When ‘Animal Man’ annual No. 1 was handed to me recently, my eyebrows did the “what?” look. I know the comic world is vast and varied, but I am still surprised every time something new pops up, especially a supposed comic norm.
After a bit of research, I discovered that annuals were started to bring the extra material in a series to the readers. Authors have many spin-off ideas but the pages are limited in each issue and there used to be only 12 issues a year. Sometimes there might not be enough material for a spin-off but just a short story, and then there are things such as posters and sketches to show readers. Annuals were born out of the geeks’ clamor for more.
After the bust in the 1990s, annuals went to the wayside to save money. They hadn’t made a great return, and think that is in part of something called trade paperbacks. These are collections of issues that the company puts together of anywhere from six to 12 or more issues. In these trade paperbacks, many titles include sketches or mini-tales for the readers, as an added bonus for buying the larger, and sometimes more expensive, book.
However, DC Comics has decided to take a tip from the past and bring back the annual for all of the New 52 titles.
I have been told this is a great way to start a new series, especially for those that are apprehensive about starting some big title. Well, “Animal Man” certainly has me intrigued.
As a background to the annual, I did even more research. Animal Man started in 1965 as Buddy Baker who acquires the ability to temporarily borrow the abilities of animals as a result of being in proximity to an exploding alien spaceship. He became Animal Man to fight off evil. For the new relaunch, I found this description on Wikipedia:
“The storyline of the relaunched version essentially builds on previous Animal Man continuity with Baker as a happily married family man and super hero. Baker is forced to take his family on the run after he discovers that his daughter Maxine is the avatar of The Red, the force which sustains all animal life, and that agents of The Rot, the elemental force of decay, are seeking to kill her.”
And this is where we pick up with the annual, where we learn how The Red, The Green and The Rot came to be, and about their avatars and proxies. The mythology of the tale is excellent, and we are introduced to Swamp Thing!
From “Animal Man” writer Jeff Lemire: “In many ways this annual is like a prequel to the crossover storyline that Scott Snyder and I have planned for “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing.” (Got that from here.) Oh, boy.
The art is by Timothy Green II, and is equal parts enticing and gory. He definitely portrays the anxiety and intensity very well.
Comic Book Wednesday showcases a variety of visually based books that fit into this wide category, to give a taste of this other form of reading.