Monkey Trial: Animal Man #83: Long Lost Longbox

By Last Updated: December 12, 2014Views: 2456

Note: in the last entry of the LLL I teased that the opening to this would be on the writing of Jerry Prosser. I have decided to move that to the last entry because it just seemed more appropriate. (Editing on the fly people, I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of being prepared) So today will be a brief discussion on The Red.

The Red

The Red is a force. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together. No, that’s not right. That’s something else. That’s a different force.

Or is it?

The Red was created by writer Jamie Delano for his first Animal Man story arc which involved the death of Buddy Baker and his subsequent travel through the Red to regain his original body (it seems Buddy dies and is resurrected fairly often, who knew?).

So the Red connects and pervades all animal life in the universe. Fair enough. Jamie Delano named it but the concept came before that, although not called the “Red”. Now I tried and failed to write a comprehensive, detailed description of the Red. I finally just gave up a conceded that dc.wikia.com did a better job and I will quote here with all credit going to them:

Initially, Grant Morrison introduced the concept via yellow aliens, who are guardians of something they call the template. They explain that, through the years, they have allowed certain individuals to access that template. This meant that the Tantu Totem used by Vixen was their creation, as were the helmet and elixir that were found by B’Wana Beast.

It is not until a man named James Highwater comes into Buddy’s life, and they go on a vision quest in Arizona that the template is described as an all-pervasive force called the morphogenetic field. The field is described as a “mesh of countless smaller fields; each one a blueprint which guides the formation of atoms into molecules, molecules into cells, cells into tissues, organs, systems!” Understanding this, Buddy learns that he can access animal powers even from animals he is nowhere near, so long as he accesses the field. Notably, one of Buddy and James’ hallucinations in Arizona is the appearance of a vast red sea surrounding the mesa.

Tom Veitch’s run on the Animal Man book took the idea in a new direction, removing the yellow aliens from Buddy’s origins, and replacing them with a group of shamans known as the Animal Masters. During this story arc, Buddy’s connection with the field begins behaving erratically, killing many of the creatures from whom he borrows abilities. A physicist and engineer named Travis Cody helps Buddy test his powers using a device called the m-field meter. Around this time, Maxine begins developing her own abilities.

The leader of the Animal Masters, Stone, calls on Buddy and the other people who are connected to the field to join him in fighting an evil entity known as Antagon. He explains that the Animal Masters have existed for centuries, using the field to create animals. Unfortunately, Antagon appeared as the field’s opposite, and they were forced to fight it. Ten million years in the past, Antagon was nearly defeated, but it escaped, only to return in the present. Eventually, Stone and the other animal masters sacrifice themselves so that Buddy, Vixen, and Tristess can tap into the morphogenetic field, and defeat Antagon by creating an entirely new universe for it.

Finally, in Jamie Delano’s run on the book, the morphogenetic field was named The Red. In the first issue of Delano’s run, Buddy is run over by a truck and killed. In the following issue, Buddy is depicted traversing a vast and surreal landscape of redness and gore. Despite realizing that he is dead, Buddy uses The Red to get back to his own body. Unfortunately, his body is already dead, and he can’t use it to return to his family. Eventually, he realizes that he can use The Red to send his consciousness from body to body, just as he found his way to his corpse. He begins by residing in a mite in his wife’s hair, and follows the food chain until he winds up in the body of a triceratops brought into existence by his own daughter’s connection to The Red.

Buddy then determines that he can use The Red to recreate his own body, but without a blueprint for his body he ends up creating a chimera that seems to be comprised of every animal in existence. He nearly resigns himself to this new body, but when his corpse’s fingers are discovered, he eats them and uses them as a map for creating his old body. This lasts for a while, but eventually his connection to The Red becomes such that his physical form morphs as he takes on different powers.

So, yeah, that about sums it up. Pretty simple huh? As for the Jerry Prosser run that we are concerned with here, well…let’s just say that the red is used in an ‘interesting’ way and the storyline is…

Oy, let’s just get to it. I believe my patience and good will may have run out. This brings us to…

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

Monkey Trial: Animal Man #83

Previously on Animal Man: Buddy’s back. And there are baboons; and lots and lots of exposition. And he has long hair. And he’s a shaman, maybe. And baboons kill hunters hundreds of miles away and Buddy is responsible and … what?

On the Outside

I get it. It’s a play on the “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” thing. Very clever. Oh, wait…no it’s not. I mean, yes it is painted well and it is (again) done in the Vertigo style of the time but I can’t get into it. The cover is trying so hard to be edgy and cool and … shit I don’t know. It’s just a bunch of nothing masquerading as cool. Barry is a good artist and I don’t deny he’s giving it his all or at least trying. But maybe there is nothing to work with. Is there nothing to inspire? Look inside:

On The Inside

We open in a conservative, right wing-ish TV show thing that is reacting with horror to the deaths of the asshole hunters from last issue. Which apparently didn’t happen in Africa but in a California reserve for rich people who pay to hunt. And we know this because we were given so many clues in the last issue. Wait no we weren’t at all.

And then there are two guys in a bar who decide they want to cover up things by killing the baboons so they can’t testify. What?

So they go to the holding pen in a non-descript place and try to kill then with crowbars but Buddy feels their pain from the interrogation room he’s in and runs off to save them and… What?

And then there is a trial in which the baboons are the defendants and treated as human. Don’t get me wrong it would be great if that actually could happen but it really can’t and should not be portrayed as if it actually can. Now the comic goes out of its way to present itself as a “real word” story and yet shows a baboon in a cage as a defendant in an American trial. What?

Strangely this is more unbelievable than a man who can gain animal powers by being near them.

So then Buddy makes everyone see the world in the Red and the main baboon gives the judge a wet-willy and court is adjourned. Because … what?

So now we go to the right wing TV guy who wonders why aliens testified at the trial, which didn’t happen. I suppose it’s not uncommon for right wing guys to make shit up but c’mon. And then the baboons are shot and Buddy feels a connection because …what?

Then Buddy is standing at a private plane explaining how he felt a connection to the baboons like a phantom limb because … NO RESON WHATSOEVER!

And the he floats off … next to a plane … with his family next to him ready to get on that plane … and … what?

Thoughts

Off the freekin’ rails.

Why is this story happening? I have invested myself in several issues now waiting and waiting for the titular character to arrive and I’ve been teased with concepts and ideas that I thought may play out to be special if not awesome. Yes the ideas were cliché and yes the ideas may be overused or tired but it seemed, maybe just maybe, there might be something interesting, even perchance brilliant done with them.

Wrong.

I rarely read something that actually makes me angry while reading it. I spent the whole time thinking “screw you comic, just screw you” and that is not something I usually feel while reading in general. No, this kind of disgust is primarily reserved for misogyny and racism. But I have invested time in this and it is simply an insult.

I did not like this.

I have three more issues to go. Perhaps it will redeem itself?

Head bowed I begin to weep.

Next time on an all new episode of Long Lost Longbox: We will look at Animal Man #84: A Bedtime Story as well as a discussion of the artists



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