Unlocking the Doors of Conception: Animal Man #87: Long Lost Longbox

By Last Updated: January 6, 2015Views: 2438

Here it is the final Animal Man issue I will be covering. Glory hallelujah. This is part 3 of three of the ‘Animal Mundi’ story line and it ends with a whimper (but that’s just me).

So here ends the Prosser era of Animal Man. Well technically there are two more issues after this before the series was canceled, but I mercifully do not have to cover those. So what is the legacy of this particular run? How has it affected the DC universe and the future of the character? The simple answer is: not at all.

This story arc wrapped up, was quietly cancelled and was never spoken of again. And for while there ol’ Buddy Baker was a bit of a pariah; no one picked him up or tried to revive him for quite a while. It seemed Animal Man was destined to rejoin the Forgotten Heroes and slip off into “and so that happened” territory. Now of course he has been revived in classic form in the New 52 with some of the elements from Morrison and Delano thrown in but Prosser’s shaman/world soul notions have been jettisoned.

To be fair to Prosser he did have a good start to this run and he was allowed to see it through and have a definitive ending. He did have some interesting ideas and by golly he did seem to be trying to something different with the character. The real problem was, and I’m sorry to say, it just wasn’t that good. Contrived, cliché and overly complicated, Prosser’s run was a confusing mess that at best just caused a few scratch your head moments; at worst was downright offensive.

But this was the 90s, the era of ‘extreme’ and indulgence and Prosser tried to make Animal Man fit in. What the character needed was to be a simple superhero in a simple story. That could actually be said for many comics at this time. Just because you can be violent or weird or sexual doesn’t mean you have to be. And just because there is violence and sex and bizarre images doesn’t mean it’s a good story. Ultimately that’s where this failed.

This brings us to…

Cover Dated: February 1, 1995
John Ney Rieber: writer
Gary Amaro: pencils
Peter Gross: inks
Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh: colors
Comicraft: letters
Charles Vess: cover
Julie Rottenberg: editor
Neil Gaiman: consultant

The Hidden Stone: Animal Man #87

Previously on Animal Man: Virtual reality in the center of the Earth. The Spider Queen took over the Middle World from a southern accented guru type, skinned Buddy and set off to conquer the “real” world with a plan so complicated not even she completely understands it…

On the Outside

A large image of the Spider Queen dominates the page as a naked Buddy floats in front holding a giant key. There is a keyhole in the Spider Queen’s chest. It’s okay. I like how the Spider Queen’s face textured, like it’s drawn on rough paper. And the detail and shading on Buddy is quite good. A little too dark for my taste, but that does not make it bad at all.

On The Inside

The issue begins with the storybook setting the last issue ended with. Skinless Buddy and creepy-mask Maxine listen as the Black Queen explains New Age metaphysics. Buddy is transformed into energy and taken “beyond the veil” to the soul of the world where he sees an embryotic World Soul in the act of purification ready to be born into the three worlds. The whole experience is blah blah luminous blah blah purity blah blah silk of consciousness. Really I lost track of the pseudo-spiritual clichés. Then buddy has to return to the storybook world with his new found “Thunder Perfect Mind.” The Black Queen tells him he needs to now prepare the way new a new life. And he gets his skin back so that’s nice.

Still in storybook world Buddy and Maxine wander the countryside till they fine the Yellow King who is actually the Southern guru guy who can it seems travel through the “imaginal worlds.” So that’s nice for him. Then the Spider Queen’s babies (or Furies) attack and Buddy fights one in a rather unremarkable battle.

Side note: at one point the story states that the spiders have “razor sharp mandibles and talons.” I began to wonder if spiders have talons. So I then started Googling and found myself on a number of spider websites and looking at pictures of spiders. I only mention this to show how engaged I was with this story and how it held my attention. I then realized, crap I have to finish this comic.

Buddy then emerges from the virtual reality thing he’s been hooked up to in Phester’s lab. He then explains that he has been purified and what he’s been looking for has been inside him the whole time (sigh). You see Buddy is actually an idea in the Universal Mind that is giving birth to the World Soul which is actually himself, so he’s giving birth to himself and at some point gave himself the key to the World Soul which he then gave back to himself so he could see the hidden parts of himself hidden behind the doors of perception. Good lord.

Buddy, Phester and Varma all load into the psychedelic school bus and head back to the ranch as buddy vows to get Maxine back.

Thoughts

And my long journey through this terrible run is over. To understand the extent of my dislike for this consider: there are only two issues left in this run/series/arc and I have no desire whatsoever to track them down to finish it off. I don’t think I’ve actually done that before. I’ve always finished a story even if I didn’t like it just to see what happens; but with this one, so long and bye-bye. No interest at all.

In fairness some of the art is rather good and I did like looking at it. But a lot of pages are just ridiculous words in fancy little boxes rambling on and on about nothing. I suppose it is attempting to be deep and thoughtful, it fails.

It is confusing and boring. Even the fight scene – which remember is a superhero fighting a giant spider – should be fantastic, but it’s just two panels of guys with scared looks on their faces.

Look, I’m not going to belabor this anymore than I have to. This is not good.

Contrived, cliché and overly complicated. That’s how I described it in the intro and I don’t think I can do better. If you want to read Animal Man go find Grant Morrison’s run you’ll be better off.

FYI: some spiders have claws, not exactly talons but close enough I guess.

Next time on an all new episode of Long Lost Longbox: We move on (woot) to a different tile. Let’s get ready for Black Orchid. Let’s do a happy dance shall we?



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