Weekend Safari: Animal Man #82: Long Lost Longbox

By Last Updated: December 8, 2014Views: 2297

The Longbox returns with the long awaited continuation of the Animal Man Saga. The next six entries will be coming at a faster clip with two entries a week in the month of December finishing off the Animal Man portion of this feature. I know I’ve made this sort of claim in the past but this time I am pretty confident in my ability to deliver as I have already written them. Helpful tip to writers: being prepared makes things WAY easier. I recommend it.

So as I’ve alluded to (if not outright stated) I knew absolutely nothing about this character before reading these comics. Or I should say I knew of Animal Man but nothing about Animal Man. After a couple of weeks of confusion I decided to engage in vigorous research. This is to say, I Googled quite a bit.

Animal Man made his debut in 1965’s Strange Adventures #180. Written by Dave Wood and drawn by Carmine Infantino and George Roussos Animal Man would have a sporadic history, never really taking off as a mainstream DC hero. Eventually in the 1980s he became a member of the “Forgotten Heroes” team in which he was able to participate in the crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths. FYI: a tell-tale sign you have become insignificant is you are part of a team called “Forgotten Heroes”.

Note: I thought about describing Crisis on Infinite Earths to give a little perspective on the shakeup in the DC universe but quickly realized that is far bigger than can be done here and probably deserves a whole article. Also, I’m not sure I understand it.

So who is Animal Man?

Animal man is Bernhard “Buddy” Baker. Buddy encounters a spaceship that blows up and infuses him with radiation that allows him to temporarily take on the abilities of an animal he is in close proximity to, as happens when spaceships blow up. So if he is near a gorilla he has gorilla strength. If he is near a cheetah he has the speed of a cheetah. Near a dolphin, swims like a dolphin. He once gained the ability to jump like a flea, which sounds stupid at first but is actually pretty impressive if you think about it. Now to be clear he doesn’t actually become that animal, like say Manimal, but simply exhibits the characteristics and abilities of that animal.

Post-crisis Animal man was rebooted a bit by Grant Morrison. He was now a teenager who was into punk rock when he gained his abilities because…Grant Morrison. Under Morrison the stories became hyper-aware of themselves. Themes of environmentalism and vegetarianism and animal rights were emphasized; things Morrison championed as well. And the series became surreal and psychedelic. Buddy at one point even becoming aware of his existence as a comic book character making him very Deadpooly (or Deadpool very Animal Manly, depending on how you look at it).

Post-Morrison the series moved to Vertigo where it took on a darker, quasi-religious tone with runs from Jamie Delano and Jerry Prosser. This brings us to…

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

Weekend Safari: Animal Man #82

Previously on Animal Man: A mutilated giraffe and strange visions of spiders. The Life Power Church is getting protested and internal divisions have risen and Maxine makes a “sinister bargain” with the Spider Queen for the return of Buddy…

On the Outside

Wow, now this is a cover. When I pulled this out it immediately struck me. It features the head and torso of a raging baboon over top of a human skeleton. Behind are abstract trees and grasslands. This is still very much the 90s Vertigo style of cover but it has a visceral appeal; violent and scary and emotional, my favorite of the covers so far.

On The Inside

Buddy finds himself naked in a troop of baboons on the African plains and contemplates reality. He feels a connection to the baboons which he explains as a fond memory that never happened. Realizing he is in a vision he floats away in the sky.

Back on the grounds of the Life Power church the real Buddy is given mouth-to-mouth and is revived. After some recuperation he is finally reunited with his family.

Buddy is given a tour around the Life Power compound and sits down with Dr. Varma and Mr. Keel for some exposition over a cup of coffee. It is decided that he has been reborn in a mystical, quantum physics sort of way and that may have to bring balance to the real and imaginary worlds. And science and magic and stuff.

The Humanity First church then storms the gates of the compound accusing the Life Power people of being Satan worshipers and causing the crippling of a little girl who tried to fly while in the Red Dreaming. Buddy then heals the girl with his new shaman power which really pisses off the priest of the Humanity First church. The priest throws a rock at Buddy clocking him in the head.

The head trauma causes Buddy to go into a dream state where he sees the baboons from earlier killing a couple of asshole hunters in Africa. Buddy then hitches a ride with an eagle and flys to Africa only to find the mutilated bodies of the hunters and knows in his heart he was not just a witness… he was an accomplice.

Thoughts

Overall I’m pretty pleased with this issue. The various storylines and plot threads being teased are coming together now that Buddy is back in the living. And also, now that Buddy is back, I feel like the story can start to progress. For the last few issues there was just a holding pattern waiting for the inevitable return of Buddy. Still Buddy is just a minor player in his own story. Things seem to be happening to him or around him, not because of him.

This does seem like it will change with the revelation of the shaman power and healing the little girl. Also racing off to encounter the baboons seems to indicate he will be taking a pro-active stance from here on in.

If I have one complaint it’s the magic is science thing. A bit of a pet peeve of mine. I don’t know why writers can’t just let magic be magic. It always has to be explained away as quantum mechanics or advanced technology. I suppose they feel like adding a scientific explanation bases the story in “reality” and somehow lends some kind of legitimacy to it. But to me it always just seems forced, bending over backwards to explain something that does not need explaining. Magic is cool. It’s fiction for goodness sakes, just let it be magic and be done.

That being said this was a pretty good issue and now that Animal Man is back in Animal Man I look forward to the next installment.

Next time on an all new episode of Long Lost Longbox: we will look at Animal Man #83: Money Trial as well as the writing career of Jerry Prosser.



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