BTFT: They’re Animals, Man!

A column article, Bin There Found That by: Chris Wunderlich

DC, Animal Man #33-42 & 46-50, written by Tom Veitch, drawn by Steve Dillon, Tom Mandrake, David G. Klein, Steve Pugh, 1991-1992

Damn, I read a lot of Animal Man this week. Nearly all of Tom Veitch’s run, in fact! The only reason I skipped those few issues in the middle—I bought and read them long, long ago. I remembered liking them, so when I found this jolly pile o’books I scoop’em up right away. And I’m very glad I did.

Tom Veitch took over Animal Man after Peter Milligan’s brief yet brilliant run that came on the heels of Grant Morrison’s ground breaking work. Those are tough acts to follow, but Veitch does his best. He’s also helped immensely by the early yet impressive art of Steve Dillon. How do you top the craziness of Milligan and Morrison? You don’t. You do your own thing.

Veitch kicks things off nice and simply. Buddy Baker is a family man, first and foremost and throughout the run we never forget that. His powers go wonky, he does some stunt work and everything starts to revolve around mysterious Native American lore. Does Buddy derive his powers from aliens? Is he connected to The Red? There’s some tampering with what Morrison established, but nothing origin shattering. Veitch seems to add to the foundations set before him instead of breaking them and for the most part it works.

Then things get strange. As issues go by we’re introduced to a number of odd turns. Ellen, Buddy’s wife, begins working on a Punisher-esque comic book called The Penalizer. The character briefly comes to life (I think?) and Veitch tries to make a point about something, but it never really connects to the rest of the story.

Then we’re introduced to Travis, an aging hippy-scientist who helps Buddy with his fluctuating powers. At first Travis seems trivial, but eventually becomes very interesting and rather important to the story. An evil corporation is soon introduced and Travis’s begins his own side-story. There are a lot of good ideas in here (the Men Without Eyes are particularly awesome) but it takes quite a while for things to connect.

Oh, and just to throw one more story element into the mix, Cliff, Buddy’s son, gets into trouble and runs away from home. This thread adds weight to the already heavy stack of crises and isn’t fully explored until Veitch moves on and Jamie Delano takes over after issue 50. It may seem pointless but planting this thread early is a very smart move on Veitch’s part. 

If you were reading these issues sporadically over a long period of time (as I often do) this story might lose you. Reading it all within a week made the big picture quite clear by the end.

And that’s just the tip of the ice-berg. Behind the scenes, Native American shamans are keeping an eye on Buddy. We find out how they are connected to Buddy and his powers, and other DC animal-powered heroes like Vixen and B’wana Beast make appearances. There’s a looming crisis and at first it’s rather tough to follow, but Veitch ties it all together brilliantly in the last act.

It’s a long road to issue 50, but once you get there t’s all worth it. I can’t stress how important it is to finish this arc, as reading the finale enriches every issue before it. I wasn’t sure Veitch would pull it off with so many dangling threads, but it’s a joy seeing everything work out. The Penalizer never really makes sense, but it’s forgivable.

I highly suggest buying as many issues of Tom Veitch’s Animal Man as you can, but don’t read them until you’ve got them all. Once you do, sit down and attack it all at once. I guarantee you’ll find it to be a hugely satisfying story.

First Comics, Badger #7, 22, 34, written by Mike Baron, drawn by Bill Reinhold and Ron Lim, 1985-1988

Badger, where have you been all my life!? Ah, collecting dust. Yes, I bought these issues many moons ago. I can’t remember where but I’m sure I paid about a quarter an issue. I have another half dozen issues too, some from First and some from Dark Horse. I’m super excited to read those, because these issues rocked!

I knew Badger would be interesting, I just didn’t know it would be this good! Mike Baron is usually a reliable writer but here he’s at the top of his game. Norbert Sykes is a Vietnam vet with multiple personalities, namely the superhero persona Badger, and he’s nuts. In the best way possible, I assure you. Badger likes to beat people up for hurting animals, littering, acting rude and every sort of “crime”. He’s also a master of every martial art in the book. Oh, and he lives with a mad, evil sorcerer who’s constantly trying to please his demonic overlords. It’s all very entertaining.

Issue 7 is simple enough, exploring some of Norbert’s alternate personalities and touching on the great supporting cast. We get a nice taste of Badger causing trouble and there’s a laugh or two thrown in for good measure.

Issue 22 is a straight up satire poising an Irish appliance salesman against his vampire rival, with Badger caught in the middle. It’s hilarious and hits all the right notes.

Issue 34 deals with the previously mentioned sorcerer’s attempt to summon a mythical beast, only to be interrupted by Badger, a biker gang and a strange stray dog. This series only gets wackier and I love every minute of this issue.

Badger is my kind of book. It’s self-contained stories that add to a larger plot, a main character with tons of potential, kooky concepts, perfectly placed laughs and a pace that never gets dull. The art is great too!

Go buy Badger. If these issues are any indication, this is a series well worth collecting.  

You can follow Chris on twitter @wondermitts or his band @Mellowkotzen.

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