Morrison’s Animal Man reboot seemed relatively straightforward when it started; you take an old character, too simple and unproblematized for this modern world of ours, and make him gritty or brutish or screwed up in the head. Alan Moore and Miracle Man. Neil Gaiman and Black Orchid. Frank Miller and Batman. That was that age, and that’s what Animal Man sometimes is. What kind of cruelties would B’wana beast inflict and endure if a hero like B’wana beast was actually caught up in the exigencies of a 20th century city? How would a hero like Animal man actually attempt to deal with the animal-cruelty that is so common place, and sometimes necessary, in the modern day? What would happen to his family? His neighbors? His pets?
That’s how Animal Man seemed to start; but it proves itself to be something different, fabulous, and grand – something else that had much to say about art and the nature of fiction, something so ambitious that it ought always to inform how we understand the comics of this and every age. The book is also important because in it, Morrison reveals as explicitly and boldly as he ever has to date many of the ideas that will go on to shape the books that are now not only some of the most important for the current DC universe but are some of the best comics ever written – books like Final Crisis, Morrison’s run on Batman, and All-Star Superman. The ideas that shape those books are here and often fully-formed; some of them seem to have been on his mind for over a decade. In this series, we’ll consider and critique Morrison’s extraordinary run on Animal Man. Animal Man can sometimes be the work of a sophomoric author, to be sure, but I hope to convince you that it is ultimately sublime.