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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Chuck Patton talks Justice League Detroit

I've had a long-standing fascination with the Detroit Era of the Justice League of America for the last two decades now. They were a bit of an oddity as far as Justice League rosters went; while the Justice League typically contained an all-star cast of well-established characters (ex: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Hawkman, etc), this new iteration consisted of four unknown characters combined with a few lesser-known former Justice League members.

Looking back, it's hard to believe that the Detroit Era of the JLA ran for almost two and half years (from July 1984's JLA Annual #2 to April 1987's JLA #261). It's even more surprising how the team was disbanded -- not walking into the sunset with plans for reuniting someday when the world might need them again, but destroyed by a malevolent Justice League villain. To some extent, it was a very cruel ending to a team who were meant to bring a rejuvenated feel to the JLA.

We reached out to JLA artist and Justice League Detroit co-creator, Chuck Patton, with a few questions about his work on this era of the JLA and he was incredibly generous with his time and answered ALL of our questions in depth. We're very proud to publish this interview. Enjoy.

Introducing the new Justice League Detroit!
Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984). Cover illustrated by Chuck Patton and inked by Dick Giordano

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Justin: You had been illustrating Justice League of America for about a year prior to the Justice League Detroit 'revamp'. What was the discussion like with editorial that brought on Justice League Detroit? Who initially suggested a NEW Justice League team for the book?

Chuck Patton: I think it was Len Wein who ultimately decided that it was time for a change in the JLA, especially when all of the other major DC books started to crack under the weight of each other’s differing storylines and changes in continuity. Also, with [writer] Gerry Conway being unsure about continuing on the book, it left the door open for a new direction, except nobody rushed in to take the job. I believe Alan Gold didn’t come in as editor until after the decision to revamp JLA had begun, but I could be wrong.



The covers of Justice League of America v1 issues #233, 234, 235 and 236. Illustrated by Chuck Patton and Dick Giordano.


Justin: In the letter column of Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984), editor Alan Gold had specifically mentioned that 2 characters from the new Justice League Detroit roster were 100% yours: Vibe and Gypsy. How did that come about? Were Vibe and Gypsy created 'on the fly'? Or were both of these characters sitting around in your head for a while? Were they inspired by any real-life people you knew (celebrities or friends)?

I also just wanted to mention that the quartet covers (issues #233, 234, 235 and 236) was a brilliant idea, and I hadn't realized they were meant to be joined together until many many years after I'd owned them. (While 'joined comic book covers' were somewhat of an everyday occurrence in the nineties, it was still rather unheard of in the early eighties.)

Chuck: It was definitely a 50/50 collaboration. And we did do it on the fly—over a long lunch at a great lil’ French restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Gerry strongly felt that a new 'JLA' needed a younger, hipper roster to reflect the times, but most important, have little to no connection with the then-current DC roster and more freedom. I enthusiastically agreed with him, wanting to capture the same youthful spirit that made hits of X-Men and Teen Titans.

We threw ideas back and forth, but the most important one that stuck out for me was Gerry really wanted to tap into breakdancing, BIG TIME, lol. And all joking aside, he wasn’t wrong, the time was right, break dancing was all over the media, from music to movies and television. I wanted whomever we came up with to have a strong, urban ethnic, "Down to Earth" feel that would reflect my own background.

However, Gerry’s inspiration was definitely more 'West Coast' oriented, so he, tapped into the spirit of the movie Electric Boogaloo and our first hero came from out of the gang element of 80’s LA.


Just two of the MANY breakdancing theatrical films released in 1984. Images courtesy of IMDB.


Chuck: I went along to get along, because I really disliked that movie and was unsure about the West Side Story gang influence, lol. But I did like the potential, so I suggested that his powers would be from what all Angelenos feared most out here—earthquakes. We later changed them into super-vibrational waves he would project thru his dance moves, hence the name 'Vibe'.

Vibe in action.
Panels from Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984).
Pencilled by Chuck Patton, inked by Dave Hunt.

Chuck: Gypsy came about in the same way except we wanted a ninja-like character but more exotic, and some how the subject of gypsies came up. Being from Detroit, I’ve seen encounters with a few Romany people (aka gypsies), who came into our neighborhood up from the South, and they always carried a certain cultural mystique I thought would be interesting to portray other then the usual cliché. So I suggested her powers were camouflage stealth abilities and Gerry liked that and dubbed her Gypsy.

Panels from Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984).
Pencilled by Chuck Patton, inked by Dave Hunt.

Chuck: We decided to make Detroit instead of LA the team’s new base because it would better fit the series’ 'Down to Earth' approach and, personally, it was my way of paying respect back to my old hometown which had a very negative image, contrary to how I felt about it growing up. As for the neighborhood’s cast and Vibe’s family, most were inspired by youthful memories of folks I knew.

Now about those joined covers, I think they were all Len Wein’s idea. They were a challenge to conceive but I was so very proud of how it came out. It’s the only art piece that my mentor Dick Giordano and I have done which I still own.


Justin: As part of the Justice League Detroit creative team, did you get any input into the stories and character development (especially since two of the characters were created by you)? For instance, Gypsy being a runaway -- was that your idea or something Conway built on? Are there any elements of the Justice League Detroit you were particularly proud of?


Chuck: I did at first, on Annual #2 and the follow up four issues introducing the team and their new adversaries, the Cadre. I provided the rough backstory for Vibe and Gypsy, while Gerry already had Vixen’s and Hank/Commander Steel’s bios done. I came up with Dale Gunn on my own, as the team’s "Tony Stark" like tech support and Hank’s father figure.

The Cadre, their powers, origins and looks all came from me too, except for the conception of the Overmaster’s origin, which was all Gerry’s.

Justice League Detroit battles The Cadre.
Double-page spread from Justice League of America #237 (1985).
Pencilled by Chuck Patton, inked by Rick Magyar.

Chuck: I think at the start, we really had a lot of fun coming up with the dynamics of how the new team would interact with the veteran Leaguers. Where we really were in sync was in reintroducing Aquaman as a major league bad ass. Gerry was always adamant about making him the leader and I was an Aquaman fan from way back so was totally down for it. We hinted at his potential during the Beasts trilogy, but when he steps up and takes over the team, that became the shining moment that made me proudest of the book.


Justin: Justice League Detroit ran for about two and half years before the series became re-tooled to become Justice League (the Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis version). You left the book about two years into it. Was there any particular reason you left? What was going on in the background (editorially-speaking)?

Chuck: Justice League of America was my first regular series and, like Vibe and Gypsy, I was the incoming fresh-off-the-street newbie with Gerry’s venerable vet on a book that he had steered for a helluva long. I think he wanted to leave before I came in on the book but was going back and forth about whether to go or not.

Originally the Beasts trilogy was to be our first book together, which I had started penciling when suddenly Gerry stopped, went on hiatus, shelving that issue and I had to continue with multiple fill-in writers. It was rough going at first, as I had enjoyed the beginning of the trilogy and now I had to cruise until a direction for Justice League of America was figured out. But Len Wein kept me on course until Gerry decided to return and we restarted with Beasts again. By then I was feeling a little more confident about what I wanted to do visually and made suggestions on the Beasts script that I found rubbed Gerry wrong. But Len smoothed things over for us. He and Gerry were old friends plus he knew how to get the most out of us, so changes were made that was comfortable for both and somehow we got a much better product in the end. That opened the door to Gerry and I communicating a little better. I owe a lot of our creative synergy to Len. He really helped in encouraging my sense of storytelling, plotting and character development that went into collaborating with Gerry.


The first two issues of the Beasts trilogy. Covers by Chuck Patton and Dick Giordano.


Chuck: I believe [Len] was a huge part of the enthusiasm Gerry and I generated at the beginning of Justice League Detroit. But once he left the book, whatever cohesion Gerry and I started with came apart. Gerry went from talking over plots to just turning in full scripted stories that left me feeling disengaged from the process. I missed the Marvel-style plot outlines that allowed room for back and forth discussion and was told to stick with the art and he with the stories. So from there, I quickly grew very bored, disillusioned and dissatisfied with the series and my own work and wanted off. It was definitely a case of creative differences, and that sums it up neatly.

Without Len’s input, we lost his tremendous ability as a sounding board, arbitrator and BS detector, and the book seemed to rub everybody wrong. Nevertheless, I really missed the initial idea of what Justice League Detroit set out to do. For that time period of comics, a younger, newer Justice League of America made a lot of sense and I’m very grateful to Len and Gerry to have been a part of that.


Vibe's last stand.
Justice League of America #258 (1987). Cover by Luke Mc Donnell.

Justin: When J.M. DeMatteis took over Justice League of America, he needed to clear the roster for the newly aforementioned Justice League team. Ultimately, Vibe was killed off. Was this a unanimous decision? Or did you just find out 'after the fact'?

Chuck: I found out after the fact. I had done a few Justice League of America covers after giving up the book but when that obligation ended, I stopped looking at it and washed my hands of Vibe and Justice League Detroit. Even after I had moved on to Teen Titans then Vigilante, I’d read some vitrol over the series or Vibe in particular, from either a fan or pro who despised it for one thing or another. I did check out the last issue where everyone died. It didn’t make me feel any better, but it was not my watch anymore, so I turned away to other pursuits.

Jump to years and years later, and I’m finishing work on the Batman: Brave and the Bold animated series, when one of the directors, who was a big Vibe/JLD fan, talked me into doing a Vibe segment for WB’s DC Nation shorts. That was the first time I heard there was a "cult of popularity" around him, it truly surprised the hell out of me, lol! The short came off well and got everybody talking, suddenly Vibe becomes popular due to Geoff Jones’ support and then the CW swooped in and the rest is history.

Gave me a big big smile.


Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon (aka 'Vibe') in CW's The Flash. (2017)

Justin: What are your final thoughts on your Justice League Detroit run from 1984/1985? Any lessons learned? Things you would've done differently? Things you'd repeat in a heartbeat?

Chuck: Tough question! But as I stated earlier, I really believed in what we wanted to do initially, that a younger Justice League of America was a good idea so no regrets about that. However I really really wished we had avoided a lot of the gimmickry or played them a lot less clichéd from the jump.

I do share responsibility in my part of that, but I always felt uncomfortable with Vibe’s accent. It was meant to be a blind, something he hid behind to keep people from knowing he wasn’t that "streetwise", but it was handled clumsily and we took our lumps for it.

Panels from Justice League of America Annual #2 (1984).
Pencilled by Chuck Patton, inked by Dave Hunt.

Art-wise, I felt I wasn’t as polished as I wanted to be, although it was a hard book to start your career on. It still taught me so much about group dynamics, and storytelling. Plus I was going through a revolving pool of inkers as well as writers, so it was very hard to settle in and hit a stride even after Justice League Detroit started. Then again, if that [had] not happened, I wouldn’t had been motivated to find what I was looking for elsewhere. As for things I would repeat in a heartbeat? Lol, honestly, I’m a big believer in things going the way they should have despite the ups and downs, and I’d had followed this same path anyway! Considering where I ended up, I am and have been very fortunate.

Page from Teen Titans Spotlight #13 (1987).
Pencilled by Chuck Patton, inked by Romeo Tanghal.

Justin: Any new projects you are working on or would like to talk about? I'm all ears.

Chuck: As we speak an animated series I directed just premiered on Netflix, called Kulipari Dreamwalker. It’s the second season of Kulipari Army of Frogs, that I worked on before, but now I’m at the helm, and excited to see it finally out there. The other thing I just completed is still a secret, but I can say this much, it’ll be my first comic book work I’ve done in many years and I’m very thrilled about it. So it’s been a quite an interesting time for me.




...and thus concludes our interview with the talented Chuck Patton. Back in 2009, Chuck was interviewed by our friends at the Aquaman Shrine about his time at DC comics, which you can read here. If you want to read more about the exploits of Justice League Detroit (and really, who doesn't?), I strongly encourage you to peruse the Justice League Detroit blog

An additional reminder that almost ALL of Justice League Detroit's adventures have been collected in the Justice League: The Detroit Era omnibus that can be purchased wherever better comic books are sold.

We're going to end this interview on a high note and leave you with a terrific 2-page spread of Vibe doing what he does best: breakin'! 

-Justin

From Justice League of America #233 (1984). Pencilled by Chuck Patton, inked by Bill Anderson.






Sunday, December 2, 2018

Tom Veitch's notes on his Animal Man run

DC in the 80s was incredibly lucky to have Tom Veitch's notes on the issues he wrote of Animal Man v1 back in the early 90s (issues #33 - #50).  For your viewing pleasure, we've also included the cover of the issues (all covers illustrated by Brain Bolland).

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#33: "I am the man of deep ungodly powers!"


Awakened from his Pete Milligan-induced coma, Animal Man is restored to status quo – he’s Animal Man with the family and the job as a stuntman. However his powers are not working as they should. And Maxine is acting rather feral. We also begin to realize that there is a shamanistic/mystical element to Animal Man’s powers – a connection to a Native American shaman living in a house trailer. Apparently this old Indian gives Animal Man his animal powers by connecting him to the Morphogenic field (the M-field) from which all animal instinct and power comes from.



#34: "Requiem for a Bird of Prey"


Maxine, because of her connection to her father, is also connected with the M-field. And when her dad feels aggressive animal instincts, she shares them, growling like an animal and tearing her toys apart with her teeth. Animal Man finally realizes that his powers are not under control and he is hurting living things – when he flies, birds of prey mysteriously die.



#35: "Dead Dogs on Ice" (Day of Dread II cover)


Story starts to kick in. Animal Man and Travis Cody, who shot Animal Man’s son Cliff with an arrow, become friends. Travis (educated at M.I.T.) is building an M-Field Meter:

TRAVIS: Ever hear of the morphogenetic field?

ANIMAL MAN: Uh … yeah.

TRAVIS: Of course you have … Sheldrakes’ theory. Animal essences, modalities, genetic templates … all meshing over a great vat of life energy. …It’s like earth is one big animal … and you and me are like leeches on the big animal, ya dig?

ANIMAL MAN: Uh…yeah. I…uh…dig. … Somebody once explained Sheldrake’s theory to me. I accept it … but it’s just a theory … I mean, theories are nice, but I work with feelings and energies I can sense. There’s no words involved in what I do.

TRAVIS: I’m hip to that. I have super powers myself, ya know?

ANIMAL MAN: Oh, really?

TRAVIS: Yeah, but let’s talk about you. Your link to the M-field is all screwed up right now. And when ya fly, the nice birdies drop from the skies …

They argue a bit, then Travis lays an interesting idea on ANIMAL MAN:

TRAVIS: Have you ever asked yourself this? How come the birds use aerodynamic wings to fly, but Animal Man flies without lifting a finger? What’s this so-called “bird power” you talk about? The birds don’t have it! The poor creatures have to flap their wings!

ANIMAL MAN: Uh … you’ve got a point.

TRAVIS: Damn right I do … Now who’s the smartest, me or you?

So they become buddies and experiment with drawing electrical energy off an electric eel. This leads to Animal Man, via his connection to the eel, drawing lightning from a storm …



#36: "The Call of the Wild"


Animal Man, in a moment of clarity while watching a humpbacked whale breech the ocean surface off San Diego, feels “that great freedom and power at the heart of animal consciousness”

TRAVIS: "You're going to be the most powerful being on the planet."

Animal Man adds unusual powers by focusing on different animals. (I did a lot of research on animals at this time.) So, for instance, by focusing on a lizard that shoots venom from its skin, Animal Man can shoot powerful toxin from his hands. Then he buys a van “to carry all the special animals I’ll be taking with me on jobs.” Meanwhile Travis is initiated by “Mr. Rainbow” – the old shaman’s mystic messenger.



#37: "The Zoo At World’s End"


ANIMAL MAN (in captions): “I’m the only superhuman with the powers of every animal that ever lived … And I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the possible. For awhile I thought I’d lost it … but by using the individual creature as a power lens, I bypass the negative effects I experience when I touch the M-Field directly…”

But the old Shaman has other ideas for Animal Man. He breaks the clay Animal Man statue with a hammer, and Buddy gets a huge influx of M-Field energy … which unfortunately kills every animal in the San Diego Zoo!



#38: "The Penalizer"


A comic book within a comic book, Penalizer is introduced. This is Cliff’s favorite comic, and it’s a parody of Marvel’s Punisher. I was told the editor of Punisher taped the cover of Penalizer to his office door! Meanwhile Travis has a wild theory he has been “contacted by angels” and there’s a giant starship buried somewhere in upstate New York. He believes that after he finds and boards the starship, the end of the world will begin! Issue climaxes with a battle between Animal Man and Mr. Rainbow, who takes the form of a monster.



#39: "Master of Wolves"


Travis arrives at the old shaman’s trailer in upstate N.Y. Meanwhile wolves attack the San Diego Comicbook Convention. And Animal Man rips off his clothes and runs with the wolves through San Diego.



#40: "Bear Claw Soup”


War of the Gods cross-over issue. Not a lot of connection to the other DC tie-in series. But an interesting story about the reappearance of the vampire town of Rosewood, Illinois, which drowned in Swamp Thing #37-39. And Buddy battles bear poachers as he is initiated to “the center of morphogenetic power”…



#41: "The Stone That Cracked Open the Earth Like An Egg"


Rereading the series now, I see that with #41 the writing shifts into high gear. There are a couple of reasons for that:

-One, I was getting a better internal sense of the characters.
-Two, we were getting tremendous positive feedback from the readers.
-And three, I was learning a lot from watching David Lynch’s Twin Peaks show. Lynch knows how to tell a character-driven story. As a writer, he helps you break the old story-telling patterns that Hollywood (and comics) have burned into your brain since you were a kid.

In this issue the old Indian shaman is revealed to have done six years at Attica for killing a white cop. “He just looked the cop straight in the eye and said one word and the guy exploded like there was a bomb in his stomach.” The shaman’s nickname is “The Stone”. His full Indian name is “Stone That Cracked Open the Earth like an Egg.” We find out on page 18 that he is also called “The Stone Who Sits at the Heart of the World.”

Another story point in this issue is that “the bad guys” are mapping superhuman DNA. I’m not sure if this had come up in other comics at this point, but it’s one of those “inevitable” ideas – you know, the cloning of Superman, the GMO-ing of human embryos, etc. And one of my favorite parts is when Animal Man describes to his wife Ellen (who is nicely shirtless) his inner experience of animal powers: “My power took on a whole new dimension. There was light … ecstasy … I knew things. … There was meaning in the power … like truth … you know, like seeing how everything is connected. Like there’s an eye that watches over everything … a great intelligence … and I merged with it. For an hour I became that intelligence … this god-like intelligence at the heart of nature.”



#42: "Men Without Eyes"


A good action story involving genetic clones who are fitted with cyborg brains. Also introduced “the knacker man”, a guy who collects roadkills and dead farm animals and sells them to the gene lab.

The head of S.T.A.R. labs, Buck Samson, is a sort of “government villain” type, who believes the old Indian shaman is leading “a conspiracy to destroy the world masked as sacred ritual and belief.”

Last but by no means least, Animal Man takes the form of a bear. In the next issue he will mate with a young shamaness who also takes the form of a bear.



#43: "Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright"


Not so much a “retcon” of Animal Man’s origin as an attempt to integrate the previous stories with my “deeper” view of animal powers and the morphogenetic field. “In the safety of bounded awareness he toys with reality … he plays the games of children … he tries to understand … he invents authority figures … alien … unhuman … he tries to explain everything until the fear is gone … he dreams his own ‘origin story’ … he dreams sickly yellow magicians and tricksters to explain everything that occurs outside his tiny awareness …everything he is not permitted to know. Everything he is not permitted to see … fanciful images to describe what cannot even be looked at.”

Then Animal Man is standing in space with old Stone, the shaman, who welcomes him to the innermost realm of animal power … “Greetings my son. Welcome to the hidden place, where the old men of the beginning dwell forever…” This, of course, is me plugging the whole series into my metaphysics and mystical ideas about the nature of bodily consciousness! (Considering the liberties Peter Milligan took with his Burroughsian superheroes – Notional Man, Front Page, and Nowhere Man – I figured I could kick out the jams, metaphysically speaking.)



#44: "Who Is That Masked Woman?"


Ellen goes to work for Wonderful Publishing Company, where Les Decker writes and edits Penalizer Comics. Includes a great little amateur Penalizer story written and drawn by Animal Man’s son, Cliff. The animal-powered DC superheroine Vixen appears and battles Animal Man. For the moment, she’s plugged in to the whole shaman story-arc. (Her connection to the morphogenetic field has been explored by other writers in other DC comics.)



#45: "Penalizer Gets Real"


"The Beat of Darkness" in which we learn that Les Decker, writer-editor of Penalizer Comics, is a crime fighter who puts on a Penalizer costume and hunts down drug dealers and such. All tongue-in-cheek, of course, and a send-up of the comics biz.

I meant this story to be a template for the possible series about Penalizer, which I never got around to writing and proposing. (Tom Peyer was definitely into the idea too.) We also learn how Decker shamelessly steals ideas from Cliff’s amateur submission, including the name of the villain, “Doctor Darkness”. Last but not least, a new character is introduced – “the screenwriter” who will script a movie about Animal Man. Another send-up – this character is myself, based on photos I sent to Steve Dillon.




#46: "A Rage of Fathers"


With 1950s DC character Tomahawk on the cover. The art by Steve Pugh I find awesome.

Page one scene of teen Buddy Baker puking on front lawn is based on something that actually happened to me – I came home drunk, got out of car and threw up on the lawn, and my dad was sitting on the front porch reading a newspaper! (Fortunately my father was nicer than Buddy’s.)

Here we learn that Buddy, as a youth, met old Stone, the shaman, while on a hunting trip with his father. He calls Stone “my real father” and together they find a giant metallic “cocoon” that contains Stone’s enemy, the Antagon.



#47: "The Shining Man" (in three parts)


Maxine in the power of B’Wanna Beast. Great scene of Travis Cody in cyberspace, where he learns that Buck Samson is turning himself into a superhero by manipulating his DNA. B’Wanna Beast merges with Antagon and battles Animal Man.



#48: "The Meaning of Flesh"


Rainey Fox, the movie director, gets fried by the Antagon.

B’Wanna channels the Antagon: “I am sent forth from the unitary aeon … to bring judgment upon all that dares to live. I am the self-begotten, the source of incomprehensible undoing.” Then he takes a bite from an apple.

Buddy carries Maxine to join the Animal Masters. (She is one herself.)

…More Cody in cyberspace. Buck Samson’s hitman, Moonlight Jackson, kills Cody’s friend, the woman Kami.

Sweat lodge scenes, Stone shows up to announce the coming battle between the Antagon and the Animal Masters. And then Stone takes his friends into the micro-universe to hide from the Antagon.

When Antagon (aka: B’Wanna Beast) shows up and finds them gone, he is seriously angry – “And when the darkness saw their infamy, his mind mingled with the dark root of his incorruptible anger, and he was like a whirlwind upon the face of creation …”



#49: "The Hot Heart of Abstract Reality"


Screenwriter (me) eats a piece of pie in Ellen Baker’s kitchen while she washes dishes. He writes in his notebook: “The Animal Man movie will get made, if I have to kill everybody in Hollywood to get it done! …Yesterday I saw (director) Rainey Fox get wasted by that dark power. It was beyond belief. It cooked my brains…” (The pie is a reference to Agent Cooper and Twin Peaks.)

In the microworld we see that grotesque dust mites are the “guardians of the threshold” … Tristess, shamaness and Animal Master, says something that cuts to the core of Buddy’s search for himself – “A warrior must awaken to a true identity … an identity that cannot be contained in mirrors and costumes and names … Stone has been trying to get that across to you … you have failed nearly every step of the way.” This triggers something in Buddy, as he confront the gigantic dustmite: “I can feel everything going wide open … no fanfare, no explosions, no shouts of conquest … suddenly I am not focused in a body. Fear vanishes, my eyes open in the great vastness of the M-field … I am as wide as all the worlds, deep as the whole field of living energy from which all forms appear …” And so forth.

If you read my other DC series, you will see this kind of awakening to “natural superman consciousness” is my main theme – in Clash, The Nazz, and My Name is Chaos. My plan was to do that with Superman himself, but as I recall editor Mike Carlin resisted the idea.

Now Travis is dead, and trapped in cyberspace. Buck Samson has had his own superhero apotheosis, awakening to the power of mind-over-matter and giving himself the name Metaman. “Metaman” is a character I invented for a comic my brother Rick was doing for DC. I decided to add substance to the name and reincarnated him here, in Animal Man, and I destroyed him as well.

Now the Animal Masters gather in Labrador. Old Stone tells the story of the origin of the Antagon, who is a kind of anti-creator and annihilator … “even the anti-Christ”. The Animal Masters, on the other hand, are given the power to create animals! The struggle between the Animal Masters and the Antagon has been going on for millions of years!



#50: "Journal of a Plague Year"


The whole 18-issue story is an impossibly vast yarn of light vs darkness, good vs evil, creation vs destruction … And it comes to a head is #50, a double-issue, with myself as a main character and voice-over.

Here, in “real life”, the writer meets the Antagon and witnesses the destruction of half of Vermont! We see Metaman vs. the Antagon, we see Moonlight Jackson die, we see the Animal Masters rally and destroy Antagon, we see Maxine get her powers under control, and oh by the way we see Tom Veitch hit on Ellen Baker, who says “I don’t know what it is about you … I feel that somehow I am contained in you. But that that’s all it is. I could never love a person like you …” And enter Buddy Baker aka Animal Man, who proceeds to beat up the writer (me)…

ELLEN: Buddy … please, just tell him to leave.

ANIMAL MAN: Right. Pack your toothbrush and get out of my life, creep!

Veitch tries to get physical with A-Man, even kicks him in the balls. Next thing you know Veitch is sailing through a window and ending up face-down on the front lawn.

ANIMAL MAN: Cheer up, pal. It could have been a lot worse. Now get up. You and I are going to be friends.

Closing narration in which I describe working on the screenplay with Buddy, and then Buddy sharing some of his secret thoughts …

ANIMAL MAN: I’m still sort of ordinary, you know. But when I lay down at night and close my eyes I see the world … the animals … men … from a place that can’t actually be described … an uncreated place that’s not of time and space … I’m not alone there. There are others. Stone is there, living on… And then something dark surface in the well of thought … a feeling of great dread… I see him, the Antagon, the one who cannot be destroyed because he is destruction. He can only be contained. …For the moment he is our prisoner … but I sense he’ll find a way back into the world. He’ll take a new form, a new name. He’ll become something we don’t recognize, something we can’t control.

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Again, a big thanks to Tom for sharing his notes on his Animal Man run -- which included a few items that I completely overlooked the first time.

Justin