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January 20, 2013

Character Spotlight: Animal Man

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Written by: Dr. Bustos
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Buddy Baker was just your normal punk rocker before he went on a hunting trip, where he had that old problem of being granted the powers of animals after meeting aliens who turned out to actually be beings of power from a universal force of all living things that are not plants. You know, that old origin story you hear over and over again. What’s that? It’s not the most common to suddenly find out those darn aliens are actually some sort of mystical life force? Oh, well then I guess I better explain this whole thing and Buddy Baker with a little more depth.


Punk rock? Punk rock!

Buddy Baker was originally just a young man who went from playing in his band to taking up a costume from his friend’s suggestion after getting powers from those aliens (we’ll get to that whole thing later). Buddy found himself tied to the Earth’s morphogenetic field, which means he can pull on it to be granted the toughness of a rhino or the flight of a bird (this is why Vixen went to him when her powers were weird, since he’d been dealing with them longer). Eventually Buddy would become a vegetarian due to feeling all life the way he could.

Buddy was a superhero for a short time until he was finding that he just wasn’t digging it. He’d go on to become a stuntman, actor, and spokesperson for animal rights. Buddy would also marry Elen Frazier, and they would have two children, Cliff and Maxine (she’s going to become important, but again, getting ahead of myself). They’d live in California and mostly live off Elen’s illustrating career.


On Cartoon Network's DC Nation, Animal Man has some cartoon shorts where he is voiced by "Weird" Al Yankovic.

Buddy would join up with the Justice League International, and this would start to lead to some interesting things in Buddy’s life. Buddy was also working with an animal rights activist group who had started a fire that ended up killing a firefighter in their pursuit of animals. As a result of this, along with his work with the JLI, he realized that there may be better ways to use his powers.

This is when things start to get weird. Before Deadpool did the meta thing, Buddy started to realize he was a comic book character. He’d try to drop out of the hero and activist gig, but got pulled back in to save the world, and got to meet the writer of his comic at the time, Grant Morrison. They would talk about the nature of creation and creator, and how that’s reflected through writing. He’d wake up with amnesia in a reality where he was divorced, in a highly corrupt world, and with little control of his power. He’d find his way back to his own reality and continue being a stuntman (I love writing a sentence like that, thanks comics).

So back to that whole alien origin. It turns out that was an energy source called The Red, which is the life force of all animal and insect kind. They thought that this was too outlandish for Buddy to comprehend, and took on the form of aliens, because that makes more sense. Buddy thought he was the Red’s answer to the Green (the energy source for all vegetative life) that Swamp Thing is.

Buddy would get lost in space (Ha.) with Adam Strange and Starfire. Buddy would die on this adventure; he’d break the fourth wall acknowledging they were comic characters, and somehow Elen would know he died even though she was not there. That part actually makes me really sad; she can’t even have the cushion of not knowing, she has to get the Jedi ability to hear one voice blink out of existence, and it has to be one of the few she loves. Thankfully his death isn’t long lived (poor wording on my part), as the creatures who granted him his powers would bring him back, and he’d take on the powers of an alien life form called the Sun-Eaters that let him survive in space as well as sense his home. He saw that Elen had moved on, but decided to go home anyway and tell his family he was okay.

His family threw him a party, but like any party I’ve been to for a resurrected friend, his family was nearly killed by crazed killers and Lady Styx. Starfire arrived just in time to help stop them, but her injury from a space adventure caused her to have to stay with the Baker family to heal up. This would be the last adventure for Buddy before the New 52 began, and thankfully Buddy would be sticking around in this shake up.


I've really been enjoying this series.

In the New 52, Buddy is leading a decent life being a superhero and leaving his acting in the past. Buddy would learn that there was a threat to the Red and the Green, the Rot, which was entropy and death made manifest. It turns out that Buddy isn’t the avatar of the Red, merely the guardian for the new one, his daughter Maxine.

The Rot would begin spreading throughout the world while Buddy and family would go on the run. Things go from bad to worse with the Rot spreading to her family; Buddy succumbs first, but the Red resurrects him with more amplified abilities that let him also partially shape-shift. Sadly, Buddy ends up in a future timeline where the Rot has taken over, leaving his family in the present. What will happen to Buddy, Elen, Cliff, and Maxine? I don’t know, but I hope they end up alright.

This series has some real nightmare fuel in imagery.

Recommended Reading

Strange Adventures #180
Justice League International
Animal Man

Alexander Bustos



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