Secret Origins #39: Man-Bat and Animal Man

Ryan Daly welcomes Professor Alan Middleton back to review the origin of the Man-Bat from Secret Origins #39. Then, the Irredeemable Shag returns to cover (part of) the origin of Animal Man.

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“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music: “Moondance” by Van Morrison; “Talk to the Animals” by Bobby Darin; “Dancing In the Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)” by Thin Lizzy.

Thanks for listening!

26 responses to “Secret Origins #39: Man-Bat and Animal Man

  1. Can I say this is my absolute favorite issue of Secret Origins. Both stories are fantastic. Both add something to the current origin. Both have fantastic art. It is incredible. This is one of those Secret Origin issues that when I see it in a $1 bin I buy it to give to someone. Superb!

    The Manbat story is sort of depressing, which works for this character. Manbat is one of those characters who I look for an will sample a book if he is in. So I own the 2 issues of his solo book. I have his DCCP issue. I have the Elseworlds prestige mini. I bought the ‘Battle for the Cowl’ issue. I own the Showcase 96 (97?) issue he was in. As you guys say, he never really is big enough to carry his own book. So I loved the additions here linking him to Batman. They deepen his origins. My favorite part of this book is the fact that the bat that crashes through Bruce’s window had lost its sonar. That explains why a bat would crash into anything! Brilliant.

    And while Kevin Nowlan isn’t Neal Adams. I love his work. I thought his stuff here was moody and perfect.

    As for Animal Man, I bought the book as it was on the stands and was blown away. As you guys say, the first 4 issues are a sort of standard super-hero story without the Morrison trappings. Coyote Gospel is a turning point. That is such a great issue. For me, the most poignant part of that book is that Buddy can’t read the gospel. So sad.

    The entire 26 issues is a mind-game. And this Secret Origin did start the sort of meta- portion of the arc. We see that later these aliens defeat an immortal villain by undrawing him, going from inked to pencils to thumbnail to blank paper. Unreal. And the ‘crisis’ where Buddy heads to comic limbo is brilliant.

    Is Animal Man the ‘most’ Grant Morrison issue ever? I don’t know if I can say that. There have been weirder ones. But back then, Animal Man and Doom Patrol were both ongoing and changed the way I read comics.

    1. I think the most interesting part of that issue is that we can’t read it either. We’re just told by Grant/the narrator what the scribbles say.

    2. Grant Morrison gets so Grant Morrison later in his career that you start to long for the days when he was much more linearly Grant Morrison like he was back then. For evidence I submit: Flex Mentallo, The Invisibles and Final Crisis. I do enjoy the parallel Grant Morrison career that gave us wonderful straight forward comics like We3, Vinimarama, All-Star Superman and most recently, the fabulous Wonder Woman: Earth One!

  2. Yay! Secret Origins is back, and with 20% audio drop-ins!

    I always considered Man-Bat to be a member of the Batman Family in good standing. That had to be because my first exposure to the character was in the late 70s, when he occasionally got his own strip, and was, often as not, included in any “Bonus Batman Family Pin-Up” page DC would throw in when they were short a page. And of course the awesome Power Record didn’t hurt.

    As is usual for me it seems, I will defend the cover. Yeah, it does look like Man-Bat is putting the whammy on Animal Man (oh, excuse me, “ANIMAL MAN!!”) but it’s so pretty that I don’t mind. And I love the theme issue idea anyway.

    Mego Falcon is pretty good, except for those ape hands. The less said about that the better.

    Guest-wise, this episode batted (no pun intended) .500%. I will leave to decide how I came up with that score.

  3. Love that Animal Man! Morrison’s run on the character was a special kind of magic.

    One sad note, I’m not sure how I feel about Alan’s spending of over a quarter a comic. It’s like seeing the wires when Superman flies. I’ve lost my faith.

  4. Well, if I didn’t get to cover Man-Bat, at least you go Professor Alan to do it (cue Ryan saying “You got Superman AND Batman, Chris, blah-blah-blah). The good professor’s love for Man-Bat may even exceed my own, and as always, he brought the goods.

    I have an irrational love for Man-Bat due to that infamous Power Record, which is in fact what got me into podcasting, thanks to Rob asking me on a Power Records episode of Fire and Water before that show spun off on its own. So you can blame Frank Robbins and Neal Adams for my shows, and appearances here.

    But anyway, I liked this reinterpretation for the most part. But even as a teen, I found connecting Bruce and Kirk, and Kirk to the very bat that inspired Bruce a bit too much. It does take away from the cosmic destiny of Batman. And, I don’t have the story in front of me, but didn’t Bruce meet Kirk at the movies the very night the Waynes were murdered? Or maybe Stnard showed that the Waynes actually attended more than one movie in their lifetime?

    I think more could have been made of Kirk’s time in the cave, and the bat-creatures he was obsessed with. Maybe really emphasize that Kirk was a brilliant professor, admired by most, but that he harbored this crack-pot theory he wouldn’t let go off. Attempting to prove such a creature could exist may have driven him to the extremes he went to, experimenting on himself, versus just wanting to help Batman or whatever.

    In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #5, I believe it is established that Langstrom is suffering from severe hearing loss, and so he begins to experiment with bat-gland extract, hoping their radar abilities may provide a cure. And of course, he turns into a hideous bat-creature. But that’s a nice motivation, even though it’s REALLY close to Dr. Curt Connors and the LIzard, as you guys mentioned.

    The Batman animated series portrayed Langstrom as a true mad scientist, thus giving him motivation to continually change into Man-Bat. That helped with the recurring villain angle, but took away all the pathos.

    Knowlan is no Neal Adams, but I really liked his moody take on the story. He actually contributed Man-Bat designs to BTAS, and elements of them were used in the final design, so he did contribute to ‘On Leather Wings” (and yes, Professor, I too appreciated that neat call-out to that story title!).

    Now, onto Animal Man!!!

    Chris

  5. Animal Man! First off, I really liked most of those DC Nation shorts. They were fun, clever, and they really exposed the wider DCU to a huge audience. But of course Cartoon Network didn’t stand behind the initiative, because, why would they? They can’t possibly be expected to wait for something to gain an audience before they scrap it can they? They’ve got mindless drivel to foist off on children!

    Ahem. Anyway. I met Animal Man in those “Forgotten Heroes” stories, and I REALLY liked his costume. So when he put that leather jacket on over it, I thought he was one of the coolest looking super-types around. I picked up issue #1, but that was on a rare trip to “the big city” and my first comic shop. I was unable to follow the series, but this Secret Origins issue made me want to, desperately. I really need to go back and check the trades.

    But now I have to tender my resignation from the Fire & Water Network, because Shag doesn’t like Man-Bat. What is it Shag? Would it help if Kirk Langstrom was a stuntman in his civilian life? Are you mad that Man-Bat got a couple of mini-series over the Animal Man/Blue Devil/Fall Guy crossover you pitched to DC?

    I withdraw my resignation, but only because Rob still has my Superman Record Player.

    Chris

    Chris

  6. Another great episode Ryan.

    Man-Bat – um, hate saying this as I will be in Chris Franklin’s bad books, but Man-Bat is pretty much a one note character. I think the best stories have already been told of this character and when they go back to him in stories, it is usually some variation of the first 3 stories that Frank Robbins wrote on Man-Bat – once you read them, you pretty much read them all. The only way I can see you doing an ongoing series is if you do it along the lines of the Eclipso series in the 1990s that spun out of the Eclipso Annual Crossover – assemble a team, led by Francine, to try and capture Man-Bat – you concentrate on the team with Man-Bat as the bogeyman that you would have as the tie that binds the team together. Man-Bat on his own would not make for a good series. Re reading recommendations, the Showcase Presents Batman volumes 5 and 6 would have the bulk of the early Man-Bat stories therein, as well as many more early 70s Batman at a reasonable price. I also see on Amazon that an Arkham Presents Man-Bat is due out in January 2017, although the blurb seems to say it is about the Penguin!

    I read the Animal Man story in the second Morrisson TPB, and would agree that Grummett’s art was very good in the story. I would disagree slightly with Shagg (am not making myself popular with members of the Fire and Water Podcast Network Team – sorry!) about Troug’s art in the main series. I felt his cartoon style was perfect to illustrate the deep stories Morrisson was telling – with Morrisson, when you have very stylized art combined with his storytelling, it sometimes is unclear as to what Morrisson is trying to put across!

    I first met Animal Man in a UK reprint book called DC Action, which reprinted the first issues of Animal Man, Wolfman and Perez’s Teen Titans and had some great text pieces on DC history, After 6 issues, this reprint was cancelled and the next Animal Man issue was reprinted in a mature readers reprint called Shockwave, which also included Gaiman and McKean’s Black Orchid and a Morrisson Hellblazer tale. Unfortunately that reprint only lasted 4 issues. I saw Buddy in the JLE and thought he had a solid relationship with Rocket Red, for the brief time he was in there. He made some nice cameos after his series ended in Peter David’s Aquaman, Johns’ Hawkman and in Morrisson’s JLA (I think in the Morrisson story he had fun with his Animal Man tale by commenting on unknown forces guiding them all) before being integrated back into the DCU proper with Infinite Crisis and 52. I read the Morrisson story in trades and read his tales in the new 52 by Lemire and Foreman. I see the post Morrisson stories of Animal Man have been reprinted in trades – are they worth picking up?

    Excellent shopw and look forward to Simian Origins, er I mean Secret Origins next week! :)

    1. Lemire Animal Man trades start strong, but as is often the case with Lemire’s writing, they end rather limply. Pre Rotworld is the better stuff.

      1. Hi Paul – I actually read all the Lemire Animal Man – I meant by post Morrisson the trades by Milligan and Delano which have been collected.

        1. Sorry, I misunderstood.

          I read much of the post Morrison run and found them all way less enjoyable. I gave up in the mid 40’s and have since curated them all out of my comic collection.

  7. Yay! A two issue stint of Secret Origins issues I don’t own and won’t have to read! Featuring a much higher standard of work for the series by Kevin Nowlan, Grant Morrison, and the team of Tom Grummett and Doug Hazelwood? Son of a…

    Man-Bat co-starred with Batman and Robin the Exposition Receptacle in an atmospheric Power Record I played often in my youth (but especially in 1984 when I had a suitcase record player and my own room on the far end of the trailer.) It was the only example of Neal Adams interiors I owned at the time, so I would sit and marvel at his realistic but expressive characters and the sophisticated coloring/lighting used in a story that benefited from the heavier, whiter stock of paper Power Records printed on. The Blackout Gang looked so much cooler than they deserved to in an exciting action sequence. Kirk Langstrom was gloriously gothic and Francine was a beautiful but attainable romantic partner. As much as I reveled in the presentation though, a large chunk of the story was told in retrospect, with the current adventure and its resolution feeling like an afterthought. I also never cottoned to the sympathetic scientist with uncontrollable anthropomorphism cliche that was already played out by Lon Chaney and the suspiciously similarly named Curt Connors before Kirk even made the scene. I can deal with the consequences of the forever tragically mutated, but these dudes who keep going back and forth work my nerves, especially when they’re turned into silly stuff like giant brown barechested bunnyrabbits with wings and blue jeans. Each time you go back to that well, the water’s turned that much more stagnant, and you have you wonder why the heroes only bring a teacup to scoop with.

    I remember when Batman & Robin bombed, one of the excuses was that the SFX game had ramped up so much that nobody was impressed by Mr. Freeze & Poison Ivy on movie screens. The franchise rightly corrected in a different way by digging deeper into mature storytelling instead of visual effects wizardry. Still, it made sense for Batman: The Animated Series to launch with one of the Caped Crusader’s most otherworldly cartoonetic foes, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the next Batman revival doesn’t dig into the CGI toy box to differentiate itself from Nolan’s more grounded approach. Also, you can do a one and done with Man-Bat in a way that you can’t with a Joker or a Two-Face that have volumes of story directions and subtext to plumb. Man-Bat is a one note gimmick, so strum that single cord and go on to the next rogue.

    Unfortunately, I have read a number of Man-Bat stories, including one drawn by Michael Golden in Batman Family where he was an urban vigilante dealing with an infant child and the usual hang-ups of a reluctant hero dealing with a problematic condition. There was that Man-Bat story where Mike Mignola drew Superman with enormous drops of sweat, and none of these things should be put together, thanks. I suspect the large gap in Man-Bat appearances in the ’90s, especially with his raised profile in animation, was related to the long delayed mini-series (because it was) painted by John Bolton and originally intended to be in-continuity. I bought that when it finally came out, but aside from his whole family going batty, I can’t remember anything about a story that ran nearly 150 pages.

    As much as I hate to miss anything drawn by Kevin Nowlan, in this instance he cannot compare to Neal Adams, especially with Jan Strnad dialing up the fanfic retcons to eleven. Inserting a character into an icon’s well documented childhood is already a red flag, but doing so twenty years after their introduction sets that flag on fire, and then having said retcon impact enormously on said icon’s history is surrounding that flag with a circle jerk trying to put out the fire with only their ejaculate. Everyone watching from the sidelines are cheering piping hot nuts and roasted weenies.

    “Whoops, I accidentally slipped and spiked my vein with a syringe filled with black tar heroin.”
    “Hi, I’m one of the world’s greatest detectives, and I’m going to have to question your liberal use of the word ‘accidentally,’ especially as it relates to that time Francine supposedly drank a vial of Man-Bat potion thinking it was Jell-O, Mr. Cosby.”

    I can see how you can make Man-Bat viable in the longer term, as either an anti-hero or a villain, but it requires a canonically supported shift in motivations. You have to explain why an accomplished scientist in a happy marriage would subject himself to radical, needless, dangerous experimentation, and the answer is he wanted out. His stated motive was that he was inspired by Batman and sought to help improve his effectiveness through mad science. The truth is, Kirk Langstrom was a lucky man who still wasn’t satisfied and either wanted to be Batman or just needed an excuse to detonate his status quo despite living an enviable life. None of this has to change Francine from being a loving wife and a scientist in her own right unwilling to let Kirk go and making excuses for him. It’s Kirk who has to be recognized as an addict and/or otherwise self-sabotaging because he’s escaping from his past life through Man-Bat.

    P.S. Neal Adams was no Kevin Nowlan on Dr. Strange, as evidenced by the proxy of Frank Brunner. Which isn’t to say Adams/Brunner weren’t great, just not as strong in this particular instance. Kevin Nowlan is a fantastic artist that deserves more love up in here.

  8. Blah blah great blah blah fascinating blah blah incisive and amiable co-hosts blah blah yet sincere.

    I first came across Man-Bat in podcast favourite Batman From the Thirties to the Seventies and was rather taken with him – he’s so creepy looking and, well, has fleas, sending him right up the menace scale. I also love that his wife is called Francine as it reminds me of my favourite JD Salinger book, Franny and Zooey. I agree that there’s not much you could do with him as a series character. Heck, at this point Kirk’s been a Man-Bat, Francine’s been a Woman-Bat, the bairns have been Brat-Bats… what next, Cat-Bat?

    That Showcase story is a bit unfair to Francine with the business of Kirk sending word he’s dead – does he want to make his wife an accidental bigamist. Then again, my great grandad was a bigamist and we’re all fine… sorry, oversharing.

    As for this story, it was a nice recap with wonderful Nowlan art; I love Roy Thomas-style connections so bring on that dopey blind bat!

    I suppose I should like Animal Man, but he’s just another heterosexual Aryan hero with perfect family living in a world of privilege… oh, hang on, that’s not me.

    Start again – yeah, Buddy Baker, wotta guy. I first came across him during the fantastic 52-page period of DC Comics, when his second story was reprinted in Adventure Comics #414. He was an intriguing fella, but it was only with his Wonder Woman guest appearances that I became a fan. I do think his series should have ended with Morrison, have been rested for a few years so everyone who followed didn’t feel they had to out-weird the master.

    The story here is an intriguing read, and didn’t Tom Grummett do a great job eschewing his own style to ensure the look was tres Truog? I liked the regular series’ Chas Truog art, its simplicity contrasted with and complemented the ever-deepening script. Coincidentally, before drawing The Coyote Gospel Truog drew Marvel Epic’s Coyote book.

    I’m with Shagg – could that be Xum’s next mug? – in that I agree The Last Days of a Animal Man was a cracking read. A thoughtful, action-packed script by Gerry Conway, lovely art by Chris Batista, typically gorgeous covers by Brian Bolland… just buy it!

    I stuck with the New 52 Animal Man series for far too long, I can’t fault the craft but it became incredibly tiresome with all the red and green and brown nonsense crossing over with Swamp Thing for 400 issues. Rotworld ugh.

    Thank you for the mention, boys. I don’t understand why Ryan had his point of order about Grant actually being Scottish after Shagg said he was British – Scottish IS British. I live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We had a referendum to make sure it stayed that way.

    I see nothing odd about Buddy assuming he got his animal powers from the explosion – one out of the ordinary thing happens (explosion), another extraordinary thing happens (he has animal powers) – of course you would link the two! And is this the only time anyone with Crisis knowledge mentioned anyone getting younger as a result?

    My jury is isn’t out on the success of Justice League United, Shaggster – it was excellent and Buddy was great in it – especially when Jeff Parker came on board.

    I thought maybe the Legion beat Buddy to jackets but they got them with #54 a couple of months after Animal Man #1 later in 1988

    Again, top show, thanks Ryan, Alan and Shagg.

  9. Thwarted from being first commentator by technical impediments downloading the episode!!!

    I’m here to drop some knowledge about super heroes in laeather jackets. Animal man was not the first superhero to don the skins in the 80’s. A little known Australian comic writer, Grant Morrison put his super hero creation Zenith for the British anthology 2000AD into a leather jacket in August 1987 a full 10 months earlier. The Animal Man writer, while not being first to the punch shouldn’t complain, because I’m sure he influenced the Doom Patrol writer who put Robot Man Cliff Steele into a leather jacket nearly 18 months later.

    One of the earliest chats I had with my future wife was about the Animal Man comic and how mind blowing it was. I remember we met just after issue 19 came out with the famous “I can see you!!” splash page.

    When I first heard the name Man-Bat, I thought the name was hilarious. Was there a Man Super or Woman Wonder too?

    I think Man-Bat has probably had more bad stories than good. The lowest point was New 52 Detective Comics where Francine Langstrom was re-cast as a murderous manipulator and the author of Kirk’s misfortunes.

    I think DC should reimagine the Forgotten Heroes at least once every decade. I’m a big fan of chucking random characters together and calling them a team.

    Jeff Lemire’s Justice League United first arc was the weakest. The second arc was much better but reads more as a Leagion of Super Heroes time travelling arc. The final 6 issues were written by Jeff Parker with art by Paul Pelletier and that is the best stuff. And YES, coincidentally it does feature Robotman, but most importantly it has the Stargirl/Enemy Ace team up that everyone has always wanted to see!

    1. A little known Brooklyn writer/artist had his heroes in leather jackets (okay, vests) back in the 70s; Howard Chaykin, with the whole Cody Starbuck, Scorpion, Dominic Fortune progression. Also, Reuben Flagg, in 1983. Of course, Doc Savage had his vest back in the 30s and Davy Crockett was wearing a leather shirt, back in the 1800s.

      See, Grant Morrison just retreads everyone else’s old tires! :)

  10. I suspect Mike Kaluta didn’t intend for the cover to be colored the way it is. Kaluta’s own work used richer colors. I suspect he would have added more texture is he knew it was going to be colored in such a flat manner. Then again, he wasn’t drawing the Shadow or Starstruck, here.

    I first encountered Man-Bat in that Frank Robbins story, from Detective, set in Las Vegas, back in the original comic. I loved that story; but, Man-Bat was rarely more than a good visual. He popped up in the 70s Detective Dollar Comics; but, I tended to skim through his stories.

    Don Newton is one of the two top Bronze Age Batman artists (not counting Adams); the other being Marshall Rogers. His Batman was similar to his Phantom, moody, heroic figures who looked plausible. Man I miss his work. He did probably the best drawn Captain Marvel, of that era.

    Animal Man is one I have mostly just sampled. I read the first trade, have the whole thing digitally; but, I’ve never been compelled to read the whole thing. Morrison is a very hit and miss writer for me. A large chunk of his work in this era strikes me as Alan Moore-lite . The rest struck me as Michael Moorcock-lite. Some of it grabs me, large chunks do not. I also think Warren Ellis is very Moore-lite; but, i find more of his stuff engaging. Animal Man is more in the “doesn’t grab me” camp. There’s nothing wrong with it and it tends to be a bit more unique than large swaths of his other work. I can’t really explain it, I just don’t respond to it. Invisibles was one I really wanted to like, as it was up my alley, yet I didn’t stick with it for more than about 6 months. On the other hand, I loved Steed and Mrs Peel, All-Star Superman, the first half of Zenith (before it started crossing dimensions) and bits of Batman.

    This story? pretty much like the Animal Man trade; good writing, just don’t connect to the story.

    Wow, after starting a new job and waiting all week to listen, I don’t have much to say. Maybe the apes will motivate me, next episode.

  11. My first wary step into podcasting was a short-lived YouTube static video series adapting my only slightly longer lived DC Bloodlines blog series Comic Reader Resume where I (and Anj, and Siskoid off on his own) chronicled a personal history of collecting from a presumed genesis point within the hobby. Mine started in 1981, but I recorded supplementary material on comics I had missed the first time for a gap podcast reworking of the YouTube material that I haven’t bothered to edit in at least a year and a half. Hopefully, the May 1980 cover-dated Wonder Woman #267 made it into that revision, or I’ll have to do another, because this was probably my first Amazing Amazon purchase and certainly my introduction to Animal Man via a dynamic Ross Andru cover with Jose Delbo interiors. It was a Gerry Conway two-parter that I never read the conclusion to and featured elements likely carried over from earlier issues, so meeting Buddy Baker and learning his origin was the most new reader friendly aspect of the comic. Animal Man’s back story wasn’t all that impressive, but his powers were amusing and I liked the design of his costume with its unique color scheme. He got filed away in the memory bank though, because I don’t think I saw him again until he got his own book around 1989. I want to say it was the debut issue sitting on the shelf of that comic shop, and I definitely picked up the gorgeous Brian Bolland cover. The interiors surely didn’t match by half, and it had an inflated direct market only cover price without offering any added content, so I decided against indulging a nostalgia purchase.

    I may have heard about how trippy Animal Man was at some point, but nobody I knew read or discussed the series, and it was after all the Wizard Age of Comics. I think it may have come up in a Grant Morrison interview where he was being insufferable while promoting something like Arkham Asylum or The Passion Play. I did finally give the book a trial run deep into the series related to Steve Pugh taking over the art chores, who I had loved on Grimjack and who still fascinates me to this day. I think I came on an issue late to a story arc, was completely lost in the Fincher-dark storyline, and gave up a few issues in. I kept them for a long time because of the pretty yet grisly art, but they contributed nothing to my Animal Man knowledge, since I think Buddy had been killed and dismembered before I’d arrived to the arc.

    Sometime in the mid-90s I bought some Morrison issues related to my Hawkman and later Martian Manhunter collecting, plus an interest in “The Coyote Gospel.” Those stories had cute punchline endings, but it felt like Animal Man was just a vehicle for the writer to tell stories, not a fleshed out character in his own right. I’ve read some more material since then, including issues from the New 52 relaunch, but nothing has ever moved the character past my primary interest in him as a barely notable super-hero exposure from early in my collecting days. That said, I’ve been sitting on three Animal Man trades for many years now, and once I start moving the DC Bloodlines Podcast forward and past focusing on just the New Bloods, I expect to tackle those issues. Morrison eventually won me over, and I hope Buddy Baker does too.

    The great thing about comic books, especially DC ones, is that there’s room for at least three different heroes whose powers derive from animal mimicry in their universe. B’wanna Beast is inherently ridiculous, and he made a bigger splash as comic relief in animation than he ever did in comics, so he should be the star of cheeky DC Nation shorts voiced by Weird Al Yankovic. B’wanna Beast is the kind of guy who should be able to flap his arms and squawk before taking flight like a goose, as Animal Man did in that Wonder Woman comic. B’wanna Beast should be the bridge between pure children’s fare and safer, lighter-hearted corners of the DCU. Vixen should be the oh-so-serious fanboy pleasing 100% straight super-heroine with the tragic backstory who represents for women and people of African descent in the Justice League. She can be a violent combatant with edgy dialogue that flirts with her teammates and sits squarely in the center of mainstream comics and their media adaptations. I also prefer Vixen stick with mammals, because it messes with her look and moves to fly like a bird and swim like a fish.

    Animal Man is an offbeat, adult oriented super-hero who can orbit these approaches while going off on his weird little way. He should be able to visit mainstream comics, but he shouldn’t live there. He should keep his wife and children safe and sound, but they can be imperiled sometimes and get stuck living in a shack in the outback while daddy is consulting an aboriginal medicine man. Animal Man seems like a good vehicle to collide comic book nonsense with real world consequences, but should also be free to explore the pure fantasy of the medium gratuitously with sophistication and humor. Animal Man should be like Concrete or Zot or Swamp Thing– an opportunity for creators to go on a personal journey largely unrestricted by genre and continuity while still being reasonably commercial and bound to preserving certain basics of the premise. He should live on the periphery, not for lack of appeal, but because that’s where the grown-ups get to have their conversations away from the noise of basic super-stories.

  12. Yeah yeah, late the party but I’m catching up on podcasts so deal with it. My only encounters with Man-Bat have been in animated form, but he’s never been a disappointment there. My first time seeing the character was actually the second animated appearance where it was Francine who was transforming, and I was immediately taken in by the character’s look.

    If you want an interesting alternate take on the character I would highly recommend the animated film Justice League: Gods & Monsters. It’s an Elseworlds style story where Superman is the son of Zod and was raised my migrant workers, Wonder Woman is one of the New Gods and Batman is Kirk Langstrom. It’s probably the best animated feature since they did New Frontier and I would argue the best animated DC film ever that isn’t a direct adaptation of an existing story. But beyond general greatness, it gives you a glimpse of a road that Man-Bat could be taken down in some form of reboot where he could work as an ongoing character.

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