A First Time For Everything: Animal Man

Animal_Man_0003The very first time I heard of Animal Man was in Crisis of Infinite Earths. He was in something on the order of 4 pages, crammed into panels and just being this dude named Animal Man. That was it.

Oddly it was enough. The name! The name did it for me. Animal Man. He had animal powers, that much was clear. Spider-Man had the powers of a spider, but Batman wasn’t at all bat powered. So either Animal Man had the powers of all animals or he dressed up like different animals to scare people.

Now, based on his costume I leaned toward the whole powers thing, but had to admit that orange was kinda scary. Just not in a “cowardly and superstitious lot” sort of way. More in a “also he directs traffic” way.

But like I said it was enough for me to be interested. There’s a bunch of characters I met in Crisis that I hunted down as they showed up Animal_Man_1after – Dolphin, Blue Beetle, Human Bomb… all right that may be it. Though probably not. I was just getting into DC right before Crisis, which was a strange time to really get into it, but that’s the way it shakes out.

So when issue one of Animal Man’s series eventually came out, I was all primed for it. And Grant Morrison started what is still one of my favorite comic runs of all time.

Also he added a jacket to the mix and this was right when all super heroes were required to wear jackets for reasons that escape me. Some how only one of two managed to not look like giant tools with their jackets. Animal Man was in that non-tool camp.

As a side note: people seem to love drawing him running at the reader. I don’t get it either.

This is a post in “A First Time For Everything” wherein I look at my first reactions to comic book characters that have been suggested by YOU. You can go here to suggest characters for me to discuss, and to see the master list of who I’ve talked about so far.

A First Time For Everything: Dick Grayson

newteentitanspreview
The first time I really met Dick Grayson? Well that wasn’t a Batman comic. Look, I had read Batman comics. And there was Robin, and I guess he was Dick Grayson but it didn’t really stick. It was Batman, it was Robin, and that was that. But then I caught, in the back of another book – I think it was DC Comics Presents – around 1980 (I read it a bit later), a preview for another book.

The New Teen Titans.
Untitled-1There was Robin, but without Batman. Suddenly he became his own character to me. This was a guy who was supposed to be awesome and in charge and wearing those booties. Well, all right. This was Dick Grayson. And it was that preview that introduced me to Dick Grayson.

He was commanding, undaunted and yet all too human. He didn’t feel like Batman-lite, though I sort of expected him to. He felt like… Batman rethought, if that makes sense. he could tell the cops what to do, lead a group where he had some established relationships but never be as dark as Batman.
Robin-to-Nightwing-by-George-Perez
Don’t get me wrong, Batman was amazing, but this concept of New Batman struck a deeper chord. This was, in the space of a 16 page preview bursting with story, a character I would grow to love. I truly feel that more than Batman or Superman Dick Grayson and Wally West were the core of the old DC Continuity.

And for me, personally, that started with the Titans.

This is a post in “A First Time For Everything” wherein I look at my first reactions to comic book characters that have been suggested by YOU. You can go here to suggest characters for me to discuss, and to see the master list of who I’ve talked about so far.

A First Time For Everything: Cannonball

19522-3144-21793-1-marvel-graphic-novel_superMarvel Graphic Novel #4. 1982. New Mutants. It was the first time any of us saw Cannonball, and I was included in that group. Man, I remember reading that book when it came out and being so amazed.

See I grew up reading Lee/Kirby X-Men and then suddenly shifted, thanks to time and my father, to Claremont X-Men. I was upset at characters like Storm and Wolverine because they weren’t “The X-Men” they were these upstart figures in costumes that didn’t even match! It took a while to get over it. But just as I was, the New Mutants came along. It changed everything, mutant-wise, for me. Suddenly these were the characters for me. They were young, like the X-Men I loved most, and awkward and learning and wore team uniforms. They were, more than Banshee, Wolverine and so on, the heirs to the X-Men for me.

So there were a bunch of new characters to get into but two really stood out to my eye. One was Dani Moonstar. Always dug her character. The other was Sam Guthrie. Sam was all at once Peter Parker and Scott Summers. But he wasn’t Cyclops or Spider-Man. That was the draw, for me.

Here was an awkward teen who didn’t yet have a front to hide behind, or the sureness in himself to take charge. But he had all the potential to get there. He was almost a proto-Marvel character. We normally only saw them a bit later on, a bit fuller formed, but here was Sam, needing to grow into the character he would become.

He was gangly and shy and his powers… oh his powers.cannonballNM

See, he could turn on this “blasting field” and fly. Except he made a really loud racket and couldn’t turn while using his power. I adored it. Such great downsides to his powers and so perfect for this shy teen to cope with. He uses his powers he can’t be a wall flower, he has to be in your face with that huge rumble. He can’t change direction or slink back into shadow. If he comes at you – he comes at you.

And he sees the other kids in his class, Roberto, say, who is all charm and sleek powers (with their own great drawback but hey) and Sam just wants to be somewhere else. He has, to him, the worst powers and worst everything and doesn’t belong and…

And he has no “other self” to hide behind. There is no switch. He’s just horribly awkward. And yet he keeps on. He works to get better, and to be more comfortable. But at first look, man I loved the crap out of it. It had an honestly and accessibility to it that sticks with me to today.

I spent most of the 80s wanting Cyclops and Cannonball on a team together. Bro-ing out. I would still love to write that book, though I would revert Sam to the old days when he had no way to fly silent and couldn’t turn. But that’s me.

I would still, by the way, write BLASTERS – The Cannonball/Cyke road trip comic.

This is a post in “A First Time For Everything” wherein I look at my first reactions to comic book characters that have been suggested by YOU. You can go here to suggest characters for me to discuss, and to see the master list of who I’ve talked about so far.

A First Time For Everything

So here’s the thing. I’ve been reading comics my entire life. In an odd order too. MY dad had me reading his old Lee/Kirby Marvel stuff and random Dc things for years before I got to the current-for-my-age comics. And I have memories of them all.

Sometimes dim, sometimes really crystal and occasionally totally wrong in detail – I remember the first time I noticed a character. And I wanna talk about them. So here’s the deal:

Leave a comics char in comments. Leave several. Whatever. And I will start posting my memories of when I found them, how I felt and what drove me to them or pushed me away from them. It’ll be fun! Or scary. Or… something else and we’ll find out together.

SUGGESTED SO FAR (a link means I have done that character and you can read it):

Cannonball
Dick Grayson
Animal Man
Collassus
DeadMan
Hal Jordan
Clark Kent
Nova
Captain Carrot (and his Amazing Zoo Crew)
Machine Man
Starhawk
Nightcrawler
D-Man
Batman
Lockjaw
Devil Dinosaur
Granny Goodness