, they gave him them in the '80s. It makes sense, too. Later, his origin and the nature of his powers get redefined several times. Which is why it initially seems perfectly plausible that Anansi [presented as the Anthropomorphic Personification of Retcon] might have been behind it all along.
    • Also, the radiation that gave him his powers made him sterile in pre-Crisis continuity. But in post-Crisis, he is able to have children.
    • Pre-Crisis, he was 30 when he first got his powers. Post-Crisis, he was in his mid-to-late 20's when he got it.
    • In the New 52 reboot of the series it's revealed that his powers may have come from Yellow Aliens, but those aliens are stated to be agents of The Red, implying a mystical origin.
    • Animal Man and Rip Hunter meet for the first time in Animal Man #22. Apparently their pre-Crisis team-ups were no longer canon. Though they seem to wonder if they ever met before.
  • Ret Gone: Hamed Ali and Pre Crisis Buddy. It is arguable if this is also applicable to the remnants of the Infinite Earths and the Psycho-Pirate (although admittedly the latter eventually returned years later).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: See above, Break the Cutie.
  • Self-Deprecation: Morrison himself, ending his run with both Buddy and Morrison's Author Avatar criticizing his writing.
  • Shout-Out: A cartoon coyote named Crafty (an obvious expy of Wile E. Coyote) appears in Morrison's Animal Man #5.
    • In issue 16 a tyrannosaurus goes on a rampage in Paris. When we first see it, it's standing next to a street sign that reads "Rue de Harryhausen".
  • Show Within a Show: The Penalizer, a Captain Ersatz of The Punisher, during Tom Veitch's run of the comic.
    • In the reboot there's a movie where an aging superhero tries to make a comeback, the superhero being played by Buddy.
  • Space Whale: Earth's Green Lantern in the timeline of The Last Days of Animal Man is a very literal one.
  • Stripperific: When Buddy Fights a Thanagarian, she only wears a suspender bra (ala Starfire). This is quickly proven to be a bad idea, as it gives Buddy a way to grab on to her, and get close to avoid her weapon range. In addition, he's closer so he can remove the artificial wings from her back and alter her gravity device. Sending her shooting up in the air and plummeting to her death.
  • Take That: Tom Veitch was apparently not fond of Grant Morrison's run on the series. When he took over, his first story began with an old shaman smashing clay dolls to pieces. One of them looked identical to Morrison as he had appeared in the comic. Veitch then proceeded to retcon many of Morrison's storylines, giving a new explanation for Buddy's powers which directly contradicts his. Veitch's changes were mostly ignored by later writers.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Crafty the wolf (a Wile E. Coyote expy) gets killed multiple times in both his cartoon world and Animal Man's world. By the end of the story, he dies for real.
  • Touched by Vorlons: The origin of Buddy's superpowers. Long story short: Buddy finds a spaceship, ship blows up and incinerates Buddy, yellow aliens rebuild him and give him animal powers. (Note that in the recent Justice League, Buddy is stated to have gotten his powers by Anansi similar to Vixen. But Anansi pretty much outright states he is a liar and is only there for Vixen).
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Time Commander (Richard Starr), just a crazy man who rediscovers his ability to control time, and sets out in France, summoning vikings and dinosaurs. When these characters distract the league, he goes to a cemetery, meets random people and decides to bring their loved ones back to life, even making an old lady young again. He then proclaims he'll use his powers to cure all death and make a paradise, when the league attacks him. He beats them back, except Animal man who tries to talk to him. Buddy respects what he's doing but states that there could be unexpected consequences (like the dinosaurs attacking).
  • Vagueness Is Coming: After the yellow aliens reconcile Animal Man and his origin with the post-Crisis reality, they gave him these words of warning: "Terrible times are coming. Be strong. Be careful." It's unclear whether they're referring to the Second Crisis or the events following his family's murder.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: After Buddy Baker brutally avenges the murder of his wife and children, he feels it was all for nothing, and decides instead to travel back in time and attempt to warn his family in advance.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Metamorpho shrugs off his attack and advances on him, smashing his hourglass (the source of his powers), and reducing him to tears as he feels he's going back to the mental institute where the doctors tried to make him sane and "destroying the clockwork" he sees in his mind. Ultimately, he foresaw his future defeat earlier, and it comes to pass with Metamorpho breaking his nose as the "clockwork" in his head symbolically breaks. When Animal Man needs to time Travel, he locates the Commander who is just in his cell trying to put his mind back together
    Baker: "I need your help Richard."
    Starr: I can't even help myself anymore."
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Milligan's run ran on this trope in regards to the other heroes Buddy met. Nowhere Man, who is molecularly displaced and has to concentrate to keep his form, and then there's the Green Cigarette, the Human Vegetable, Envelope Girl, Front Page, and the Notional Man.
    • Heart Is an Awesome Power: It turned out that these seemingly lame heroes were the only ones capable of fighting the Angel Mob. And even then, Front Page and Notional Man were quite dangerous. Nowhere Man himself was quite good at finding ways to make his power work.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Done literally in Morrison's final issue, when Buddy actually meets Grant.
    • When Psycho Pirate releases old comic characters from his head he releases Overman, a twisted Superman-like hero who caught an STD and went crazy, killing the worldnote . Psycho-Pirate yells "Who thought this was a good idea?!"
  • World Gone Mad: The coyote from "The Coyote Gospel" comes from one of these.
  • Writer on Board: Morrison admits during his cameo in the comic that he's been using Buddy as a mouthpiece.

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alternative title(s): Animal Man
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