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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Buddy Baker
Animal Man

Buddy Baker, better known as "Animal Man," is a DC Comics superhero. His religion can best be identified as "Animal Rights." He is an ardent believer in and activist for Animal Rights.

Buddy Baker was also the founder and leader of his own religious group, the "Church of Maxine," although the significance appears to have been forgotten or ignored in recent continuity.

Buddy Baker is not known to have identified himself as an adherent of any other religious group. There is no indication that Buddy Baker was raised in the Animal Rights movement. The religious upbringing or religious background of his childhood is unrevealed or unknown to us. Buddy Baker apparently gravitated to and eventually embraced Animal Rights after he obtained his animal-based powers.

In identifying Buddy Baker's religious affiliation as "Animal Rights," we are not saying that "animal rights is a religion." We are simply saying that, for Buddy Baker, Animal Rights is his religion.

The overwhelming people who support animal rights or believe in animal rights would not have their own religious affiliation or are not active in any religious group and would not be classified as followers of Animal Rights in any "religious" sense. In the real world, there are many individuals for whom Animal Rights is their religion (and Peter Singer is their prophet), but for the majority of animal rights supporters, the movement does not function as a religion. Buddy Baker is not part of this "majority" of people: he is a rare individual whose dedication to and belief in Animal Rights is so total that it is clearly his principle motivational philosophy, or his "ultimate concern" (i.e., his "religion").

Animal Rights is an extremely rare passion (or "religious affiliation") among comic book superheroes. The only other superhero we know of who shares this affiliation is Artemis, a member of the Shadow Cabinet, from Milestone Comics.

From: "Animal Man" page in "UK Superheroes" on "International Heroes" website (http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/a/animman.htm; viewed 10 July 2007):

Real Name: Bernhard Baker
First Appearance: Strange Adventures I #180 (DC, September 1965)

Powers/Abilities: Animal Man is able to mimic the powers of any animal he can think. He does this by tapping into "The Red" (a.k.a. the "Lifeweb" or the "porphogenetic field"), a kind of energy which is in contact with every animal that has ever lived on Earth. Thus he can even access the powers of extinct species. Theoretically he could even mimic creatures that have visited Earth from other planets, though he hasn't tried this yet...

He can also communicate and empathise with animals, allowing him to control them to a degree. He can even move his mind into an animal's body, which has been handy in keeping him alive in at least one case, when his human form was slain. This transfer can go the other way, sometimes overwhelming his human side with animal instincts.

History: Buddy Baker was a rebellious teenager, a punk rocker, who went hunting one afternoon in the Adirondack Mountains, and came back transformed into one of the most powerful superhumans on the Earth. For a long time Buddy believed he had encountered a crashing alien spaceship, and gained his powers from the explosion when it landed. Later he learned it might have been a powerful spell that mutated him, and the aliens were merely an hallucination. Or perhaps that's false, and it's something else. Buddy no longer knows.

However it happened, Buddy discovered he now had the ability to mimic the special powers of nearby animals. His best friend, Roger Denning, convinced him to create a costume and become a superhero, Animal Man. He had some minor success, but eventually he decided to retire and make a normal life. He married his high-school sweetheart Ellen, and they moved to San Diego, where they made a living as a stuntman and an illustrator respectively, and had a couple of children, Cliff and Maxine.

...He continued adventuring, mostly solo, but sometimes as part of the Justice League International. Partly because his powers gave him an empathy with animals, his activities took on a more radical, environmentalist stance - he worked with hunt saboteurs in England, stopped the slaughter of dolphins in the Faroe Islands, and worked with both Vixen and the Freedom Beast on separate missions against oppresive African governments. Gradually he came to discover that his powers were far greater than he had previously realised, and learned he didn't need to be near an animal to access its powers.

However his radical stance had its price. When his animal rights group started a fire in a laboratory, a fireman died trying to extinguish the blaze. Buddy reconsidered his actions, if not his beliefs, and tried to quit being a superhero. Then a large corporation, unaware he had quit, decided to threaten his family's lives, to make him stop. It might have worked... if they hadn't carried through their threat. With his family dead, Buddy teamed up with his old foe, the Mirror Master, and took a bloody revenge. His grasp on reality shaken, he was then exposed to the madness of the Psycho-Pirate, the only person who remembered a reality-altering Crisis of recent times. The Pirate's memories of the worlds that had been destroyed were bringing everything back to life, threatening to overload all existence. In stopping this second Crisis, Buddy set in motion a chain of events which led to history being once more re-written, and his family restored to him.

Since then Buddy has spent a time trapped in an alternate world where America was run by a fascist government, faced the Shining Man and discovered his daughter is an "Animal Master" like him, with powers of her own. He's died and survived within the bodies of other animals until he could get a new body, attacked Washington D.C. while controlled by animal instincts, and started his own cult, the Church of Maxine. He recently rejoined the Forgotten Heroes, who had reformed now that the Immortal Man was alive again, to battle Vandal Savage and the Millennium Creature.

Comments: Why is this guy, an American creation, in the UK section? Because the definitive version of him was created by Scottish writer Grant Morrison, and it is his take on the character which has become the one most people know.

From: Tom Knapp, "Animal Man" in Rambles: A Cultural Arts Magazine (http://www.rambles.net/morrison_animalman.html; viewed 25 April 2007):

I really liked Animal Man back when Grant Morrison took a third-rung hero out of the DC basement, brushed him off and made him someone worth reading about. I stuck with the series, even as it became progressively weirder and weirder, until its eventual cancellation... The Animal Man [trade paperback] book, which collects issues 1-9 of the Morrison series, reminds me why I enjoyed the title so much...

Animal Man is Buddy Baker, a suburban husband and father of two who gained "animal powers" when an alien spaceship blew up in his face. That means he can temporarily absorb the natural abilities of anything in his immediate vicinity, from the tracking nose of a bloodhound to the proportionate strength of a spider. That could make him a formidable character under the right circumstances, and with the right writer at the helm.

Morrison did a lot that was right with this series. Instead of giving us a hero who was a strange visitor from another planet, a billionaire playboy with endless resources at his disposal or a figure from mythology, he gives us a regular guy down the street. His wife is a sweetheart but can be a bit of a nag. His kids can be annoying. He has trouble paying the bills. So he decides to brush off his old costume and go back into heroing in a big way, hoping to be accepted into the Justice League and be a success. And to some extent, he achieves that goal, if only for a short time...

It's also true that Buddy is an avid animal rights activist, a posture which reflects, to some extent, Morrison's own. While it is a believeable trait for someone with animal powers, some readers may find his preaching to be a little heavy-handed. Some of the scenes of animal abuse, primarily in research laboratories, may be a little strong for some people...

Discussion

From: "Animal Man and Doom Patrol question" forum discussion, started 15 April 2007 on Z-Cult FM website (http://zcultfm.com/~comic/viewtopic.php?p=573639; viewed 7 June 2007):

OClvl3
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:55 am

Why is Morrison's run on Animal Man considered a "must read"? I see it all the time from comic fans, but I just don't understand it. I could barely make it through the first part of the series what with all the animal rights crap. I did finish it, but wasn't impressed at all. Not really a fan of Morrison anyway, everything I read by him is hit or miss and usually on the miss side of things. Just asking why most seem to think of it as a "must read" for serious comic fans.


myanonbox
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:33 am

I see it as a must read because it is very well done. The "animal rights crap" was a logical step for a character who is supposed have such a strong connection to animals, and wasn't often central to the stories. The themes addressed and the level of character development were all pretty groundbreaking for the time. The final storyline in particular stands out as being interesting.

You didn't care for the story? Fine. But it was a well told story, one of Morrison's first American works, and one of the founding titles of the Vertigo line...


tke494
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:37 am

Apparently being political like that was rare at the time. The politics felt fresh to me as a topic for a superhero comic. It was interesting to see a superhero be a political fanatic, though I'd kind of expect someone who has his powers to be one.

I'd guess the stuff Morrison did with the "fourth wall" would be the reason for it to be called a "must read". I think that was after the animal rights stuff, though.


davedoty
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 4:01 am

I don't think there's anything wrong with exploring animal rights in one series of the many, many series published. They are issues that some people are interested in, not to mention being close to the heart of the writer at that time. And the issues were handled very well. It wasn't just one-dimensional liberal preaching. It showed Buddy being inconsiderate to his family in assuming they would all turn vegetarian, getting sucked into Animal Liberation Front-style extremists, and caring more about animals than people (I'm thinking of the dolphin issue there).

It was a genuine exploration of the issues surrounding animal rights. It may not convince the reader, but I think anyone who writes it off as "that animal rights crap" only does so because he or she came in with a closed mind on the issues to start with.

The thing I like about Animal Man's fourth wall breaking that no one else (including Morrison) hasn't done since is that he didn't just right himself in, he wrote me (and any reader) in as well. And it was really me- no words in my mouth, no stereotyped assumptions about the gender, age, nationality, etc. of the reader. No matter who you are, you can enter the fictional world as a character. You're the one Buddy sees. You're the one the Psycho Pirate hates and wants to kill. You're the one Buddy saves in "Crisis II."

I'd recommend anyone who has read and liked it, reread it again and not just be impressed by the writing, but really insert yourself into the story as a character, just as much as Grant does.


OClvl3
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 7:15 am

myanonbox -- true it really is different strokes for different folks. Thanks for the input. I guess it also didn't help that I have never cared for the whole fourth wall breaking in fiction. I guess that kinda takes the wind outta the sails of the last arc. It just never works for me.

davedoty -- Thanks for pointing out my "closed minded"-ness. I'll try to work on that, I think they make a pill now. You are correct that the animal rights issues weren't presented as one-dimensional liberal preachings. I mean the examples that you gave aren't stereotypical examples of the animal rights movement or anything. All sarcasm aside I do understand that animal rights movement issues were very close to the heart at the time of writing Animal Man. If I remember correctly his parents were involved in early animal rights movement activities and such. I think that if he is as good a writer as everyone says that he could have done it without being so preachy. He may as well had Buddy stand on top of a soapbox each issue. Those first bunch of issues just rubbed me the wrong way. Probably didn't help that at the time I was in college and getting into it on the regular with members of PETA. Hm, maybe if I read it now it wouldn't get on my nerves nearly as much, but I won't subject myself to that.

Again different strokes.


tke494
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:17 pm

I didn't get the impression Morrison was being preachy. I got the impression Animal Man was being preachy. The difference was the things that davedoty noted. I found the difference very impressive--I can't stand reading sermons, even if I agree with them.


jccalhoun
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:31 pm

With Morrison's Animal Man he was tackling things that no other comic book really addresses. I can't think of any other series that has discussed vegetarianism or animal rights. If it was preachy he was preaching to a deaf ear. It didn't make me stop eating meat. It also had a superhero with a wife and kids that were more than window dressing. A hero with a family life. (Which just made it all the more irritating to see Buddy back in the DCU and his kids haven't aged a day.)


[http://zcultfm.com/~comic/viewtopic.php?t=63567&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15]

davedoty
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:53 pm

re: Thanks for pointing out my "closed minded"-ness. I'll try to work on that, I think they make a pill now.

Couldn't hurt.

re: You are correct that the animal rights issues weren't presented as one-dimensional liberal preachings. I mean the examples that you gave aren't stereotypical examples of the animal rights movement or anything.

There's nothing liberal about condemning the ALF, or showing how easy it is to get caught up in a cause and drift to the extremes without realizing what you're doing. And since PETA continue to endorse the ALF to this day, stereotype or not, it's a very real issue. If anything, it's gotten more vital since it's gone in the last decade plus from occassional incidents at research facilities to butchers having their windows smashed and similar things that can impact regular people.

re: I think that if he is as good a writer as everyone says that he could have done it without being so preachy. He may as well had Buddy stand on top of a soapbox each issue. Those first bunch of issues just rubbed me the wrong way.

Yes, he wrote a character who was very preachy and soapboxy. He also took him down a peg on more than one occassion. He also portrayed him as a pie-in-the-sky idealist whose wife constantly had to run behind him, keeping the family running after whatever new ridiculous thing he did to them. Yeah, Morrison clearly intended him to be a perfectly reliable proxy for The Truth.

re: Probably didn't help that at the time I was in college and getting into it on the regular with members of PETA. Hm, maybe if I read it now it wouldn't get on my nerves nearly as much, but I won't subject myself to that.

Well, if you acknowledge that your judgment might be impaired by the circumstances you were in when you read it back in college, but refuse to re-examine the issue, that's certainly not closed-mindedness.


lesterspiff
Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 3:55 pm

I'm always amazed that people want a diverse universe of characters, but generally don't want the characters to have a different lifestyle or different political views than they do. I love to know when a character has a "fundamental project" or a religious affiliation. I'll agree that preaching turns a comic quickly from entertainment to propaganda, but to be mad just because a character supports a cause you don't, especially when it's something that works so well with the concept of the character, just seems like a type of knee-jerk xenophobia.

From: Animal Man and Animal Rights discussion on LiveJournal website (http://community.livejournal.com/scans_daily/2892068.html; viewed 7 June 2007):

Thomas Wilde (stolisomancer) wrote in scans_daily,
@ 2007-01-19 14:25:00

Why, hello, Fandom Wank! I'm really embarrassed to be here! And kind of surprised!

Due to the mild discussion unfolding concerning Grant Morrison and Animal Man in the "Brokeback Mutant" post below, I thought it might be sensible to post the pages in question.

The context is, to put it bluntly, a little whack-a-ding-hoy. Animal Man began its run under Morrison as the travails of a left-winger turned B-list super hero and superhuman animal-rights activist.

At a little under the halfway point of his twenty-six-issue run, Morrison began to play fast and loose with the tropes of post-Crisis comic book writing, first retconning Buddy's origin in such a way that people would forget what was true or not from page to page (there's a scene in #11 or so where Buddy's wife forgets whether or not she and Buddy ever had children) and then conducting a series of events that pushed Buddy further and further into the '80s grim-and-gritty hero mindset.

Eventually, Buddy had to deal with the Psycho-Pirate, who was at the time the only character in the DCU who remembered the multiverse. Following a confrontation with the Crime Syndicate of America, who'd been erased from continuity at the time, Buddy wound up journeying into the frozen limbo where post-continuity characters lived, and eventually, confronting Grant Morrison himself.

All of this led up to the infamous Animal Man #26, "Deus Ex Machina," the relevant two pages from which follow:

Animal Man #26 page
Animal Man #26 page: breaking the fourth wall

teh_no's argument is that Morrison's viewpoint in these pages is, in fact, Morrison's viewpoint.

I believe it's more obvious, particularly in light of Morrison's later work (The Invisibles builds directly off of several themes in Animal Man; Morrison's hypothesis in Invisibles is that the human destruction of the environment is roughly akin to a caterpillar devouring its cocoon as part of its metamorphosis into a butterfly), that he's sending himself up here; he says these things to indicate that he's being "too preachy" and believes too strongly in the cause he's championing. It is, in short, the monologue of someone who believes he is wrong.

As for the moral value of the statements themselves, I think there's a valid point about animal cruelty buried within deliberately inflammatory rhetoric... which is, again, the point of the scene.

As I noted in the post below, the version of Morrison that appears in this story would go on to fight alongside the Suicide Squad during the War of the Gods crossover. He was promptly killed.


kamino_neko
2007-01-19 09:46 pm

Again, I'm not seeing what you're talking about. At all. Nothing about any of his later works contradicts anything about Animal Man.

In fact, when the same issues are hit - animal rights in We3, the whole deal with comic books he talks about in another part of this scene in Flex Mentallo - they agree with his stated attitudes in Animal Man, but...they're presented in less shrill, more subtle, more convincing, ways.


suzene
2007-01-19 09:48 pm

I thought We3 was pretty shrill and heavy-handed myself.


stolisomancer
2007-01-19 09:55 pm

Well, naturally. He's a better writer by the time We3 rolls around.

I'm mostly going off of Invisibles, which is still Morrison's seminal work. There, he talks, as I mention in the earlier post, about humanity as something that is worth saving because it has the capacity to evolve into greatness. That evolution is effectively what the protagonists--among them King Mob, a very thinly-veiled version of Morrison himself, to the point where Morrison notes that any time he injured King Mob in the first volume of Invisibles, Morrison's own health took a sharp decline--are fighting for. It's utopia vs. dystopia; youth culture vs. the entrenched status quo; humanity as a creative and divine force vs. humanity as a disease.

One of the characters discusses humanity's environmental destruction as absolutely necessary; it's the destruction and abandonment of the organs of birth. In short, if Morrison was a full-blown animal-rights loony in the mid-eighties when he was writing Animal Man, he's gotten over it by the early nineties when he starts Invisibles.

He may revisit the same themes from Animal Man that he uses in We3, but I need to reread that before I can participate in that part of the discussion. From what I remember, it wasn't so much animal rights as it was Bad Science and the consequences thereof.


kali921
2007-01-19 11:43 pm UTC

One can hold the rather bizarre belief that wholesale destruction of the environment is somehow a vital catalyst for human evolution and still believe in animal rights and object to cruelty to animals. I don't see anywhere in the Invisibles where Morrison embraces or fails to reject animal rights, although it's been a while since I've read it.

Also, LOL at your statement that animal rights people are loonies. Because generalizations are always so accurate.


stolisomancer
2007-01-20 12:27 am

You're misinterpreting what I said, although admittedly, I wrote it in such a way that lends itself to that misinterpretation.

I said that Morrison might have been a full-blown animal-rights loony while writing Animal Man, as he espouses the theory that humanity's shortsightedness and capacity for destruction removes any additional, inherent value that sentience and intelligence might grant to the species. While there's some wisdom in this, I believe that it's a dangerous perspective that can lead to logical fallacies.

I did not say that all animal-rights activists are loonies, as I discuss in my exchange with teh_no below.

After Animal Man, Morrison then runs off and has his confrontation with the Gnostic Christ in Nepal, as he discusses in the letter columns of Invisibles, and comes out of it with the environment-as-crysalis theory that plays such a large role in the first volume. He goes from the moping, grieving cat owner shown in Animal Man, who believes human intelligence is an oxymoron, to Gideon Stargrave, interdimensional gunslinging crusader for the fulfillment of human potential.

There's a paradigmatic shift there that indicates that either Morrison was talking out of his ass for the sake of his point in Animal Man #26, or the acid trip that served as the inspiration for Invisibles was even more important in his life, writing, and outlook than even he lets on.


slarti
2007-01-20 01:03 am

re: There, he talks, as I mention in the earlier post, about humanity as something that is worth saving because it has the capacity to evolve into greatness.

A form of this stance/belief also shows itself in the final issue of the second "Swamp Thing" series (written by Millar, but Morrison had had involvement in the arc-plot running through Millar's run, even so far as co-writing the first storyline). The Swamp Thing, having achieved a unification of all the elements' power, as part of his intent to wipe the world clean because of humanity's cruelty and destruction, but once he achieves the full power to do so -- becoming the elemental of the whole Earth in the process -- he finds he can't do it because he sees the capacity for goodness and greatness even in the worst of humanity, and instead chooses to work to make the people of the world eventually realize that potential, and reach for the stars.


glamtasm
2007-01-19 08:59 pm

Morrison explores many of the same concepts, albeit in a different was, in his recent series WE3, which had me in tears by its end.

In my opinion, in this Animal Man monologue, he was expressing his beliefs, as well as his concerns as a writer of how they would be perceived and responded to by the reading public. I suspect it's the same with many who have strong beliefs and incorporate them into their art: "Am I getting through, does this make a difference, or do I just sound preachy and people's eyes glaze over?"


teh_no
2007-01-19 09:16 pm

A few points.

1. Man's intelligence does make him special. It's unfair to focus on "MANKIND IS DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT!!!!" without also mentioning man's capacity for compassion, art, love, and yes, writing comic books. You might call it the soul. But accentuating the negative isn't proof of a philosophical viewpoint, it's just whiny and emo. And hiding your viewpoints behind a character who, oh look at that, can't defend them very well (because that's CHARACTERIZATION!) is just plain cowardly.

2. Animals don't do these things for the very simple reason that they don't have the CAPACITY to do them. Remember that episode of The Simpsons where the bullfrogs take over Australia? That's how nature works. Animals don't live in harmony with nature, no species does. They strive for dominance, always. That's what evolution is all about. Every year it seems like there's a pandemic of animals overtaking nature. Snakehead fish, raccoons, killer bees, fire ants, and so on. Dolphins rape each other (which makes it really awkward whenever I see a comic book deifying the wise, mysterious dolphin). Many species will kill young that isn't their own, simply because it isn't their own. So to single out humanity for evil seems to be saying "We should know better," which definitely implies a greater intrinsic worth to our life. Otherwise, you're saying "We should act better than animals, even though we're no better than animals." Which is downright hypocritical.

3. Admitting you're being preachy and then going on to preach some more doesn't make you any less annoying, it just makes you self-aware. Actually, it makes you more annoying, since you know you're being annoying and you go on with the behavior anyway.

Also, when an author inserts himself into a story and says "This is what I believe," I kinda take it at face value that they're describing what they believe. No offense, but saying "No, no, he doesn't REALLY believe that, he's just sending himself up!" is kinda like Miller fans who say that Frank Miller isn't writing All-Star Batman and Robin crappy, he's just "sending up" his other Batman work.


stolisomancer
2007-01-19 09:48 pm

A few counterpoints, then.

1. If nothing else, this is the antithesis of that argument. He's not hiding the argument; he's coming out from behind the character and writing himself as saying these things, in a comic book published by one of the two largest publishers of the medium in the world. That's hardly cowardly. It may be a largely Socratic dialogue, but it's not cowardly.

Further, you cannot counteract a discussion of animal cruelty or environmental destruction by bringing up man's additional capacities for art, love, and compassion. They're largely irrelevant to the process. It's like me punching you in the face, then trying to win your forgiveness by showing you my portfolio or photos of my children. I may be the greatest artist to ever set ink to paper, but I just punched you in the goddamn face. My positive qualities do not mitigate my negative actions.

2. The discussion of animal cruelty is not the same as animal dominance. Animals may strive to become the dominant species in their environment by any means necessary, but the entire point of it being referred to as animal cruelty by humankind is that it's largely pointless. At best, it's causing deaths to animals simply because they happen to be in the way; at worst, it's killing them not for food, clothing, tools, or survival, but because it's amusing.

This doesn't excuse the radical fringe of the animal-rights movement, of course. I'm not sitting here operating on the assumption that animals are basically sentient beings operating on another wavelength. The sensible part of the animal cruelty discussion is an exhortation by one segment of humanity to ask another segment of humanity to stop being short-sighted assholes, and that's something that anyone can agree on.

The radical fringe notion, on the other hand, as per what Morrison is saying here, is that we should know better, but we don't. If we did know better, that might be enough to imply a greater intrinsic worth, but we don't.

I'm not a particularly large proponent of that view, although in my darker moments, I can see the sense of it. I can, however, see the logical fallacy in your statement, and express it as such.

3. My point is that given Morrison's later work and the context surrounding this particular conversation, you're taking this conversation too literally. He even says outright that he feels too strongly on the subject and is too prone to ranting about it, then reels off a spiel of inflammatory nonsense.

(It's also worthy of note that Morrison has written himself as acting extremely depressed throughout the entire issue; Buddy and his superheroic antagonists/counterparts are the only things in color, and everything else is in gray. As vrbtm points out, Morrison opens the issue by saying his cat's died a stupid, cruel death, and he spends the rest of the issue being stupid, capricious and cruel towards Buddy.)

Further, here and elsewhere, you're posting that this statement has forever degraded Morrison in your eyes. Thus, it's more than relevant to point out that future work by the same writer indicates that he may still hold these beliefs, but the beliefs have evolved over the course of time. In short, you're holding old statements against him.


teh_no
2007-01-19 10:05 pm

re: If nothing else, this is the antithesis of that argument. He's not hiding the argument; he's coming out from behind the character and writing himself as saying these things, in a comic book published by one of the two largest publishers of the medium in the world.

But you're saying he's doing this in a self-effacing manner. In other words, "don't take me seriously, folks, I'm just kidding around! But seriously, animal cruelty is wrong."

re: Further, you cannot counteract a discussion of animal cruelty or environmental destruction by bringing up man's additional capacities for art, love, and compassion. They're largely irrelevant to the process.

Isn't it just as easy to say why bring up animal cruelty or environmental destruction, as they're largely irrelevant to the process of love, art, and compassion? You can't have one without the other. Man's capacity for good is also a capacity for evil and vice versi.

re: Animals may strive to become the dominant species in their environment by any means necessary, but the entire point of it being referred to as animal cruelty by humankind is that it's largely pointless.

And yet Morrison said that a lab rat has just as much worth as a child with leukemia. Are you saying that curing leukemia, if done through animal experimentation, is largely pointless?

re: Further, here and elsewhere, you're posting that this statement has forever degraded Morrison in your eyes.

I wouldn't say that. I would say that this work, as presented, make me say "Hey, he's being an idiot." But it sounds a lot like you're saying "Well, yes, he is being an idiot, but he got better!" In which case I have no idea what we're arguing about, as we both agree that this is a case of Morrison being an idiot and whether or not he stops being an idiot is beyond the scope of the discussion.


stolisomancer
2007-01-19 10:24 pm

re: And yet Morrison said that a lab rat has just as much worth as a child with leukemia. Are you saying that curing leukemia, if done through animal experimentation, is largely pointless?

He said that the two forms of life have an equal intrinsic right to exist, yeah. I could go either way on that one, and probably would swing hard to the anti-leukemia portion of the program.

I'm not discussing animal cruelty. As I say below, I'm discussing the relative complexity of the story and how I think you're underselling it.

re: Isn't it just as easy to say why bring up animal cruelty or environmental destruction, as they're largely irrelevant to the process of love, art, and compassion? You can't have one without the other. Man's capacity for good is also a capacity for evil and vice versa.

If we were discussing the humanity and right to exist of the people conducting environmental destruction, that'd be one thing, but we're talking about the intrinsic intelligence and moral value of the act itself. The fact that humans are capable of great things doesn't make it any less stupid when they do evil things... and further, the capability for rare acts of greatness doesn't excuse widespread acts of petty cruelty.

re: I wouldn't say that. I would say that this work, as presented, make me say "Hey, he's being an idiot." But it sounds a lot like you're saying "Well, yes, he is being an idiot, but he got better!" In which case I have no idea what we're arguing about, as we both agree that this is a case of Morrison being an idiot and whether or not he stops being an idiot is beyond the scope of the discussion.

My point in this argument has actually evolved to some degree over the course of my presenting it, which is a problem. I apologize for the inconsistency.

You seemed to be rejecting the issue as a whole because of what I perceived to be a faulty view of his point; I believe there's more going on there than you're seeing, and thus, you're doing a disservice to the story.


teh_no
2007-01-19 10:37 pm

I see Morrison as saying "I'm right and people who don't think the way I think are wrong." Now, he's gussying it up with a lot of writerly tricks, but the point is all about Morrison and his beliefs on animal rights (and his great lake of emo man-pain over how his cat died, which is pretty damn self-indulgent for a comic book about Animal Man). Also, I'm thinking that it's pretty hypocritical for Morrison to make a lot of noise over how wrong it is to have darkness in comics, present shrill soapbox preaching, etc... while engaging in all those things himself. To paraphrase a well-known... phrase, writing Animal Man about how preachiness and darkness is wrong is like [having sex] for virginity.

For instance, recently there was a big debate over how Chuck Dixon said he didn't like "issue storytelling" in comics, which people didn't like because he had written a teen pregnancy storyline that came off to a lot of people as issue storytelling. Which led to a lot and a LOT of cries of hypocrite (and homophobe, but that's another issue entirely).

So, how is it any LESS hypocritical for Grant Morrison to say he doesn't like darkness and preachiness in comics, then write all about darkness and preachiness in comics? He's basically just trying to have his cake and eat it too. All the drama of killing Buddy's family, with a reset button cloaked in metafictional trappings. All the angst of Buddy becoming a murderer, with everything returned to status quo in the end. All the joy of condemning behavior you don't like while still engaging in it. And then, ironically, you have all the complaints about how Morrison's work on New X-Men was erased.


stolisomancer
2007-01-20 12:17 am

I think there's a perceptual difference of opinion here.

You see this particular arc, and this particular issue, as self-indulgent soapboxing that skirts the edge of hypocrisy.

I see it as an exploration of how the writer's world affects that of the creation's, whereas he's forcing a character who's completely ill-suited to "dark, gritty, realistic" superhero stories to fit into that particular mold. In some ways, it reads as an indictment of what was then the modern-day trending in the industry; in others, as an apology to both the character and the readers.

Besides, Morrison doesn't write nonstop darkness and preachiness. The final arc of Animal Man was your basic hero's journey, with Animal Man as the agent of Morrison's perspective fighting an overmuscled, insane killer that, read in the modern day, resembles several different takes on Superman. Before that, Morrison wrote Animal Man as a bizarre sort of anti-hero, who often chose to resolve problems through trickery or dialogue rather than outright violence. (There's a great issue where Buddy basically talks the Time Commander down, instead of attacking him like the rest of the JLI did.)

At this point, I suppose we're just discussing contrasting views more than anything else, but I still think your view of the comic and the story it's trying to tell is a bit superficial. There's a lot going on there. By the same token, though, I freely admit I could be overanalytical.


amurana
2007-01-21 06:25 am

I'm not saying my stance on the issues, I'm not getting into anything, I'm not even fully reading everything, I just want to respond to one thing.

"At best, it's causing deaths to animals simply because they happen to be in the way; at worst, it's killing them not for food, clothing, tools, or survival, but because it's amusing."

Have you ever owned a cat? There are animals that will kill things because they're there. For practice, for fun, whatever. Most of mankind's habits can be found in nature as well, which constantly seems to surprise people. Do you know the number of people who preach till their red in the face about homosexuality being a sick human kink, unnatural in the eyes of God? They're not animal specialists, I'll tell you that.

Humans have the worst (or best, depending on how you read the sentence) capability for cruelty, yes. That is true. There are deranged people that do horrible things to creepy limits. But animals do actually have some disturbing habits of their own, and if they were more evolved then most likely they would be more disturbing. Like us.

Hopefully that stayed in the middle enough to not pull me in! Eep! I had to rewrite quite a few things to keep my own opinions on everything out, because I'm pretty in the middle anyway. ^_^ Black and White is a figment of imagination when it comes to "nature" and "morality". Anthropology, Science, heck... the discovery channel can teach us that.


stolisomancer
2007-01-21 06:34 am

YOU UNBELIEVABLY [OBSCENE GERUND] [EQUALLY OBSCENE NOUN], HOW DARE YOU--

I have not owned a cat. I am allergic. Your point is still well-made, though.

My discussion of animal cruelty was honestly a sideline to the main thrust of the debate, which was that I thought teh_no here was selling the scene short. I don't see any need to perpetuate it, although it's interesting in its own right; it seems to have turned into "we should know better" vs. "we clearly don't."


amurana
2007-01-21 02:02 pm

OH YEAH?!

Oh. Yeah. heehee. I didn't want to perpetuate anything either, this has already been wanked so there's no reason to. I don't really know why I wanted to defend the wackiness of nature, I guess after seeing so very many comments about what animals do and don't do I wanted to throw a word in for chaos.

My hubby's allergic and owns two. Silly man! He has to take allergy pills constantly or else he swells up! I think he just likes living dangerously, without all that "xtreeme" stuff. Cats are twisted. And so soft! Such adorable little killing machines. Like Deadpool!


hyperactivator
2007-01-19 09:53 pm

Agreed. I garden. Even plants are looking out only for themselves and their genetic relations. To put another animal at the same level as your on kind is alot like madness.

However the fact that we are able to feel empathy for other life is evidence to our difference if nothing else.

Wasn't this suposed to be a super-hero comic? If he wanted to do somthing else he should have done it. This feels just wrong.


stolisomancer
2007-01-19 10:05 pm

It is a superhero comic, but it's also Morrison mocking the '80s trend towards superheroic "realism" through the use of one of his pet themes: fourth-wall breakage. It's not subtle, but it is unique, and if you read the issues coming up to this one, it's really the only way this particular story could have ended.


khamelea
2007-01-19 10:28 pm

"Otherwise, you're saying 'We should act better than animals, even though we're no better than animals.' Which is downright hypocritical."

The reverse statement, which is more often used, is also downright hypocritical.


teh_no
2007-01-19 11:17

Of course, that all depends on what you define as animalistic behavior.


kali921
2007-01-19 11:48 pm

Individual members of a non-human species exhibiting behaviors to ensure that their genome remains on the planet =/= cruelty, when the dominant contemporary meaning of cruelty is enjoyment in the infliction of pain and suffering on others.

That is probably the wholesale stupidest parallel I have ever seen drawn on the animal cruelty issue. There is no logical connection. At all.


teh_no
2007-01-20 12:04 am

re: when the dominant contemporary meaning of cruelty is enjoyment in the infliction of pain and suffering on others.

By that definition, animal experimentation of any sort doesn't count as cruelty, unless you're saying that all scientists are sadists.


kali921
2007-01-20 12:07 am

No, that falls under the category of "willfully imposing pain and suffering," thus it counts as cruelty. That's the OTHER dominant definition of the word.

Wow, you're really getting off on wanking about your anti-animal rights stance, aren't you?


teh_no
2007-01-20 02:23 am

Very well, let's wade into it. Morrison is saying (blanket statement) that because of some people's badness, all of humanity should be condemned. A child, tabula rusa, has no inherent quality that makes it superior to a rat. Which means that, according to Morrison, a species should be judged as a whole for the actions of a few. Which means I'm totally justified in, say, kicking every dog I see just because I've heard about dogs that have killed children.

Also, I'm wondering where the cut-off point is. A child = Lab rat. Which means it would be no more right to kill a rat for food than it would be to kill a child for food. But if killing a rat is wrong, then surely killing a cockroach would be wrong as well. What, just because a roach isn't as furry as a rat means it doesn't have an intrinsic right to life? Or a fly. An ant. Wait, I forgot, destroying forests is bad too. That means that killing trees is bad, but plucking fruit and vegetables is A-OK (despite milking cows being bad). So trees and lab rats are off-limits, but apples and stuff is okay. Maybe not. Maybe we should draw the line a little further. Nothing but stuff that can be prepared without any organic life being destroyed. Water and bread!

But wait! Bread is made out of yeast! Yeast is bacteria! In fact, every day you're alive your immune system is killing trillions of germs, all of which must have an intrinsic right to life. So you tell me, where is the line drawn? How come I'm allowed to swat a fly but not slaughter a cow for meat? What life has an intrinsic right to life and what life doesn't? And, most importantly, who said you, someone with no more intrinsic right to life than a lab rat, could decide who lives or dies?

P.S. You're picking a fight with me because I insulted Hawkeye, a fictional superhero. Fail.

P.P.S. And you're comparing Grant Morrison, who writes comic books to spread a message that was given to him when he was abducted by aliens in Katmandu, to Swift et al. Megafail.


xakyrie
2007-01-20 02:20 am

In point 2, you're putting an argument in Morrison's mouth so that you can contradict it.

"So to single out humanity for evil seems to be saying "We should know better," which definitely implies a greater intrinsic worth to our life. Otherwise, you're saying "We should act better than animals, even though we're no better than animals." Which is downright hypocritical."

But he didn't actually say that. He doesn't say that man should know better. He says that man is not intelligent. He only says that the only moral ground man has to exploit animals is man's power. Might makes right.

You've concocted the hypocritical statement by excessively extrapolating.

"We should act better than animals" is exactly not what he is saying, because he is asserting that humans are not intelligent. He brings up intelligence because it is often cited as that which morally separates man from non-man, and he only offers an example of human misdeed to demonstrate that humans do not meet his arbitrary "intelligence" threshold. He is saying that, since humans do not meet this standard, (their status trumped by their perhaps ultimately self-destructive tendencies) they do not qualify for moral privilege.

Now, you could try to argue with this, but you'll find that the whole thing's futile, at least as far as logical or factual arguments go (unless you want to argue that his presumed facts on environmental damage are wrong).

You'd have to try to convince Morrison that his standard of "intelligence" is off, that you have a better standard for him to accept, but it's all arbitrary value judgments that have no correct answer. No intrinsic answer.

Even if you came to agree on a standard of intelligence, and that humans meet it, you would then have to agree that intelligence is actually a property that grants the moral superiority to exploit others. Yes, man is smarter than other creatures, but is that enough for man to comfortably morally justify exploiting other creatures? ("Man's intelligence does make him special," you say, but just how special?)

A fun thought experiment is imagining a species way smarter than us coming by spaceship or something (a more compassionate, artful, loving (of itself, apparently) species that makes better comics even) deciding that we are not smart enough to not be exploited.

Basically, it's a bunch of arbitrary. It's a value disagreement, and you're on the opposite side of Morrison, which prompts you to respond negatively to his perspective.

There's a desperation for some kind of logical argument, but there's nothing to find. You can be persuasive, (perhaps by appealing to common experience and human nature) but you can't be objectively convincing. There's only one rule that will, in the end, give anyone the final say. Might makes right.


teh_no
2007-01-20 02:25 am

His argument implies that, were man not destroying the environment, man could be considered intelligent. That definitely seems like a value judgment to me.


xakyrie
2007-01-20 02:41 am

Your logical fallacy here is denying the antecedent. Basically, you're assuming that he just has one piece of evidence to not permit man getting the "intelligent" status. He could easily have more evidence.

In any case, I'm not sure how that responds to what I said, though. Yes, Morrison is making value judgments. Seems that way to me too.


teh_no
2007-01-20 02:47 am

And I could easily have more evidence that man IS intelligent. And you can't base arguments on evidence that no one will present.

But let's delve a little deeper. First, a supposition: Individuals perceive things individually, subjectively. We from Einstein that time is relative. If I'm bored, time might seem to pass slower for me, while if you're happy, time might seem to fly by.

So you're arguing that man is not intelligent. I'm arguing that man is. Let's assume that you're not just playing devil's advocate and you truly believe man is unintelligent. Well, you can hardly expect an unintelligent creature from making an intelligent argument, can you? You wouldn't have a cat write your dissertation.

I, on the other hand, am arguing from the position that man is an intelligent "animal." We're each arguing from a subjective position, you representing yourself as unintelligent and I representing myself as intelligent (unless you're claiming to be nonhuman). Therefore, you're making an unintelligent argument while I'm making an intelligent one.

It's hardly worth getting into specifics. By claiming that man is not an intelligent species, you're ipso facto saying that your argument is unintelligent. Intelligent argument trumps unintelligent argument. You lose before you begin.


xakyrie
2007-01-20 02:56 am

But you're assuming that one's perspective creates the objective reality about one's self only. That subjective viewpoint extends to everything. If it were the opposite (one's perspective only creates the objective reality about others) then you'd be the one with the unintelligent argument (because I deem you that way) and I'd be the one with the intelligent argument (because you deem me that way). Awesome!

To be consistent, from your point of view we are both making intelligent arguments. From mine, we are both making long-winded, stupid arguments about insignificant minutae! (Others would probably agree with the latter.)

To get back to a less silly point, you say, "And I could easily have more evidence that man IS intelligent. And you can't base arguments on evidence that no one will present." That's not what Morrison is saying, though. He is saying that man's treatment of the environment simply trumps other evidence. Man cannot be intelligent if he does this.

And anyway, you're not paying attention to what I said in my first response. More evidence doesn't matter because you have different standards of intelligence that you'd need to agree on, and coming to an agreement on that cannot be done through logical arguments that lead to objective conclusions. You'd have just have to be convincing enough to make Morrison swing his values to yours.


teh_no
2007-01-20 03:14 am

No, I'm paying attention. What you're saying is that Morrison is using an arbitrary standard of intelligence based on man's treatment of the environment (which, in turn, is based on the idea that the above is "badly"). My standard of intelligence, arbitrary as it is, would probably look a little more like "I think, therefore I am" or something along those lines.

Now, why should my standard of intelligence be better than Morrison's? For one thing, I never claimed to be able to use chaos magic, or tried to sell a comic book through group masturbation, or claimed to have been abducted by aliens.


xakyrie
2007-01-20 02:47 am

The important part is that he deems man not smart enough to have morally intrinsic superiority over non-man such that it justifies exploitation. (if he even would accept that intelligence could provide that) Exactly what level of smarts man needs are not stated, and, you know, arbitrarily based upon whatever values Morrison has.


teh_no
2007-01-19 09:22 pm

And it's go a long way towards convincing me that Morrison thought he was wrong if he didn't follow this up with a plea for the reader to donate to PETA. And yes, it could be that The Invisibles contradicts this with Morrison stepping into the story to vividly describe how he enjoyed a steak this one time. But I'm judging the work on its individual merits, not as it related to someone else he wrote or will write or might write or is intending to write.

I will admit that WE3 did a much better job of sending out the same message, although it fell into the common animal rights cheat of anthromorphizing the animals.


stolisomancer
2007-01-19 10:08 pm

If you're going to judge the work on its individual merits, then go back and reread the issue. As noted above, Morrison spends the entire issue being stupid, capricious, and cruel towards Buddy, for no other reason than because he can. He is, in short, the villain of the piece here.


teh_no
2007-01-19 10:28 pm

In which case he's using his viewpoint character to make a borderline ad hominem attack on people who don't share his beliefs on animal rights. It's just a subtle reinforcement on the standard PETA boilerplate that he's spewing.

stolisomancer
2007-01-19 10:33 pm

...while he's simultaneously torturing Buddy because he's there and because it's "realistic." He's undercutting his own argument by dint of being someone who no one would want to agree with.

I'm also not seeing the ad hominem here. An ad hominem attack would be him saying "Meat-eaters are assholes" or some similar issue.


likeadeuce
2007-01-19 09:35 pm

Thanks for providing the post with context.

It doesn't do a bit to change my view that Grant Morrison has written a lot of crappy comics, and that this self-insertion is fairly lame and self-indulgent, but at least I've now seen the infamous pages.

I'm also wondering about Grant's position on rat poison, but I probably don't want to break my brain thinking about that.


frimfram
2007-01-19 10:13 pm

I think this is Morrison talking about the inadequacy of soapbox comic book writing. You can use a title to grind whatever axe comes to hand easiest, but in doing so you destroy some of the authenticity of the story - you sell the character short. 'Morrison' here's almost in black and white, less substantial than Animal Man - it's ironic, but it's poignant too. And he's indifferent to Animal Man's 'What about my family' stuff - making him, in context, kind of an arsehole.

This kind of meta-writing is the ultimate navel-gaze, and he's acknowledging it as such. He ignores Animal Man as a character, with relationships and concerns of his own, because he's only in it to push his own agenda. And even while acknowledging that he's bothered about the consequences of that kind of soapbox writing, he's perpetrating those consequences. Failing to engage the character as a 'real person' and failing to do justice by him as anything other than a means to serve his agenda...

From: "Religions of super heroes" forum discussion page started 14 August 2006 on "Wizard Universe" website (http://wizarduniverse.invisionzone.com/lofiversion/index.php/t1595.html; viewed 25 April 2007):

raven1
Aug 14 2006, 06:17 PM

...Since when is Communist, Liberal Marxist, "fair play", animal rights, mildly feminist, Alcoholics Anonymous, pro-abortion activist, Nazi, obsession with duality, and hates Spider-Man a religion???

From: comments to "Comic Book Heroes Faith-by-Faith" post on "Give Me a Pony" blog website, 21 June 2006 (http://givemeapony.blogspot.com/2006/06/comic-book-heroes-faith-by-faith.html; viewed 25 April 2007):

Annie said...

It's an interesting undertaking, but when you really start digging into the complete list (at http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html) and are a supercollossal dork with an entire room devoted to comics, you see lots of flaws... and a few are flat-out wrong or bizarre:

...Also, they've invented a few weird new sects for the list, such as "Cajun Catholic", and list things like "GLBT", "animal rights" "mildly feminist" (!), and my favorite, "Hates Spider-Man", as religious affiliations...

From: "There Are No Lions Here", posted 15 October 2006 on "Pretty, Fizzy Paradise" blog website (http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/10/there-are-no-lions-here.html; viewed 30 May 2007):

[Reader comments:]

At 5:40 PM, Matt T. said:

...That Adherents site is nifty, but there's some hinky aspects to it... The site also gives Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) the label "feminist, Alcoholics Anonymous" and Animal Man (Buddy Baker) as "animal rights", none of which are religions (regardless of how occasionally heavy handed Morrison was with that whole bit). That's just... off to me, for some reason, like the site's owners didn't bother to do more research into the labels and just figured if they're passionate about a certain aspect of politics - feminism, animal rights, social justice - it's the same thing as being a Catholic or a Baptist. Just came off as lazy to me.

From: "Ask an Atheist!" forum discussion, started 9 June 2006 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-128514-p-5.html; viewed 30 May 2007):

shadowraven
06-21-2006, 10:13 AM

...http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html ["Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" website]...


Wesley Dodds
06-21-2006, 10:28 AM

That page is nuts. Animal rights a religion? "Scientism"? Fundamentalist environmentalist?


Mike Smash!
06-21-2006, 10:33 AM

Yeah, some of them are really bad. "Communist" is also not a religion, but an ideology and an economic system.

But some of the individual pages are fairly decent in distinct examples of certain characters expressing their beliefs. Sometimes with pictures.

From: "Religion of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 29 March 2006 on AllSpark.com website (http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4168; viewed 1 June 2007):

Speedbreaker
post Mar 29 2006, 08:38 AM

I found this great resource entirely by accident:
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html


Spark
post Mar 13 2007, 06:17 PM

...The Question and Rorschach, Objectivist. Heh...


Thylacine2000
post Mar 14 2007, 10:31 AM

I would not consider Objectivism to be a religion, not unless it's specifically cult-of-personality Randianism.

Environmentalism is definitely not a religion (Ra's al Ghul), and neither is animal rights (Animal Man).


Spermbank Zodberg
post Mar 14 2007, 07:46 PM

The site does enjoy confusing "religion" with "driving ideology".

From: "Vegetarian Superheroes" forum discussion, started 18 March 2005 in Brian Michael Bendis section of "Jinxworld" website (http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/archive/index.php/t-231.html; viewed 31 July 2007):

03-18-2005, 01:01 PM
So... out of curiousity are there vegetarian superheroes? I'm not talking about supporting characters, but the actual heroes who wear tights and a cape. And are any of them vegan?


Rob_Ellis
03-18-2005, 01:03 PM

Morrison's Animal Man. Which makes total sense.

And how often can you say that about anything Morrison has written lately?


Bill
03-18-2005, 01:09 PM

Aquaman. Oh, and Animal Man.


changingshades
10-31-2006, 02:01 PM<,/P>

Animal Man is the biggest I can think of.


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