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Comic Book Alphabet of Cool!

Here is a new bit! Each day, I’ll feature a different cool comic thing for each letter of the alphabet! Today is A!

The first feature is about a Hero who was once Forgotten, but then became one of the most acclaimed comics of the 1980s.

Animal Man

Created by the underrated Dave Wood, along with artist Carmine Infantino, Animal Man was a fairly negligible hero for his first twenty years of creation, as he was a standard superhero who lost his place in Strange Adventures to the more interesting character, Deadman.

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Years later, Animal Man’s only notable appearances were as a member of DC’s suitably titled “Forgotten Heroes,” a bunch of minor heroes who were, well, basically forgotten.

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That all changed when Grant Morrison was given a chance at writing Buddy Baker’s stories in 1988.

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Forget about the fairly controversial (for the time) take Morrison did on Animal Man, in regards to environmental issues. Heck, forget the innovative metafictional work Morrison did with the character – the most important thing to me about Morrison’s twenty-five issue run on Animal Man is that they were all good comics. Very good comics, really. Buddy, his wife and their two children were given interesting personalities, Buddy was given interesting conflicts – even if you ignore the more controversial/innovative aspects of the comic, it was just a good comic book.

Those twenty-five issues managed to keep the book alive for almost five years AFTER Morrison left the book, and after the cancelation, writers still managed a soft spot for ol’ Buddy (including, of course, Morrison himself, who used him in JLA).

Morrison helped to bring Animal Man back to the forefront of the DC Universe by giving him a major role in the year-long 2006-07 series, 52. There, like in his original series, Morrison helped stress what makes Buddy such an interesting character – yeah, he has the superpower of using the abilities of any animal he is around, but he also is an everyman, who works as a great POV character for the world of superheroes, while also providing an interesting family dynamic (I especially liked how Morrison handled Buddy’s “widow” in 52, as Ellen tries to come to terms with Buddy’s apparent death).

Buddy is currently co-starring in the fairly forgettable Countdown to Adventure, but hopefully, he can be used in cooler comics in the future!

He deserves it.

20 Comments

Interesting how some of those other “Forgotten” heroes have made a comeback, one way or another. Suicide Squad got a complete revamp, Dolphin became a popular supporting character in Aquaman (and guest starred in Morrison’s Animal Man, to boot), Rip Hunter now has a firm place in the new Multiverse alongside Booster Gold, and Congorilla is going to be in the new Justice League.

looks like it’ll be a good feature, off to a good start!

Don’t forget his place in Justice League Europe. That was a fun inclusion and kind of a surprise given how his own title quickly isolated him from the group.

One ANIMAL MAN highlight (among zillions) was Grant’s cold but necessary decision to kill off Buddy’s entire family. Clearly, we understood, these characters were holding back the narrative. Clearly, it would be a more unpredictable book without them. In fact: a better book.

Then Grant had to go and introduce this meta “Writer” character–obviously, Morrison in a wig–and restore everything to happyland, with wife and kids breathing and intact. What a schmuck.

Still, if he hadn’t done that, Jamie Delano never would have been able to have Ellen flirt with lesbianism, or have one or other of the kids get kidnapped by a pedophile.

I have no idea what my point is. Signing off!

Congorilla is going to be in the JLA? That’s weird! But hey, I like Congorilla, so I’m willing to give that a shot.

He also had a nice four-issue miniseries back in the ’90s, when DC would still do four-issue miniseries…

I have the entire series and after re-reading it about a year ago, I was struck by the rather below-average art. I didn’t bother me when I first read the series as it was released, but now the art is certainly a detriment.

Fanboy nitpick: Morrison’s run on Animal Man was actually twenty-SIX issues, not twenty-five. :)

When Buddy was reinserted into the DCU I was disappointed that his kids had reverted to the standard of not aging at all. The Animal Man series was a lot more realistic and had the kids age and it was sad to see them eternally stuck at their age they were when the series started.

The art in Morrison’s Animal Man was great. The perfect fit for the reality bending metacommentary that Morrison was doing. I can’t imagine anyone being a better fit.

Resurrection Man didn’t turn out to be Immortal Man, did he?

I remember the Forgotten Heroes appeared at the end of that series, I just don’t remember anything they did.

Buddy is one of the few characters on my short-list of Unkillable.

Then Grant had to go and introduce this meta “Writer” character–obviously, Morrison in a wig–and restore everything to happyland, with wife and kids breathing and intact. What a schmuck.

You deserve to be clued in before you embarass yourself any more. That was Morrison younger, longer hair. Not a thinly veiled placeholder, but the man himself. The return to the status quo was a commentary about the nature of fiction (and serial fiction, specifically) and how writers aren’t the master manipulators of the world they believe themselves to be. The fact is, Buddy Baker IS a fictional character, and because of that, he got a deus ex machina to work in his favor, as only a fictional character could.

One of the great defining features of Morrison’s run was how deliberate and undisguised his decisions as a writer were.

Yeah, I know. But thanks for assuming that I didn’t.

Meta placeholders don’t really work on comment boards.

It’s okay, GarBut, I was just about to tell Dan that was what you are doing.

Don’t worry, I got it at least, and at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. ;)

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 25, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I think it’s funny that Morrison set out to create a realistic hero – wife, kids, make mistakes etc – and then ended up using it as his way to comment on the nature of fiction by having that character become aware of it.
Just interesting to see how far, and better, he got from his idea for the initial four issues.

Not an assumption. That’s how you represented yourself, ironically as it may have been intended.

No, the irony was pretty clear. Unless him having his tongue planted so deeply in his cheek made it too hard to understand him when he spoke.

(of course, I’m joking, there: no matter how he’s speaking, it wouldn’t effect the way he types his message. This is just a typewritten format, so his natural voice has nothing to do with it! How silly a declaration that was!)

That’s not contradictory to what I said. Whether the subtext was apparent to you or not is irrelevant. It was subtext. The surface message (while said facetiously) was what I responded to. I’m not trying to argue that I didn’t misunderstand the intention of the post. That’s been made clear.

I’m just saying that I took it at face value, thus making my reaction decidedly not an assumption. I responded to what he said, regardless of the seriousness of it.

I’ll second JC Calhoun’s defense of the Chas Truog art in Animal Man. It works perfectly for such a meta-comic.

If there’s ever a TOP 100 single-issue story I’ll vote for the Coyote story has #1.

I think that was the pivotal issue for that run.

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