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"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."
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 is written by Jeff Lemire with art from Travel Foreman, and will deal with Buddy and his family on the road trying to discover the origin of Buddy's powers as Maxine develops her own. At the same time, however, they're being hunted by the Hunters Three.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- Broken Aesop: Buddy, enraged at a fisherman, drops him into the sea. He's rescued by a dolphin, meaning that even though he killed many of them, they'll still save him for some reason.
- 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.
- 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.
- Deconstructor Fleet: Morrison deconstructs and rebuilds the superhero with Animal Man and completely destroys the fourth wall.
- Also a big one of cartoon violence and Bad Powers, Bad People.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fourth Wall Observer: One of the few times it isn't played for laughs.
"Oh God... I'm important to the plot..."
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Missing Time
- Muggle Born of Mages: Unlike Animal Man's daughter Maxine, his son Cliff did not inherit animal based powers.
- It's DC so I wouldn't count the kid out.
- The Multiverse: Morrison's series takes place shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and plays with the then-departed DC Multiverse.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rage Against the Author
- Reality Ensues: Played with. When Crafty, an antropomorphic 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, his powers made him sterile in pre-Crisis continuity. But in post-Crisis, he is able to have children.
- Animal Man and Rip Hunter meet for the first time. Apparently their pre-Crisis team-ups were no longer canon. Though they seem to wonder if they ever met before.
- In the latest 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.
- 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 parody 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Some of the things Morrison writes, you'll swear he was on peyote. Ironically, he was allegedly straight-edge at the time, and only started taking the "mind-expanding" crap later.
- Who Writes This Crap?: Done literally in Morrison's final issue, when Buddy actually meets Grant.
- 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.