Animal Man (1988 Series) #5
Title: The Coyote Gospel
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Chas Truog & Doug Hazlewood
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Tatjana Wood
Cover Art: Brian Bolland
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics
When people talk about how great the early Grant Morrison Animal Man comics were, I can only assume that this is the issue where that buzz began. Don’t get me wrong, issues #1-4 weren’t bad, they had good moments and plenty of potential. But this is the issue where the book really takes a turn for the bizarre and begins to show itself as being far, far more than just another superhero comic.
In “The Coyote Gospel,” a mysterious creature is run over by an 18 wheeler, an accident that should have killed it. Instead, though, it begins to move. A year later, Buddy Baker gets into a fight with his wife over the meat in the house, while the trucker that ran over the creature has decided the recent string of misfortune in his life is due to the beast, and he must destroy it.
There’s plenty to love here, not the least of which is the way Morrison managed to take what is essentially a parody of the Looney Tunes and turn it into a metaphor for mythology and religion. The way he does it also begins to point us in the direction of metafiction – using a fictional work to comment on another fictional work – which would later become a hallmark of the run. At the time, this no doubt seemed like a quirky little one-off. I can only imagine the shock when readers realized that Morrison had, in fact, been setting the stage.
The back-and-forth art of Chas Truog is back this issue. His depiction of the Coyote is bizarre and spot-on, a character that looks like something ripped from animation and forced into a realistic world in which he does not belong. The human characters who do belong in this world don’t look quite as great. And I’ve got to tell you – I’ve read a lot of comics from the 80s. I can’t remember any where the clothing and hair feels as terribly dated as they do in this book. I know that wasn’t an issue at the time (except that nobody, ever, in the history of the universe, looked good in the sort of cut-off jeans short-shorts Buddy is sporting in front of the refrigerator).
All in all, though, this is where it’s really getting good.