Animal Man

Originally published in Animal Man Book 1 (DC Comics, 1992).  © Grant Morrison, 1992


Believe me, there are few things more embarrassing than having to write the introduction to one's own book. Not for me the dubious pleasure of an endorsement from Stephen King or Clive Barker. Not for me the glowing praise of my peers as they lie through gritted teeth and wait for the check to arrive by Federal Express. Not for me the detailed analyses of technique, the backslapping bon-homie, the hushed reverential tones. Instead, I'm forced to take the stand and conduct my own defense.

So what do I say?

'ANIMAL MAN was a fundamental milestone in the ongoing development of graphic narrative and I consider myself lucky, nay, privileged, nay, blessed to have known Grant Morrison at this pivotal moment in his glittering career. . .'

All too true, but comic readers value modesty and humility above all, so perhaps I'd better stick with world-weary, self-deprecating cynicism.

'ANIMAL MAN? No big deal. It paid the rent, I suppose.'

Hmm, I could have a point there, but it still doesn't tell the full story.

Better just to stick to the 'facts':

In 1987, at the height of the critical acclaim for Alan Moore's work on SWAMP THING and WATCHMEN, DC Comics dispatched a band of troubleshooters on what is quaintly termed a 'headhunting mission' to the United Kingdom. The brief was to turn up the stones and see if there weren't any more cranky Brit authors who might be able to work wonders with some of the dusty old characters languishing in DC's back catalog. As one of those that received the call that year, I had no idea who I might dig up and revamp. On the Glasgow to London train, however, my feverishly overstressed brain at last lighted upon Animal Man. This minor character from the pages of STRANGE ADVENTURES in the 60's had always, for heaven only knows what murky reasons, fascinated me and, as the train chugged through a picturesque landscape of Tudor houses and smiling bobbies on bicycles, I began to put together a scenario involving an out-of-work, married-with-children, third-rate super-hero who becomes involved with animal rights issues and finds his true vocation in life.

Initially, ANIMAL MAN was concieved as a four-issue mini-series, My intention was to radicalize and realign the character of Buddy Baker and then leave him for someone else to pick up and develop. As it transpired however, I was asked to continue the series into a regular monthly comic book and I suddenly found myself lost for ideas. Having no desire to produce yet another grittily realistic exploration of what it is to be superhuman and/or an urban vigilante with emotional problems, I cast desperately around for a new direction. What I finally came up with was 'The Coyote Gospel.' which became the template for the further development of of the entire series and which remains one of my own personal favourite stories. Hilariously enough, during the writing of 'The Coyote Gospel' I was utterly convinced that what I was writing was absolute unreadable gibberish and that it would hammer the final nail into the coffin of my fledgling career as a writer of American super-hero comics. The success and popularity of the story took me entirely by surprise and encouraged me to go and produce the entirely unreadable gibberish which has since become my stock-in-trade. A the same time, 'The Coyote Gospel' initiated a plotline which was ultimately resolved in ANIMAL MAN #26, my final issue as writer. Hints as the the nature of this plotline were introduced as early as issue #6 and new readers should therefore not be too baffled by the appearance of a mysterious computer screen. a mysterious figure in the bushes, and an equally mysterious Native American physicist. These are simply teasing subplot elements and should not be allowed to affect your enjoyment, or otherwise, of the main story.

New readers may also find themselves mildly baffled by portentous references to an 'Invasion' in the stories 'Birds of Prey' and 'The Death of the Red Mask'. INVASION was, in fact, a DC cross-over series, in which a gang of unpleasant characters form outer space launched a entirely unprovoked assault on our own dear planet Earth. Most of the DC super-hero titles at that time were woven in and out of the man INVASION storyline and ANIMAL MAN was no exception. So it was that, between issues #6 and #7 and #7 and #8, Animal Man participated in the super-heroes' war against the alien aggressors, during which brief excitement his animal powers were scrambled, hence his problem in issue #9's story, 'Home Improvements'.

Confused? I know I am.

Now that I'm able to look back at ANIMAL MAN through the deluded soft focus of rose-colored spectacles, I see quite a lot that I actually like. I like the fact that most of the stories here are self-contained in twenty-four pages. I like the opportunity I was given to introduce a foul-mouthed Glaswegian version of DC's Mirror Master character and I like the at-home antics of the Baker family.

For me, the other important aspect of working on ANIMAL MAN was that not only did the comic provide a platform for my cranky and increasingly misanthropic views on the animal rights issue, it also encouraged me to put my money where my mouth was. So it was that shortly after beginning to work on ANIMAL MAN, I joined the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group and I ate my last ever steak. Since then I've survived exclusively on water, grass, peanuts and the kindness of strangers. It now seems to me that the subject of animal rights is probably too vast and complicated to be dealt with adequately in the pages of a super-hero comic book, but if ANIMAL MAN helped alert some readers to the pointless atrocities that are committed daily in the name of research, then it will have been worthwhile.

Which brings me to the bottom of the page. How do I write my own introduction without sounding either too smug and self-congratulatory or too fawningly humble?

'ANIMAL MAN was a comic written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Chas Troug and Doug Hazlewood and Tom Grummett, too. It had brilliant covers by Brian Bolland, was edited by Karen Berger and Art Young, colored by Tatjana Wood, and lettered by John Constanza. Some people liked it, some people didn't.'


Why not read on and judge for yourself?

- Grant Morrison