Jun 13, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 839: Action Comics #552, February 1984


Four years pass between Animal Man's appearance in Wonder Woman and his next one in Action Comics. This is very much a set-up piece, gathering together a group that, briefly, come to be known as the Forgotten Heroes, who have all had adventures that have led them to a strange temple, the knowledge of which brings them into conflict with the American government. Concurrently, Vandal Savage unleashed a plan against Superman that, one can only imagine, is connected to the temple and the Forgotten Heroes' adventures.

Animal Man expresses some surprise here that someone else knows his secret identity. It's the first time I've seen reference to the secret identity issue from Animal Man, as his identity is, as far as I know, a public one through most of his self-titled series. His characterization is also a bit odd...his dialogue sounds to me like Hawkeye's from his early 60s Avengers appearances. Using words like "figger" and such. What I come to realize though is that I read every single Animal Man appearance through the lens of his own series, even those that come before that series happens. It's an odd phenomenon, and one that can really only occur in serialized fictions like these, though with the caveat that they are serialized fictions whose creative teams change regularly. Until someone defines a character like Animal Man, his personality is going to be in flux across his appearances. And then once he's been established, prior appearances might not gel with what is now canonical. Where things get interesting is with a group like the Doom Patrol, who I also read from a particular perspective, yet whose personalities were long ago established in their first series. In such a case, perhaps we can see the shifts in character as growth and development of those characters, rather than being a personality in flux.

The Forgotten Heroes do manage to get a few adventures in, even making a brief appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but it's a scant four years until Animal Man gets his own series, and the DCU gets its first taste of the madness of Grant Morrison. Once this happens, Animal Man is no longer forgotten, and this motley crew of adventurers falls by the wayside.

Will the Forgotten Heroes and Superman actually meet up next issue? It seems likely, but you never know.

To be continued.

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