A Bedtime Story: Animal Man #84: Long Lost Longbox

By Last Updated: December 17, 2014Views: 2423

I didn’t like the previous issue, so much so I wanted to just shelve the last few issues of Animal Man and move on. But seeing as there are only a few left till we move into a different title I figured I would hold out and give it another chance. With this issue we move into a new story arc and possibly some redemption. Or not. But first let’s talk about the art in this run of Animal Man:

Fred Harper did the pencils on this run of the comic. And he is very competent. That might not sound like a very strong compliment but it actually is given the content he is given to work with. Harper has a very realistic cartoon style, if that makes any sense.

Some artists opt for a more stylized-cartoonish style, some go for the ultra-realistic; Harper in this run is somewhere in-between. He’s actually quite good when given the more psychedelic and overtly weird things to do; at that point his style is allowed to be free. He plays with panel layouts and form. And there are some really stunning images especially in the earlier issues and when there are alternate realities and dream states. But the majority of the time it’s just people walking and talking and sitting and watching TV and…you get it. At that point Harper’s style is just okay. Not bad but not overwhelming.

Bottom line, Harper’s work is competent with touches of brilliance. There is nothing wrong with that.

Look, it may seem I’m damning with faint praise, but I have no problem with the art in this run of comics. The covers are for the most part great, but that is because of Rick Berry who is quite good. And I can still appreciate them for what they are even if I may have moved past the classic Vertigo style of cover.

Harper as I said is competent and occasionally great. The inks are solid but not overwhelming. The color is a bit too bright for the subject matter. I would have liked to see some more shade and toned down color, some subtlety in the everyday panels that would make the surreal stuff pop more. But that may have just been the time and the limitations of the printing, I don’t know. Overall a standard Vertigo comic of the time and that is not a bad thing.

Speaking of bad things, this brings us to…

Cover Dated: June 1, 1995
Jerry Prosser: writer
Fred Harper: pencils
Jason Temujin Minor: inks
Tatjana Wood: colors
Richard Starkings: letters
Rick Berry: cover
Lou Stathis: editor

A Bedtime Story: Animal Man #84

Previously on Animal Man: Buddy goes to court to save some baboons and some other stupid shit that I don’t wish to recall anymore (did I mention I did not like the last issue?)

On the Outside

The cover shows a woman’s face in pale, cold bluish-gray. Her eye is highlighted, magnified, red lines form a cross along it. All around her are red, psychedelic patterns and otherworldly, abstract images. It is rather beautiful and eerie. It has a distinct sci-fi tone which is fitting to the issue. I really like this one and it may be my favorite of the run.

On The Inside

The story is told from Maxine’s point of view. Buddy is reading her a bedtime story, one she has read many times before and makes Buddy go directly to her favorite parts. He story within the story is called “The Third Kingdom” and tells of a beautiful princess who is alone and afraid when the Imaginatrix, a queen, arrives to ease her by giving the princess the ‘mask of adulthood’ to put on. The princess does not want to, it is ugly she says.

At this point Maxine feigns being asleep and overhears a conversation between a very pregnant Annie and Buddy. Annie believes there is something wrong with the baby and wants Buddy to heal it. Oh, and the baby is apparently Buddy’s.

Maxine falls asleep and begins to dream. She dreams she is abducted by aliens. Large-eyed and tentacle-fingered gray aliens that take her to their ship and “examine” her; she realizes this may not be a dream.

At this point there are four pages of the aliens prodding and poking the naked body of a little girl and something very phallic is inserted in her nose. The largest of the aliens “makes her feel good” and she falls into a dream state (I’ll have more to say on this in the ‘thoughts’ section).

Maxine then begins to slip back and forth between “realities.” She believes she is in the Bedtime story and she is the princess, then she is walking with the large alien observing tanks of babies with their umbilical cords still attached. She believes the babies are somehow wrong. The large alien tells her that her sister will be even more powerful and then the Spider Queen arrives and examines the implant the alien gave her and kills the large alien. Then she is back in the storybook; the Imaginatrix/Spider Queen forces the ‘mask of adulthood’ on the princess and then the Spider Queen takes on the form of the princess.

Maxine wakes in her bed disoriented. She tells her mother she was having a dream that she was trapped but is now free.

Thoughts

It starts well. The first few pages with Buddy and Maxine having a father daughter moment are really quite charming. Even the part where Maxine overhears the adults talking is good, all told in a child’s perspective in which we feel her confusion about things “only grown-ups understand”.

Then we come to the abduction.

Look I get it, I really do. It’s supposed to be ‘edgy’, it’s supposed to be disturbing. It’s supposed to be adult. But in reality it’s four plus pages of a little girl being molested. And it is played off as being alright because one of the aliens – the largest! – is kind to her and “makes her feel good”.

Well it’s not okay. In fact it’s kind of disgusting. It’s gratuitous and unnecessary. So many writers fall into this trap of portraying rape or sexual predation as a way to build tension or drama. I hate to call it a cliché or a trope but it happens far too often for it to be anything else. It’s overused and it’s gross. And more than anything else it’s wrong.

And it’s sad. This idea had potential. The fairy-tale alternate reality was a nice framing device and could have allowed us to delve deeper into the characters and plot. The idea of seeing terrible and strange things through a child’s eyes has enormous possibility. And if given a chance may have been a unique way of telling a story. Instead we are treated to a tired and cheap rehash of awful and disgusting imagery.

I have lost my goodwill toward this book. In the last issue I was incensed because of a nonsensical story and ridiculous plot resolutions. In this issue I am just left feeling disgust. If I was not doing a feature on this I would stop reading it and throw the issues away. As it is I have three more to suffer through.

I need to take a shower.

Next time on an all new episode of Long Lost Longbox: We will look at Animal Man #85: An Altered State of Mind. And I may rant a little.



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