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Bernhard "Buddy" Baker is Animal Man, the Avatar of The Red, and protector of all animal life on Earth - including humans. In his everyday life, he is an actor and animal rights activist, loving husband, and father of two. As both super-hero and family-man, Buddy is often forced to try to balance the two aspects of his life.

Origins

After the Avatar of The Red was killed by Anton Arcane, the Totems of the Parliament of Limbs decided that they could follow the example of The Green in using an interim Avatar. Their next most likely candidate for an Avatar had not even been conceived yet, so one among them suggested they use the Tailors to imbue her father, Buddy Baker, with the Red's power in order to protect her until she was ready to take on the role herself. In order to help Buddy understand what would be happening to him, the Totems invented a scenario in which he would discover a crashed alien spaceship and be given powers by the surviving inhabitants - the Tailors. His powers were not the full strength of The Red, as he was only meant to be a temporary avatar, but he used them to act as a super-hero from that day forward. Within six months of encountering the spaceship, Buddy's wife Ellen became pregnant with their daughter - and Avatar to be - Maxine.[1]

In the five years since getting his powers, Buddy spent his time raising his children, fighting for animal rights, and taking the occasional acting gig - the most significant of which was the lead role in an independent film called "Tights", about a washed up super-hero.[2]

The Hunt

One night, Buddy was troubled by a nightmare in which his daughter Maxine murdered his son Cliff, under the influence of three monsters called the Hunters Three, who represented The Rot in The Red. When he awoke, he learned that his daughter had got up in the middle of the night, and used hitherto unknown powers to reanimate the corpses of the neighbourhood's dead pets.[2] Seeing her, Buddy's body was suddenly covered with a vein-like pattern, and Maxine suggested that it would not go away until he entered The Red - which he had never heard of. The design was a map. Maxine's apparent connection to Buddy's powers upset her mother greatly, while elsewhere, the Hunters Three appeared and began their search for the Avatar of the Red.[3]

Buddy and Maxine entered The Red together, and encountered the Totems of the Parliament of Limbs. They explained the truth that Buddy was not the Avatar of the Red, and he had only been meant to protect Maxine until she was ready to face the threat of The Rot. Before he could come to terms with this news, Buddy was attacked by two of the Hunters Three there in the heart of The Red.[4] He was injured, and it fell to Maxine to send the Hunters away and heal her father, after which the Totems explained that the Hunters Three were once Totems themselves, having been corrupted by The Rot. The Parliament offered one of their own, Ignatius, to help Buddy protect Maxine in the form of a house cat, while urging Buddy to seek help against the Rot from Swamp Thing, the Avatar of The Green.[5]

Buddy, Maxine, and Ignatius - whom Maxine renamed Socks - found that their house in San Diego had been attacked by the third Hunter in their absence, and learned that Ellen and Cliff tried to escape to Sacramento, where Ellen's mother Mary kept a farm. Once there, Buddy abandoned Maxine with her grandmother to find Ellen and Cliff, who were still under attack. After getting them to safety, he was again overpowered and required Maxine's help. She sent the animals of the forest to help him, but in consuming the Hunter, they became infected by the Rot, and in that way, the Rot began to spread throughout the world. An alliance with the Swamp Thing would be their only hope.[6] So, the Bakers, Mary, and Socks packed up into an RV and headed cross-country to find the Avatar of The Green.[7]

Animal vs. Man

On their cross-country road-trip, the family stopped for some food and to charge Cliff's phone. After using his fame to impress some girls on Cliff's behalf, Buddy fell asleep in the RV and had a terrible nightmare of a future of only rot. Waking, he found the vehicle surrounded by rot-infected animals.[8] Maxine ran out to face them, and was ripped to pieces, to Buddy's horror, and he killed all of the creatures in a rage, only for Maxine to emerge unharmed from the bushes, having used her power to survive. Relieved, Buddy went into a nearby town to help fight off the Rot there, only to be killed himself, leaving Maxine without a protector.[9]

In death, Buddy re-entered The Red. There, he met a creature called Shepherd, who helped him get an audience with the Totems. Meanwhile, the Hunter controlling his physical body planned to lure and capture Maxine with the familiar form.[10] The Totems were not pleased with Buddy for his failure, and would have let him stay dead, if not for the need for a protector. Reluctantly, they allowed him a second chance.[11] The Tailors gave him a stronger connection to the Red, this time, and then he was forced to jump from tiny life form to life form until he could return to his human body and find the Hunters who had kidnapped Cliff in the interim. He rescued cliff, but the boy seemed to have been infected, and woozily warned of the coming of the Rot's avatar - Anton Arcane.[12]

Rotworld: The Red Kingdom

Leaving a sick Cliff with his grandmother, Buddy, Ellen, and Maxine were led through the Louisiana swamp by Socks the Cat, who could sense the Swamp Thing's location. They found him standing over a portal into the Rot, and after telling his story, Buddy explained that he and the Swamp Thing would have to enter the Rot in order to stop its spread. They abandoned their loved ones to leap into the portal.[13] Inside, Buddy found that his powers were absent, but the Rotlings and Un-Men they fought there were suspiciously weak as they went deeper and deeper. They soon discovered that they had fallen into a trap set by Anton Arcane. Before Arcane cut the Swamp Thing's tether back to earth, he managed to send a message to Abby Arcane indicating their failure. Arcane explained that the Rot had forced the Green to resurrect Alec Holland from death, which set a precedent that allowed the Rot to bring Arcane himself back, and increase its power. Gleefully, he returned them to the physical world, where they learned that they had been gone an entire year, and the Rot had consumed nearly every aspect of both Red and Green in that time.[14]

Buddy found himself in San Diego - far from where he'd left his family - but the entire city seemed to be overtaken by the Rot in any case. Unable to sense the Red but faintly, he wandered until he was attacked by a Rot-infected Hawkman. He was rescued by a band of survivors, each of whom had some slight connection to The Red. When they learned his identity, they took him to their base - a place called the Red Kingdom, where the last vestiges of The Red's power had built a fortress for itself from the bodies of the Totems of the Parliament of Limbs. There, he learned from John Constantine that his daughter Maxine had been too weak to fend off the Rot in her father's absence. The Rot had already won.[15] Having been split up since their return to the physical world, Constantine suggested that Buddy try to reunite with the Swamp Thing. The survivors left the Red Kingdom under Shepherd's protection and, while passing through Central City, were attacked by Grodd.[16] Fortunately, Frankenstein came to their rescue, with his Patchwork Army. From him, Buddy learned of a prisoner being kept beneath Metropolis, hoping it might be Superman - so he joined them and led them there. They were surprised to find elements of The Green in the city, and more surprised to learn that the prisoner was the Green Lantern Medphyll.[17]

Medphyll was trapped there by Blackbriar Thorn, in the service of Arcane. After defeating Thorn and freeing Medphyll, the Lantern used his power to thin the Rot heard enough for the heroes to move on, only to discover that Arcane was protecting his stronghold with the full force of the rot-infected Justice League.[18] Still, Buddy could sense that his daughter Maxine was somewhere within that fortress. Fortunately, as his party converged on the fortress, the Swamp Thing arrived on the other side with his own party of followers. In the battle, though, Medphyll was killed, and his Green Lantern Ring chose Frankenstein as its next wearer, giving him the power to cut a path for Buddy to reunite with Swamp Thing. Arcane's response was then to reveal how he had captured and corrupted both Maxine and Abby in horrific ways, and turned them on their loved ones.[19] Buddy learned that Maxine had joined the Rot willingly, thinking that she could save her family by doing so. Spurred by their righteous anger, Buddy and Swamp Thing beat Arcane back, forcing him to retreat into death. They followed at the urging of the hitherto unknown Parliament of Decay.[20]

Buddy emerged back a year earlier, next to the abandoned family RV. He used his animal abilities to track his daughter, and found her preparing to give herself over to the remaining two of the Hunters Three and William Arcane. When she saw him alive, she escaped their grasp and used Sock's instructions to transform the Hunters back into their former selves, through the Red. Though all seemed well, William Arcane managed to stab Cliff in the chest, killing him, but making him the hero he never could be.[21]

Splinter Species

Anguished by her son's death, and feeling justified in always having disliked the danger Buddy's super-heroism brought to her family, Ellen decided she could no longer see him, and took Maxine in her own care, leaving Buddy to deal with his grief alone. He visited the Totems, then, demanding that they take the burden of the Red away from his family, but they responded angrily, instead only severing his connection to the Red, and banishing him from its kingdom.[22] Despite grieving the death of his son, the loss of his power, and his estrangement from his wife and daughter, Buddy received good news from his agent Roger, that he'd been nominated in the Academy Awards' Best Actor category for his leading role in the indie film Tights.[23] Naturally, he was unable to enjoy his success. Rather than take Roger's advice to get back to work on acting, Buddy got back to work playing super-hero in the animal rights area, looking into a series of pet abductions. Unfortunately, this plan was hampered somewhat by his growing celebrity. He tracked one of the missing pets to a warehouse where he discovered that all of the animals had been killed; victims of horrible, inhumane experiments. Worse, the one responsible for these experiments had grafted the animals' bodyparts onto his own body.[24]

Buddy lost track of him outside the warehouse, after he was mobbed by paparazzi. He managed to track him to a second warehouse, but found himself surrounded and knocked unconscious. He woke to find them draining his blood, hoping to use it to become more like him and build stronger connections to The Red.

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[25]

Powers

  • Conduit of The Red: Later, Baker learned to draw abilities directly from the "Red", an energy field that connects every animal ever to have lived on Earth. Apparently the Red extends past earth and exists as a universal concept. In 52, Buddy experiences an upgrade that allows him to connect to the Universe's morphogenetic field, providing him unlimited access to all animals in the universe regardless of origin, making him one of the most powerful beings to ever exist.
    • Animal Mimicry: Buddy can mimic any abilities of any animal as a result of his encounter with a crashed alien spacecraft. He does this by either focusing on a specific animal near him, or, as he learned later, by drawing power from the animal kingdom in general (this enables him to even mimic animals that are extinct). The nature of these powers has been described in various ways, including the superficial "alien radiation" explanation of his early appearances, the reconstruction of his body by aliens with "morphogenetic grafts" at the cellular level, and currently, mystical access to a "morphogenetic field" created by all living creatures, also known as "the Red". He does not grow wings to fly as a bird (instead he flies in classic "Superman style"), nor does he form gills to breathe underwater when mimicking a fish, but he has occasionally been known to mimic the actual appearances of animals, such as adopting the claws of a wolverine temporarily. His powers have changed considerably in the New 52, after he was killed and reborn by The Red into a body that takes on the aspects of the animals whose powers he is using at the time. This results in him changing into a chimera-like being. Buddy is also able to tap into more than one animal, e.g. during his second fight with B'wana Beast he channeled the regenerative powers of a Salamander and the camouflage of a chameleon; this aspect of his power has been shown more frequently in his New 52 series. Among the "animal powers" Buddy has been known to use are:
      • The strength of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
      • The flight of a bird.
      • The swimming ability of a fish.
      • The speed of an ant.
      • The sonic blast of a pistol shrimp.
      • The sense of smell of a moth.
      • The agility of a snake.
      • The durability of a rhino.
      • The electricity of an electric eel.
      • The regeneration ability of a worm.
      • The wall-crawling of a spider.
      • The stench of a skunk.
      • The color changing of a chameleon.
      • The reproduction abilities of protozoa.
      • The level of Buddy's abilities are not proportional to the size of the animal they are drawn from. Hence, drawing the jumping ability from a flea would allow him to cover great distances. However, taking the abilities of a larger animal does not result in diminished power for him.
    • Force Blasts: Tapping into the Red, Animal Man can also fire powerful blasts of force or unidentified energy. He can even use the primordial energies to start a new universe.
    • Animal Empathy: In addition to his mimic abilities, Animal Man can make contact with animals, empathize with, "talk" to and see their thoughts and memories. This ability to transfer his life essence has allowed him to survive even when his body has been killed.
    • Animal Control: Animal Man can, to a lesser degree, control animals by entering their minds. He can also transfer his mind to living animals of any kind, using their bodies as long as he wants to.

Abilities

Related


Footnotes



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This character is or was a member of the Justice League of America, or the Justice League in any of its various incarnations, sworn by a duty to act as guardians of America and the world by using their skills and/or superpowers to protect Earth from both interstellar and domestic threats.
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