So after hitting on the champion of The Green yesterday, it should be little surprise that we're hitting on his Red equivalent today.
I think I have more good feelings about Morrison's run on Animal Man than I do about Moore's Swamp Thing simply because I didn't know much about Animal Man going in to it. I knew who Buddy Baker was, that he was some dude with animal powers, but beyond that, very little. But then, wasn't that the point of the British Invasion of DC comics? To take some of the "Hey, That Guy"s of the setting and flesh them out? Of course, what Morrison ended up doing was fleshing out his own concept of comics much more than he did Animal Man. Unlike Swamp Thing or Sandman, who became richer characters for their exposure to Moore and Gaiman, Animal Man sort of dwindled afterwards, the high school quarterback whose best days were far behind him.
Still, after "I Can See You!" there's really nowhere to go but down, back to being just another comicbook character again.
Unfortunately, we'll have to put Animal Man's meta-adventures behind us for the time being. We're building a stable universe here and we need a solid fourth wall, dammit! Buddy's origin remains largely the same - family man gets weird powers from aliens. In our version, Buddy gets his powers around the time he marries Ellen. Rather than off hunting as a teen, we'll have him encounter the aliens while separated from the rest of his camping party while on his bachelor weekend.
So why him? Simply put, the aliens just wanted to ask for directions. Unable to communicate with Buddy, they use a device to open his mind up to the field that permeates all living creatures. The theory here being that, if the human's mind is open to said field, the aliens should be able to communicate with him telepathically. Except they didn't plan for the amazing strength of Earth's Red field. Like I've said before, Earth's Red and Green are leaps and bounds more developed than similar fields on other planets. The aliens certainly did not expect that to happen, nor did they expect Buddy to flip out and slaughter them, rending their ship apart with his bear (heh) hands.
Yeah, so the Red was a bit unhappy at having a champion it didn't pick (natural selection and all that) thrust upon it - it was fine with Vixen - and it expressed its displeasure in messy, messy ways on the visiting aliens. Still, Buddy is a part of it now, no going back.
Buddy adopts his superhero persona of Animal Man for a time. We're talking, say, just over a half a Superman Unit ago. He fights local crimes and uses his powers to draw the abilities of nearby critters, unaware of the real potential of his powers. The Red isn't much for training, after all, so it takes an encounter with Vixen to really get a handle on what he can do. There's not a whole lot of time for that, however, as Ellen is pregnant and asks her husband to give up his dangerous hobby in order to ensure that he'll be there for their child. It's sad for Buddy, but he complies - seeing someone who can do everything he can do, only better, was kind of dispiriting. He retires, though he does keep using his powers, slowly working through what they are and what they can do, in secret.
Retirement is short lived, however. During a family trip to the city (let's say, Metropolis), the Baker family is caught up in one of the supervillain-caused disasters that make property values so low. Buddy leaps into action, using his powers to not only save his family, but other innocents nearby from being hurt as collateral damage as Superman battles, let's say, Metallo. A shared glance with his wife is the only permission he needs before he joins the fight, saving Superman and helping to contain the villain. Afterwards, Superman thanks Buddy in the presence of his family, laying on the whole "great power, great responsibility" guilt trip that he does so well. This causes Ellen to relent and Buddy is able to become a hero again.
So that's where we start with Issue #1 of Animal Man (#47/52). Buddy has been given spousal permission to become a hero again, but on the condition that he receive training so that he can do things as safe as possible. Of course, this means Vixen re-enters the picture, something that Ellen is not too pleased about (Vixen will be filling the role of Starfire from the recent DC comics). She trusts her husband when he says he's not interested, but is worried about that trust being tested by a predatory supermodel-slash-superhero with the ability to pump out pheromones like there's no tomorrow. And I don't want to make Ellen sound like a jealous shrew here - she has a right to be concerned. The Red is keen on the idea of two of its champions mating, perhaps starting a new line of superpowered humans, in an attempt to get a leg up on its Green rival. There are, after all, slight variations to Vixen's and Animal Man's powers - she can assume some physical traits (claws, etc) but is limited to living creatures only. Buddy's the reverse - he can get the bite of a Tyrannosaurus, but not the actual jaws. Both can tap into other human abilities (and 'aliens who have been accepted into the field' like Superman), a secret that Vixen warns Buddy to keep close to his chest indeed and use vary sparingly - assuming the powers of a sentient being also brings in their thought patterns and that way lies madness.
So there's Animal Man! His first story arc will be pretty conventional, standard Journey of the Hero stuff, picking up at the Supernatural Aid (Vixen) stage. It seems that the alien species whose members gave Buddy's powers to, and were murdered by, him want some answers. Buddy doesn't remember the slaughter, though, thinking he came upon some alien crash in the woods. And on top of that, he's got agents of The Green and newborn Grey to worry about.
Still, all that must pale in hardship compaired with raising a 6 year old daughter.
Who is starting to develop powers of her own.