Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Classics - Strange Adventures #180

Wrapping up our focus on the DC science fiction-based title Strange Adventures, let's wrap up with a one-shot character who seemed silly on the face of it, but kept making comebacks and has a series running right now as part of the "New 52."

I'm talking about Animal Man, although he doesn't earn that name until a later story. In his first appearance in 1965, he's simply known as Buddy, and the story was titled "I was the Man with Animal Powers."

It was a common storytelling device at the time, to tell the adventure from a first-person perspective - to put the reader into the role of the hero (there was one issue where you saw the whole story through the eyes of the hero - you never saw the lead character).

This was apparently intended as a one-time-only story, because it reads like the standard DC science fiction stories from the time: a regular guy gains strange abilities by alien means, faces several challenges (including escaped circus animals and a rampaging alien), loses his powers but still finds a way to win the day.

Perhaps it was the stronger-than-usual story by Dave Wood, perhaps it was the excellent art by the great Carmine Infantino, perhaps it was the interesting concept - but DC eventually brought the hero back 10 issues later, restored his powers and gave him a costume.

He would appear sporadically over the decades, finally returning in a excellent series in the late '80s written by Grant Morrison, and has appeared off and on since then, finally landing a regular horror-based series in the "New 52."

It's a great example of the difference a good writer can make. In the right hands, Buddy Baker / Animal Man can tell amazing stories. In lesser hands, he can be a joke (as you can see in his appearances in the Saturday morning "DC Nation" spots).

Even in this early appearance, the potential is there. It just took them a while to figure it out.

Grade: B


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