Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine. Check out part 4: Power Girl. Check out part 5: Aquaman. Check out part 6: Luke Cage. Check out part 7: Iron Man. Check out part 8: Spider-Man. Check out part 9: Wonder Woman. Check out part 10: John Constantine.Check out part 11: The Incredible Hulk. Check out part 12: Batman. Check out part 13: Static. Check out part 14: Black Canary. Check out part 15: Superman. Check out part 16: Thor. Check out part 17: the Phantom Stranger. Check out part 18: Green Arrow. Check out part 19: the Flash.
Animal Man is not likely a superhero that many recognize. Up until recently, he has been somewhat obscure, even among comic fans themselves. Having said that, he has a very well selling book at the moment, and has made a few surprise appearances on the DC Shorts segments of the DC Nation block of cartoons on Cartoon Network.
Who is Animal Man?
Buddy Baker is unique among many heroes in that he has a family. Not just a long time girlfriend or wife, but a wife he is faithful to, along with 2 children. He has a day job, has other interests outside of superheroing, and has written a book. He comes to all of this with the ability to tap into the metaphysical web of life surrounding the Earth and borrow powers from any animal that is close to him.
Is this character heroic? Yeah. It gets him into trouble, and often puts his family at risk, which is problematic, but he does the right thing when it counts. (1 point)
Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Leaning towards against. He is a resolute environmentalist, vegetarian, and pacifist, and often participates in social action against the powers. So, there really isn’t’ any wiggle room here. (1 point)
Does this character kill? No. He believes in the intrinsic value of ALL life, even down to the smallest of creatures, which he has felt the life force of, and thus feels kinship with. He is like a superhero version of St. Francis. (1 point)
Does this character have a spirituality? Ish. Not traditional though. He treats his environmentalism as a sort of religion, and his book is chock full of religious, spiritual, and philosophical dialogue about the nature of things, the universe, our role, family, etc… So while we likely won’t see Buddy in church any time soon, he gets a point.
Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? For the most part, yes. I really depends on the writer. When you get a metaphysical sort on the book, it can be great, if sort of preachy. When you get a rather non-introspective person in the job, Animal Man seems boring and episodic. Currently, the run has been great, but it hasn’t always been so. (.5 points)
Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? Not really. The big exception is Buddy’s family. The interaction with them is great, but they are small in number. Animal Man doesn’t seem to branch out and interact with others as much as he could. (.5 points)
Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? No. (0 bonus points)
Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? In very broad terms, yes. His philosophy hits on some important points that I believe in like the value of all life. While I approach hypocrisy with my love of carnivorism, Buddy literally won’t hurt a fly. We need heroes like that to spur us onto greatness. Buddy also puts his money where his mouth is and is an activist and writer for the causes he cares about. He is also a great example of a loving husband and dedicated father. (1 Point)
Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Animal powers can get boring after a while. The source of Buddy’s powers has been undergoing a large change in its status quo, and so “the Red,” the newer name for the web of life around our planet, has been interesting to explore, especially in contrast to “the Green” (plants) and the “the Grey” (decay). I hope that savvy writers are able to draw on that rather than become intimidated by it. (1 point)
Verdict: 7 out of 8 points
Tune in next time for a wrap up discussion on my new favorite superhero…