Animal Man's Craziest Animal Powers

Category: Animal Man
Last article published: 27 March 2018
This is the 14th post under this label
Even if Animal Man hadn't been a mind-blowing comic under Grant Morrison's pen, I would have been hard-wired to enjoy it. As a kid, I was raised on Safari Cards - mail-order flash cards that detailed animals from across the world - and anyone writing Animal Man could do a lot worse than have a stack of those cards next to them. Most of the time, Buddy Baker is shown to fly like a bird, run like a horse, jump like kangaroo, punch like a gorilla, maybe the odd moment where he channels the proportional strength of a spider, but that's pretty boring. Good Animal Man writers have to know their animal kingdom, and what weird and woolly abilities are in nature. And here again, Morrison nailed it. He never had Buddy cry the noxious, bloody tears of the horny toad, but here are some of freakiest animal powers showcased during his run on the book...
Earthworm regeneration: In Animal Man #3, Buddy regrows an arm after making contact with worms under the pavement. (A freakier story would have been the arm also generating a Buddy.)
Chameleon camouflage: Yeah, not so useful unless you can afford unstable molecule clothing.
Bacteria self-replication: Did Buddy get a costume upgrade from the JLI? We might have had a naked Animal Man army otherwise! This goes to show there are ALWAYS animals around. They're in our guts!
Mole digging: It's just a physical power like flight or running, but we just don't see enough of Buddy taking the low road.
Pistol shrimp sonic blasts: NOW we're talkin'! The pistol shrimp snaps its claws together to stun prey at range, which really shouldn't work in air, but COMICS. I'm fine with it.
Animal senses: Buddy recreates events at a crime scene using all the olfactory powers of the animal kingdom, minnows that smell through their skin, and moths that have better noses than dogs specifically.
Fly perception: You know how hard it is to swat them? That's because they experience life so slowly, you seem to be in slow-motion. We're easy to avoid.

That's from issue #21, and after that, the final act kicks into high gear and the book is more about what it means to be a comic book character than any given set of powers. I could look, but I don't remember other writers getting this as right as Morrison did.

What are YOUR favorite animal powers (whether used by Buddy or not)?

3 comments:

Erich said...

One of my favorite moments from the Jeff Lemire series was early on, when Buddy returns home from work exhausted and uses a cat's power to fall asleep quickly.

Thinking back to the Tom Veitch run, it seemed as if Veitch held the character's very concept in contempt, with his declaration that animals don't have "powers," they just have different bodies that let them do these feats...

Siskoid said...

Oh yes, I love that one, Erich!

And also yes, Veitch was a bit of a party pooper. I don't think the book ever healed from that blow.

Dale Bagwell said...

Just happened to see this article while browsing your blog. If it or the title has anything to do with either Animal Man or the Doom Patrol I instantly click on it, ha ha.
Anyhoo I honestly didn't know Veitch looked down upon Animal Man's powers or the natural abilities of animals. Interesting to know. Not that I got any of that from the few issues of his run I own. I know he really but Buddy through the wringer, but nothing worse than Morrison did. I definitely enjoyed the whole animal master story that was never picked up ever again.

Off the top of my head I don't really have a favorite Animal Man power, I just think he's got a cool and unique power-set is all.

 

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