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Comic Book / Animal Man

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Who makes us suffer this way?
Who writes the world?

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. 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.

In 1988, Grant Morrison was given the chance to write Buddy's new series, and rewrote his personality into a passionate animal rights activist. 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, as its second half delved into Meta Fiction, specifically the continuity problems that originated from the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot. Morrison left after issue #26, and the series continued for another sixty-three issues, eventually coming under the Vertigo imprint.

Animal Man continued to make appearances across The DCU, 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 met with much critical acclaim before ending after 29 issues. Buddy himself continued to be written by Lemire though, this time featuring in his team book, Justice League United, until that ended after 17 issues.

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.

Notable appearances of Animal Man

    Comic Books 
  • Aniaml Man Vol 1 (1988—1995)
  • Animal Man Vol 2 (2011—2014)

Animal Man provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Lucinda Angel of the Angel Mob develops a crush on Buddy, which genuinely creeps him out because she's a kid and she's also a creepy mind reader who keeps implanting unsettling thoughts into Buddy's head. However, Lucinda grows to actually care about Buddy and is livid when her brother Mark seemingly kills him, viewing this as an indicator they need to stop what they've been doing. Buddy starts to care about Lucinda the same way he cares about Maxine, and is horrified when he sees what the government does to Lucinda and her brothers after they get captured. He regretfully has to help Lucinda pull a Mercy Kill because he can't save her.
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: Issue 14 of the 1988 series has Highwater attribute a bad dream to eating chili at 3:30 in the morning.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Dr. Myers witht the fusion of monkeys B'wana Beast left behind in S.T.A.R. Labs.
    Myers: It was grotesque but also strangely beautiful. How can I explain?... For just a moment, I stood confronted by a fabulous new lifeform. It was like watching Adam rise up out of the dust on unsteady legs, newly minted by the Almighty.
  • All Just a Dream: Grant Morrison ends their run by retconning it into a dream as a favor to the title character.
  • Alternate Universe: Peter Milligan's arc involves Buddy going into a coma as a result of the trauma he endured in Morrison's arc, waking up to find he's now in a different world where his marriage to Ellen is a sham, Hitler was executed for war crimes, and the president isn't George Bush (the arc was published in 1990 when Bush was still President). As it turns out, according to the compendium included in the Absolute Edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths this world was designated Earth-27 in the original Multiverse.
  • Animalistic Abilities: Initially believed to have gained his animal mimicry abilities from alien experiments, Animal Man was retconned into being an avatar for The Red, the mystical representation of the earth's morphogenetic field. Initially, Animal Man could only copy the powers of animals within his proximity but later gained the ability to use any animal ability just by tapping into the morphogenetic field, regardless of if he was in proximity to an animal or not.
  • Animalistic Abomination: During The Childrens Crusade, Maxine is lured away to the Free Country by Jack Rabbit, who occupies the Uncanny Valley between a large realistic rabbit and a cartoon.
  • Animal Lover: Animal Man is an animal lover in general, which comes in handy when your superpower is getting powers from animals. Exaggerated in Grant Morrison's run, when the sight of animal abuse makes him feel sick and he becomes vegetarian and adopts several animals. His children are animal lovers too.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Subverted in Morrison's run. Although Buddy Baker devotes his career to collaborating with like-minded individuals in disrupting fox hunts and freeing laboratory animals, he himself avoids the use of violence (except against a whaler and dolphin-hunter who dared him to do so). When one of his collaborators on a lab rescue mission blows it up with an incendiary bomb, putting a firefighter in critical condition in the process, Buddy hangs up his costume and resigns from the Justice League. Conversely, Animal Man's big-business enemies, far from being the put-upon victims normally found in this trope, are far more brutal and lawless.
  • Arc Number: Or rather numbers, as "9 27" appear throughout Morrison's run. It turns out that it's the date Buddy's family are murdered. The numbers that have mysteriously manifested were the time-traveling Buddy's futile attempts to warn them.
  • Arc Villain: President Eagleton, a psychopathic Child Hater, serves as the central villain of Peter Milligan's run.
  • Art Shift: The art style changes into a pastiche of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner when depicting Crafty's cartoony world.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The Red connects all animal life and is what gives Buddy his powers. "The Red" obviously refers to the color of vertebrate animals' blood like "The Green" refers to chlorophyll. However, Buddy can tap into the abilities of invertebrates, which do not have blood but the differently colored hemolymph.
  • Asshole Victim: In the alternate future miniseries The Last Days of Animal Man, Buddy laments that he permanently loses his powers before he can cure Prismatik and Bloodrage of their bubonic plague infections and prevent them from being crippled for life, but the fact remains that the villains deserve their fate for remorselessly threatening lives and attempting to extort a fortune from the world by holding the League of Titans hostage.
  • Audience? What Audience?: In Grant Morrison's run, Buddy gradually becomes aware that he is a comic character. Near the end, he wanders through Comic Limbo where different discarded characters made references to him being a character, only for him to be confused or outright dismiss them.
  • Author Avatar:
    • The yellow aliens. And Grant Morrison themself, of course; they make it apparent that they, the Writer, aren't synonymous with the real writer of the series and that the Writer is just as much a fictional entity as Buddy, albeit one that directly represents a real person.
    • 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 have conversations anymore, you give lectures!" Morrison's Author Insert even admits to this themself in their final issue. They also note that the fact that they used the comic as a soapbox for their personal thoughts about animal cruelty while simultaneously inflicting numerous cruelties on Buddy himself is suggestive of a potential hypocrisy, or at least a similar sadistic impulse to inflict pain on something which can't fight back from a position of control, suggesting they don't have as much high ground from which to lecture the audience as they may have initially believed.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Lampshaded with Red Mask. Red Mask had originally wanted to become a hero and learn to fly. But when he gained a deathtouch power from a radioactive meteorite, he reluctantly became a super-villain, and even acknowledged that he wasn't very good at it.
  • Badass Unintentional: Ellen Baker. A supervillain breaks into her house to get at her superhero husband... and she beats the crap out of him.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: Animal Man has a balance between the Red (animal life), the Green (plant life), and the Rot (death and decay). While the first story arc has the Rot and its avatar as the Big Bad, it's implied that any one of the three sides has the ability to grow beyond its means and become a threat.
  • 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 miniseries The Last Days of Animal Man ends with Buddy successfully defeating the villains Bloodrage and Prismatik, only to find that he's now permanently lost his powers. The silver lining is that he's now free to retire from superheroics for good so he can have more time to be with his wife and children.
  • Body Horror:
    • It starts in Morrison's run with Buddy called in to investigate a bunch of lab apes merged into an unsightly abomination (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 (being represented by legions of undead, decaying creatures), and the New 52 series dives straight into the scare factor in that regard, especially when the art done by Travel Foreman.
  • Body Surf: Like Swamp Thing, Buddy can shift his consciousness into various other animals. Unlike Swamp Thing, it's much more difficut to take control of a being who already has a mind and will of its own, and Buddy can't create a new body from scratch using the animal as a template either unless he has access to his human DNA. When trying to recreate his body without his old DNA he ends up trapped in the body of an Animalistic Abomination.
  • 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. 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.
    • In general through the entire comic he grows from an idealistic animal rights protester into a cynical man disillusioned with superhero business.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • At one point, during a peyote trip, Buddy actually sees the reader.
    • During 52, Buddy — poisoned and on the threshold of death — looks straight up out of the panel and tells Starfire and Adam Strange that the readers are "out there, cheering them on".
    • 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 them, smashing them through a window and killing them for killing his family. However, he appears fine later, explaining that they wrote that emotion, that response, that anger—they're the reason Buddy feels at all. They also tell Buddy that they (The Writer) are 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.
    • In-Universe, Crafty Coyote is exiled by God from his fictional cartoon into the "hell above" of the DC universe in "The Coyote Gospel".
    • During the JLApe: Gorilla Warfare! event, when the Martian Manhunter contacts Buddy for help, Buddy's first response is to remark "My God. I'm important to the plot..."
  • Butt-Monkey: Buddy was frequently the most unfortunate and unlucky character during his time in Justice League International.
  • Canon Discontinuity: A lot of the events from the 1988 comic's Vertigo era have been discarded after Animal Man was restored to the main DC Universe, particularly Buddy's time as a beaked chimera and his falling out with his wife Ellen that resulted in him getting another woman named Annie Cassidy pregnant.
  • Child Hater: President Eagleton in Peter Milligan's run is revealed to be a psychopath who wants to murder all children, the Angel triplets discovering his secret when they read his thoughts while he was kissing a baby.
  • Civvie Spandex: Animal Man pretty much started the trend in the 1980s with his denim jacket he wore over his costume, stylish and practical!
  • Close on Title: Every issue of The Last Days of Animal Man waits until the last page to reveal the story's title.
  • Comically Missing the Point: During the 1993 annual, the cops and the Department of Biologically Enhanced Criminality and Eco-Subversion attempt to raid the Arkadia compound in search of elephants who attacked the cops earlier, while Buddy and his family lie and insist that they have no elephants on their ranch.
    Ray: Whaddaya you call that, then?
    Cliff: That's a rhinoceros, asshole.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Some people whose businesses are harming the environment and trafficking in animal cruelty aren't happy with Buddy's stance on animal rights, and show it by hiring an assassin to kill his wife and children.
  • Corrupted Character Copy: Tom Veitch's run features an in-universe comic titled The Penalizer, the title character a blatant pastiche of The Punisher, but while Frank Castle only kills ruthless criminals and does so in an attempt to avenge the deaths of his wife and kids, the Penalizer has no tragic backstory to justify his actions and is a full-on reactionary lunatic who takes sadistic enjoyment in his killings to the point that he'll find any excuse to blow people away indiscriminately and seems incapable of dealing with any threat without resorting to lethal force.
  • Cosmic Plaything: During 52 (where Buddy's scenes were also written by Grant Morrison), he's poisoned, killed, and brought back to life again, breaking the fourth wall yet again.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Morrison deconstructs and rebuilds the superhero with Animal Man and completely destroys the fourth wall, particularly having Buddy stray from his original intentions by blindingly aiding an Animal Wrongs Group whose actions put a firefighter into critical condition and becoming a bloodthirsty vigilante to avenge his murdered family before seeing the error of his ways and regaining sight of what he stood for in the first place.
  • Depending on the Writer: In Morrison's last issue, 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 they remark to Buddy that "maybe some new writer will make you do something completely different."
  • Deus ex Machina: The title of Morrison's last issue, which fittingly enough, ends with them using their Author Powers to resurrect Buddy's murdered family.
  • A Dick in Name: In Animal Man Vol. 1 #1, Buddy Baker attempts to rejuvenate his superhero career by appearing on a talk show hosted by one Dick Griffith. However, during his segment Griffith humiliates him with a string of lewd and otherwise belittling "animal" jokes. The day after it airs, the Bakers' next-door neighbour Tricia says, "Whoever christened that guy knew how he was gonna turn out."
  • Dirty Kid: Cliff was really happy when his family take care, for a brief period, of Starfire. He also get a photo of her sleeping in the bed to make his friends jealous because he has a "totally hot alien princess" in his home.
  • Driven to Suicide: Buddy almost offs himself when his family is killed.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Morrison's run concludes with Buddy Baker having his family resurrected after all the torment he endured when his wife and kids were killed.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Grant Morrison's Author Avatar is notably depicted with dark hair and pale skin, presumably to make them appear mysterious and otherworldly as well as emphasize their nature as an outsider to the DC Universe.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The conclusion of Grant Morrison's run features their Author Avatar addressing that a new writer will take over by the next issue and that their successor will likely take Buddy in different directions than what they did with the character as well as throw whatever they've done with the character out the window.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Crime Syndicate of Pre-Crisis Earth-Three find the Post-Crisis Earth too dark for their liking.
    Power Ring: Ultraman, I don't want to live in this world. All the fun's gone out of it. Everything used to be bright and now everything is dark.
    • In issue #24, Earth-Three Ultraman and Pre-Crisis Bizarro try to stop Overman from detonating a bomb that will wipe out the world.
  • invokedExiled from Continuity: Discussed in one issue. Many of the characters that were erased from continuity and fade back in reality question this reason. However, James Highwater tells them they can still exist since the comics they appear in are still in print, even if they're no longer canon.
    Highwater: Our lives are replayed every time someone reads us. We can never die. We outlive our creators. Every time someone reads our stories, we live again!
  • 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.
  • Evil Uncle: Ellen's maternal great-uncle, Dudley, is a Snuff Film director who is crazy as an outhouse rat and worships death, and tries to bring Cliff under his wing, purposely running over Buddy and temporarily killing him to keep him from interfering, then bringing Cliff to his subterranean murder pit and leaving him for dead as a twisted rite of passage.
  • Excrement Statement: Ellen mentions to Buddy in issue 66 that Maxine protested against the felling of a tree by climbing up the tree and peeing on a worker who tried to get her down.
  • Face on a Milk Carton: The 56th issue features a milk carton that has a picture of a missing child.
  • Family Extermination: During Grant Morrison's run, the family of the titular character was murdered as a retaliation for his eco-activism. In the last issue, the deaths are undone by Morrison themself as a courtesy to Buddy.
  • Fate Worse than Death: B'wana Beast fuses an epidemiologist with the corpse of an escaped ape he was using to incubate a super-anthrax strain. The guards mistake the man for the ape, and promptly strap him down to continue the anthrax experiments.
  • Flaying Alive: One issue has Animal Man being teleported away against his will. And it involves him being stripped of his costume, then his skin, and finally his bones before disappearing completely.
  • Flipping the Bird:
    • Buddy's story in Vertigo Jam ends with him flipping off a turkey he had a conversation with as soon as the bird went off, not amused by the turkey's sentiment that Humans Are Bastards and that Buddy's vegetarianism doesn't do enough to change that.
    • Buddy and his kids gets flipped off by a random background character in issue 57.
    • Ellen is given the finger by a driver who calls her a "tight-ass bitch" in the 58th issue.
    • Buddy's son Cliff gives both his middle fingers to the police in the Vertigo run's Annual issue that tied into The Children's Crusade (Vertigo).
    • When Ellen pulls the kids out of school in issue 64, Cliff takes the opportunity to give the principal the finger as they leave.
  • 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: Crisis in Time!, 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 changed his costume and traveled back in time to warn his family about their deaths.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Highwater.
  • 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 Morrison, Morrison 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 them. Morrison further notes that they can't actually talk to Buddy, but had to create a character in a book to talk to him directly.
  • Funetik Aksent: The (3rd) 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 themself 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.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Shockingly, Buddy's final contingency when faced with a tremendous threat has little to do with channelling giant animals; that's still very kosher to him. The Last Days of Animal Man shows that robbed of avenues for more traditional applications of his abilities, he can still copy the properties of deadly bacteria, which requires just a finger-hold into the morphogenetic field and has the potential to be insanely deadly for everything in his immediate area.
  • Groin Attack: In issue 58, Ellen uses her knee to hit Mike in the crotch when he tries to sleep with her and ignores her insistence that she isn't interested.
  • Happily Married:
    • With two children! He adds a denim jacket over his regular skintight costume so he can carry around his keys and notes from his wife. He's the only superhero with "bring home milk" on his crimefighting agenda.
    • He loves his wife so much that, when he is trapped on a planet far away from home with Adam Strange and Starfire, he think only to his family even with Starfire bathing naked!
    • That Ellen is suddenly acting like she and Buddy are not this in Milligan's run is one of the earliest indicators this is the wrong universe.
  • 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 (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.
    • Milligan's arc also explored this concept, explaining the seemingly lame heroes Animal Man kept encountering were the only ones capable of putting up a decent fight against the Angel Mob, since the Angel Mob themselves are so weird. 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.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mirror Master shows up to help Buddy find his family's killers. Though he claims to be doing it to get his money, he does say he would never take such a job himself.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Buddy's wife and children are killed, he contemplates suicide before mercilessly tracking down and murdering the culprits with Mirror Master's assistance.
  • Heroic Dolphin: 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 one 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 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, particularly when he discovers how versatile certain animals' abilities can be.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: In issue 61, Maxine mistakes discarded condoms on the beach for "wiggly balloons".
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Dr. Myers, head scientist of terrible animal experimentations, got what's coming to him when B'wana 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.
  • 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.
  • Meat Versus Veggies: Buddy's connection to animals gradually persuaded him to become vegetarian, leading to friction with Ellen on the subject. Though it wasn't exactly the idea of becoming vegetarian itself that was the problem, but the fact that Buddy unilaterally decided the issue for his whole family without actually discussing it first, informed her of this only when she came upon him throwing all the meat in their refrigerator into the trash, and his high-handed and self-righteous attitude when confronted about it, culminating in him storming off in a huff after an argument, didn't help matters. Later, in his confrontation with Grant Morrison, Morrison admits that they'd just been using Buddy as an Author Tract for their own vegetarian beliefs, and also makes an interesting contrast between the self-righteousness of their animal rights message and the various cruelties they had subjected Buddy to over the course of their run on the title, pondering if both cruelty to animals and cruelty to fictional characters ultimately stem from the same sadistic impulses.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: In issue 58, Ellen gets stuck in the seedy part of town and her attempts to turn to the police for help result in the cops mistaking her for a hooker.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The first arc of Jamie Delano's run has Buddy Baker die and revive as an amalgamated creature with the head of a tiger, the horns of a ram and enormous bat wings. He eventually becomes human again by eating the severed fingers of his original corpse.
  • Monkeys on a Typewriter: The penultimate issue of Morrison's run began with a monkey at a typewriter while Animal Man travels through Comic Book Limbo.
  • Metafiction: Probably the Trope Codifier for the comic book medium as a whole, and one of the most famous examples in all of history.
  • 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. Psycho-Pirate, the only person who remembers the old continuity, releases the characters who had been erased by the Crisis into the new universe, where they come to the realization that they are comic book characters.
    • 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 Solution: During Invasion!, Animal Man has no idea how to stop a Thanagarian bomb before it explodes. Hawkman shows up, pushes a button on the bomb, and tells Animal Man that all he had to do was turn it off.
  • 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.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • Nowhere Man's mother was a religious nut obsessed with the idea that sex was bad, and did everything she could to stop her son from exploring his sexuality (like tying baseball mitts to his hands so he wouldn't masturbate). She eventually snapped and abandoned him when his powers manifested.
    • Notional Man's mother wanted a child so badly she willed one into existence. And it's implied from his mention of her "Terrible love and desire" for her child that she may have molested him.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: In The Childrens Crusade, Maxine suddenly gains the power to make an exact duplicate of herself to send home to her parents, conveniently allowing her to stay in the Free Country without seriously affecting the plot of the Animal Man comic.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: During 52, he, Starfire and Adam Strange all got trapped on the far side of the universe where Starfire spent most of her time bathing naked in pools. Buddy totally ignore this talking with her like nothing.
  • Not Himself:
    • At the end of Peter Milligan's first issue, Buddy kills a rampaging horse by tearing out its throat with his teeth. This is just one of several indicators (him urinating on the street, sniffing the butt of Ellen's friend) that something is making him act more like an animal than he should.
    • In Justice League of America, Buddy realizes Anansi is affecting him when he eats chicken.
  • Not Wearing Tights: After the conclusion of Grant Morrison's run, Buddy gradually began to dispense with his costume and stick to wearing regular clothing, especially after the comic moved to DC's Vertigo Comics imprint.
  • Nuclear Family: Buddy has a wife, a son and a daughter with the twist that he is, of course, a superhero.
  • Old Superhero: The Last Days of Animal Man is set in a future where after 20-odd years as a superhero, an aging Buddy starts losing his powers. Even so, he takes on a last fight as a nearly-powerless Badass Normal wearing body armor and wielding a crowbar.
  • One-Night-Stand Pregnancy: During the Vertigo era, Buddy has a falling out with Ellen and ends up sleeping with Annie Cassidy, resulting in Annie being pregnant with his child and giving birth to a baby girl by the final issue. Like many aspects of the comic's Vertigo period, this was ignored after Buddy and his family resurfaced in the main DC Universe.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Grant Morrison's run has Buddy outlive his children Cliff and Maxine when they and his wife Ellen are murdered. At the end of the run, Morrison's Author Avatar uses their Author Powers to undo the deaths of Buddy's family after feeling they've made Buddy suffer enough, and also so that the next writer won't have to worry too much about maintaining their status quo.
    • Buddy's son Cliff dies again in the New 52 series by Jeff Lemire, which stuck this time and was one of the few aspects of the post-Flashpoint era to be retained after DC Rebirth in spite of the Rebirth initiative's primary purpose being to restore the DCU to how it was prior to Flashpoint.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • The Grant Morrison era story "Hour of the Beast" has Mr. Van de Voort, a racist who takes sadistic pleasure in tormenting Dominic Mndawe after holding him prisoner.
    • The Penalizer in Tom Veitch's run uses the slur "dinks" when reminiscing on the number of soldiers he's killed in Vietnam.
  • Politicians Kiss Babies: The Angel triplets explain that they found out President Eagleton is secretly a psychopathic Child Hater by reading his mind while he was kissing a baby.
  • 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.
  • The Power of Love: Played with in Milligan's arc. The Notional Man was created due to his mother's uncontrolled love and desire for a child that didn't exist. While fighting with him, Buddy uses his powers to channel raw, animalistic love as a way to disorient the Notional Man, before switching to pure animal hate and killing him.
  • Precocious Crush: Lucinda Angel in Peter Milligan's run is a young girl, but has a huge crush on Buddy and doesn't seem to care much that he's a married man in addition to being old enough to be her father.
  • President Evil: The Arc Villain of Peter Milligan's run is President Eagleton, who is not only a duplicitous bastard but also secretly a psychotic Child Hater who wishes he could kill every child in America.
  • Rage Against the Author: The story arc "Deus Ex Machina" is notable in that it plays Buddy's outrage at Grant Morrison's control over his life for drama.
  • Real Is Brown: The real world is a gray, colorless world while Buddy stands out.
  • This Is Reality: Played with. When Crafty, an anthropomorphic cartoon coyote, comes to the "real world" (the comic books world, actually), he retains his ability to regenerate himself from every mortal wound. But instead of being innocent and bloodless, like on his cartoons, his injuries are gruesome and realistic.
  • 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.
    • He first got his powers by radiation when the alien ship exploded, which also made him sterile, in Pre-Crisis continuity. But in post-Crisis, the ship is intact and the aliens grafted his body, and he is able to have children.
    • Pre-Crisis, he was almost 30 when he first got his powers. Post-Crisis, he was in his early-to-mid 20's when he got it.
    • Animal Man and Rip Hunter apparently meet for the first time in Animal Man #22. Their Pre-Crisis team-ups appear to be no longer canon. Though they wonder if they ever met before.
    • Grant Morrison does this on purpose to give Buddy a happier ending, declaring the events of their run to be nothing more than a nightmare and everything in his life still as it was before.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Jamie Delano's run begins with Buddy being ran over and later being cremated, but he is able to shift his consciousness to an eyelash mite in Ellen and, from there, various other animal bodies. He eventually ends up in a triceratops body in which he tries to recreate his old body using common DNA, but he fails and ends up becoming an Animalistic Abomination. Only when he enters in contact with his severed fingers, which still have his old DNA, is he able to go back to being Buddy.
  • Ret-Gone: Hamed Ali and pre-Crisis Buddy are wiped out of existence by the efforts of the Yellow Aliens in correcting the few anomalies not addressed by the forming of the Post-Crisis universe.
  • Self-Deprecation: Morrison themself ends their run with both Buddy and Morrison's Author Avatar criticizing their preachy writing.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A cartoon wolf 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.
  • Skinny Dipping: Maxine Baker invites Ray to swim naked with her in issue 76.
  • Space Whale: Earth's Green Lantern in the timeline of "The Last Days of Animal Man" is an actual whale that travels through space.
  • Speech-Bubble Censoring: Issue 60 has a panel where a naked Buddy's crotch is obscured by a woman's speech bubble.
  • Spiteful Spit: Travis Cody spits into Buddy's face in retaliation to getting arrested in the 34th issue.
  • Springtime for Hitler: While working on issue #5, Morrison was convinced it would kill their career, and they basically wrote it because they were out of ideas at the time, didn't particularly care for the tone of the early story, and had an attitude of "If I'm going out, I'm doing it on my terms." It ended up being a hit, and helped define the rest of the run.
  • Starter Villain: An unnamed alien who has similar powers to Buddy and used them to go on a rampage in a small town, only to plummet off a cliff at the end of the issue.
  • Stripperific: Strangely Lampshaded 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 they 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 their explanation. Veitch's changes were mostly ignored by later writers.
    • Tom Veitch's run features a potshot at Spider-Man in issue 37 when Buddy copies the abilities of a spider to scale buildings and remarks in his internal narration that he'd be a third-rate superhero if he had only spider powers.
  • 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.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: When Buddy wakes up from his coma in Peter Milligan's run, he's shocked at the sudden change in personality Ellen's gone through. She smokes, she's cold and shallow, talks about wanting to impress some friends from her writing group because they're "Old money," and has been cheating on Buddy for a while now because she claims their marriage has been dead for years. It eventually turns out this is the Ellen of another universe, and the regular version of Ellen's as loving as she always was.
  • 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).
  • Transformation Horror: A running theme, particularly in the new 52 incarnation of his powers, is to undergo transformations that are frightening and grotesque.
  • 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 the Time Commander's 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. 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.
  • Virtuous Vegetarianism: Starting with Grant Morrison's run on the 1988 comic series, Buddy quits eating meat out of disgust at how often animals have been harmed and killed for humanity's benefit.
  • 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).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A rare in-universe example. Buddy realizes that a group of drunken rednecks who threatened his wife just seemed to disappear after that sub-plot was over, as part of his slow realization that he's a fictional character.
    Buddy: There were four guys. What happened to them? They almost raped her. One of them killed another one. Why was there no trial?
  • 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.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!:
    • Done literally in Morrison's final issue, when Buddy actually meets Grant and the two discuss the flaws in the latter's writing.
    • 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 a world where animals are engaged in endless cartoonish violence.
  • Writer on Board: Morrison admits during their cameo in the comic that they had been using Buddy as a mouthpiece.