Industry legend Gerry Conway famously scripted the death of Gwen Stacy in the pages of "The Amazing Spider-Man" in 1973. Other career highlights include co-creating DC's Firestorm and writing the landmark company crossover "Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man."
Now, after a 15-year hiatus from comics (due to a television writing career that included writing and producing credits on hits including "Diagnosis Murder," "Matlock" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"), the former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics returns to the sequential fold to write the demise of another classic character, Bernhard "Buddy" Baker, in DC Comics' forthcoming six-issue miniseries, "The Last Days of Animal Man."
Chris Batista ("JLA" and "Firestorm") and Dave Meikis ("Runaways") are the pencil/ink team for the series, while fan favorite Brian Bolland ("Batman: The Killing Joke") returns to the character as his cover artist, a role Bolland played for 63 issues of Animal Man's original series.
Co-created by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino, Buddy Baker first appeared in "Strange Adventures" #180 in September 1965 and adopted the name Animal Man in issue #190. Baker gained his power to borrow the abilities of animals after being exposed to the explosive fallout of a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft. After a long-run as a C or even D-list DCU character, Buddy Baker was featured in a celebrated "Animal Man" series from 1988-95, written by superstar Grant Morrison for its first 26 issues. Baker was again prominently featured as a major character in "52," and recently appeared in the best selling "Justice League of America" #25.
CBR News spoke with Conway about the new series, which is set in 2024 and specifically, whether or not he's truly writing Buddy Baker's last days, or if his new miniseries could also be called "Animal Man R.I.P."
CBR: How did this project come about? Was it your pitch?
Gerry Conway: I had an idea for a story I wanted to tell, about a superhero facing the loss of his powers, not as the result of some catastrophic accident, or through the efforts of an enemy, but as an apparently inevitable part of growing older. How would someone who'd been accustomed to a life of super-powers come to terms with the loss of them?
That was the general pitch I made to [editor] Joey Cavalieri, and given that I wanted it to be a real character from the DC Universe, I left it up to Joey and the editors to tell me who that character should be. Fortunately for me, they chose Animal Man.
Are you a longtime fan of Animal Man?
I can't say I was a fan, but I did remember the character from his original appearances in the early sixties, and I liked what was done with him in "52." After Joey suggested him as the lead for my story, I researched the Grant Morrison series, and liked what I read, though of course Grant seemed to be more interested in deconstructing the superhero comic in general than in developing Buddy Baker as a character.
What makes Buddy Baker a great leading man?
Well, like two of my other favorite secret identities, Peter Parker and Ronnie Raymond, Buddy is an ordinary man who's been given an extraordinary opportunity. Before gaining his powers, he had no ambition to be a hero. He wasn't driven to avenge injustice, like The Batman. He wasn't a visitor from a far-off world, the last of his kind, like Superman. He was just an average guy trying to get up the nerve to propose to the woman he loved. And then the world fell down on top of him. I like that.
Why leap forward in the future of Animal Man?
A couple of reasons, one of which will only become apparent in the last issue. First, since this is supposed to be a story of someone coming to terms with the loss of power as the apparent result of growing older, Buddy actually has to be a lot older than he is in the current continuity. Also, it gives me an opportunity to play with the "future" DC Universe - what happens to Buddy isn't the only change that we'll be revealing in the series. And there are other reasons that, as I say, only become clear toward the end of the miniseries.
What else can you share with us about the story you are going to tell in "The Last Days of Animal Man?"
In addition to dealing with Buddy's personal issue, we're introducing two new villains, Bloodrage and Prismatik. We're also revealing the "future" of several mainline DC heroes. Oh, and we'll be giving readers a glimpse of one of Earth's new Green Lanterns, circa 2025.
"The Last Days" sounds pretty permanent. Does Animal Man die in the final issue?
Sorry, I can't say. Gotta keep 'em guessing 'til the end.
Are you pleased with your art team of Chris Batista, Dave Meikis and who's this new guy, Brian Bolland?
What else are you working on these days?
A couple of things, including a spec script for a graphic novel - something I've never done before. I have the luxury of writing what I want to write these days, so I'm trying to do things that challenge and interest me, and hopefully, will find an audience that's as challenged and interested in them as I am.
"The Last Days of Animal Man" #1 (of 6) hits shelves May 27 from DC Comics.