Who's Animal Man?

Who's This? The man with the animal powers.
The facts: Buddy Baker first saw the light of day in Strange Adventures #180 (September 1965) as a stuntman given the ability to mimic animal powers by aliens, gaining a super-hero costume and name (A-Man) in #190, putting in 5 appearances in that book total, the last in issue 201 (the first four were reprinted in early 70s Adventure Comics). Sharing a story with Wonder Woman in 1980 did not herald a revival, and Animal Man is the only costumed dude to be included in the Forgotten Heroes when they are assembled for a couple issues of Action and DC Comics Presents. It's not until Grant Morrison got a hold of him that he finally became a star, his mini-series turning into one of the most seminal monthly runs of the late 80s and early 90s. Under different writers, Animal Man's book would go Vertigo and last a healthy 89 issues + Annual. He briefly joined Justice League Europe, and has made appearances in a number of events including 52 and Countdown. To think he was once "forgotten".
How you could have heard of him: Buddy got a book in the first wave of the New52, which basically kept the Morrison stories intact if nothing else, this time lasting 29 issues + 2 Annuals, and was a member of Justice League United and a reservist in the Rebirth Justice League. In other media, he had his own shorts under the DC Nation banner, voiced by Weird Al Yankovic.
Example story: Strange Adventures #201 (June 1967) "The Mod Gorilla Boss!" by Jack Sparling
First, I want to see what Animal Man's adventures were like in the Silver Age, but still have him in costume. Second, it's the issue that WASN'T reprinted in Adventure Comics. Third, it has a gorilla in a loud suit on the cover. It had to be this story.

Right away, I'm happy to see Morrison didn't reinvent the wheel when he took on the character. They're not married yet, but Ellen is Buddy's girl, and a little later we see his friend and agent Roger. I love Ellen, and she doesn't deserve the grief young Buddy gives her here.
Tell her your secret already! But he can't here me through the page wall (not yet anyway), possibly because he's distracted by a surging boxing ability from a pet store kangaroo--say whaaaaaat?!
The Red provides. Just so happens Mod Gorilla Boss (not to be confused with George Dyke, the not-at-all-mod Gorilla Boss) is just around the corner, because "A-Man" is a big fat weirdness magnet, a fact that hasn't changed in 50+ years. Time to get into a phone box or, errr, the trunk of a car, and change so you can do some totally dignified kangaroo action.
The Gorilla bear-hugs him from behind and leaves him out of breath while the gang makes its escape. Also, puzzled, because if this were a real Gorilla, Buddy would have been able to copy its strength. So what constitutes a "false gorilla"? Halloween costume on a circus strongman? It's back to A-Man's secret cavern lair (he HAD that?!) for a think and a debrief with Roger (if he knows, why not Ellen? C'mon, Buddy!). Our hero surmises that a Mod Gorilla will have a big ego to feed and will strike again soon, so he gazelles his way back into town. As the sun set, M.G.B. was back robbing a jewelry store. Not wanting to let the Gorilla get his mitts on her, he grabs the loot and races off. Animal Man a coward and a thief?! Not the latter, because he makes a hand-off to the nearest uniform. Time to get some powers. Good thing Fauna City (or wherever) has wild animals on every street corner.
Flight of the Eagle! He follows the getaway car to a farm (Fear of the Chicken!) and gets snared in a net, but nor for long. Still Mod G is quick and things get violent.
Oh geez, LIMPNESS OF THE RAGDOLL CAT! No! Wrong power, Buddy! Send out some feelers, find a better one! Appetite of the Hog! NO! Timing of the Rooster! Try again. Like, there was a bull in the pasture, but it's too far from the farm's cellar where they left the A-Man! I got it, Snort of the Pig! I mean, practiced animal calls!
It makes sense that Animal Man would practice this, and indeed, it saves his life here. Ferdinand reference also noted. He's gonna do fine once he has kids. SO ASK ELLEN TO MARY YOU ALREADY! From there, Buddy discovers the villain takes injections that turn him into a Gorilla (because of course he does) and Flight of the Pigeon, he catches back up to the gang. After dealing with the henchmen, it's Taser of the Eel, but it doesn't kayo the G Man!
Mod Gorilla Boss soon has Buddy back on the ropes (or in a twirl), but he's still playing into Animal Man's paws!
The reason the transformed thug was always on the run is that his potion wasn't all that potent. Playing for time made the distracted ape turn back into a regular dude. A very defeatable regular dude. Cleverness of the Fox (just off-panel, I'm sure).

I didn't need this story to sell me on Animal Man, of course. He's one of my favorites. And this little Silver Age ditty is no way more or less silly than all the other Silver Age ditties that nevertheless didn't tank other DC stars. No one has even come forward to claim credit for writing this. Weird. Where are the comics detectives when we need them?

Who's Next? The first boy on Earth.



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