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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. 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 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.

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.
  • All Just a Dream: Grant Morrison ends their run by retconning it into a dream as a favor to the title character.
  • All Theories Are True: The morphogenetic field among them.
  • 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 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 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, killing a firefighter 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.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing
  • 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.
  • Art Shift: 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.
  • Audience? What Audience?: Played straight in Grant Morrison's run, which featured Buddy gradually becoming aware that he is a comic character. He once wandered 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 and made into a Tear Jerker 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 JL Ape 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: Got this treatment during his time in Justice League International.
  • Civvie Spandex: Animal Man pretty much started the trend in the 1980s with his denim jacket he wore over his costume, stylish and practical!
  • 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 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 they do not 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 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. Played with brilliantly.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In issue #24, Earth-Three Ultraman and Pre-Crisis Bizarro try to stop Overman from detonating a bomb that will wipe out the world.
  • Evil Uncle: Ellen's paternal 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.
  • Family Extermination: During Grant Morrison's run, the family of the titular character was murdered as a retaliation for his eco-activism. It was later undone by Morrison themself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 after Buddy's family is killed, because he believes that was wrong. 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Magical Native American: Averted with James Highwater from the Morrison run. He's pretty confused as to what's going on around him throughout most of the comic. Played much straighter with the character Stone from the Veitch run.
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: Both the Morrison and Milligan runs, each in their own way.
  • Monkeys on a Typewriter: One issue began with one while Animal Man travels through Comic Book Limbo.
  • 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 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.
  • Nuclear Family: With the twist that Buddy 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.
  • 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.
  • Rage Against the Author: The story arc "Deus Ex Machina" is notable in that it plays this scenario 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, well... let's just say how Morrison describes, and SHOWS it, it goes just gross.
  • 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.
  • 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 themself, ending their run with both Buddy and Morrison's Author Avatar criticizing their 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.
  • Space Whale: Earth's Green Lantern in the timeline of "The Last Days of Animal Man" is a very literal one.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Wham Shot: Also a Wham Line.
    I can SEE you!
  • 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.
    • 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 their cameo in the comic that they had been using Buddy as a mouthpiece.