It's a jungle out there! We need the power of all the creatures to stay safe in this month's Superhero Sunday with Animal Man.
DC's Stranges Adventures #180 (Sept, 1965) featured a story called, "I Was the Man with Animal Powers." created by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino. The hero that appears in that book would become a semi-regular character and given the name "A-Man" (#190).
Then in the late 80's DC went through a reset of its universe after the events of "Crisis on Infinite Earths." The reset allowed many smaller, "lesser known" superheroes to be written with new fresh and often UK talent. Revival of this character was by Grant Morrison who gave a fresh and deep look into the hero that is Buddy Baker aka Animal Man.
The story would be well recieved and continue for 2 years and 26 issues. Then the title moved to Vertigo and would later reveret back to DC proper during 52 and the New 52. There was even a 2009 mini-series called,"Last Days of Animal Man." A story that saw an older Animal Man in his final moments in the year 2024.
Bernhard "Buddy" Baker as teenager encountered a extraterrestrial spaceship which endows him with the ability to communicate and use the abilities of animals (by tapping into the lifeforce known as the "Red"). This connection to the animals makes him become a vegetarian and animal activist. He learns he can tap into more than one creature at a time and he must stay connected to nature. Once he loses touch he feels he can only reach the animals nearest to him.
The story really starts when we see Buddy a bit older. He has a wife, Ellen, and 2 children, Maxine and Cliff (Following most recent New 52 version). Buddy was a stuntman turned superhero turned actor. The New 52 story shows him retired from caped heroics and focused more on being a father and animal activist. His life begins to change once he and his daughter have nightmares about a thing called the "Rot" that will destroy both "Red" and "Green" which is all life.
The journey has Animal Man fighting demon creatures created by the "Rot" and Buddy finds out his powers are apart of the "Red", which has many Avatars and Totems of life. Both Buddy and his daughter are tapped into the "Red" but Cliff his son is not. The totems warn Buddy of a dark future and he must defend earth from this grave threat. Buddy ends up road tripping across America in order to find and defeat the threat while keeping his family safe.
Animal Man has had many journeys and adventures. The best are those with his family where he feels the effects of balance between hero and family.
Why This Hero?
Buddy/Animal Man was written by some of the most talented writers (in my opinion), so I had to check him out. I was well into loving and reading a lot of other books by Jeff Lemire and was excited to see what he would do with a DC property. I really enjoy the fact that Lemire teamed up with Scott Snyder who was writing Swamp Thing at the time to form a cross over between the "Green" and "Red" in the DCU (something that wouldn't have happened if Jeff and Scott weren't already friends).
That and I love the books with the "feels," Jeff Lemire and Grant Morrison make you feel attached to this character and his family for the whole journey. Its a hero unlike any other.