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Animal Man: The Secret

As I said, I’m holding off on in-depth postings on Animal Man until Steven’s had a chance to read it, but I plan to hit the symbols hard next week: Cats - Foxes (/wolves/coyotes) - Masks and Talismans - Primates (non-human) - Deus ex Machina/Meatpuppets - Gender(ed) Roles - Slaughter. Probably more when I get more time to reread and think.

For now, though, I was struck immediately upon reading in the second volume, just as everything is falling apart, that Maxine is onto something. I can’t quote because I don’t have the books with me at work, believe it or not, but Buddy and Ellen are busy. Maxine interrupts, holding her toy, with something like, “Daddy, Gorilla Murphy wants to tell you a secret!” I’m afraid I’ve got Gorilla M.’s last name wrong, but that’s not the point. Daddy has no time for this and shoos Maxine away, and Gorilla M. stays in the background until the very end of the very last issue, at which point Cliff is tossing him to the dog and Maxine complains.

Since so much is metanarrative, it’s possible the “secret” line is just a parody of the amazing wisdom of children trope, but I think there might be more to it. What would Gorilla M. have said? Would he perhaps have had a message from Grant Morrison? Could his secret have averted what happened after he was ignored? And why is he there at the end, because he still knows the truth? Or would his be a message of redemption?

I’m inclined to see his presence (and how do I know he’s a “he”? I don’t think there is textual support, but I’m unwavering) as a subversion of happy endings. Secret messages from outside the story can still creep in. Cliff didn’t succeed in feeding him to the dog, wiping him out. The secret is there and will eventually get out. Just not in this story.


  1. David Fiore says:

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with Rose!

    Personally, I could’ve gone on for a few more weeks on this series, but it might’ve gotten ridiculous.

    I’m intrigued by your Gender(ed) Roles = Slaughter equation–that whole “us vs. them” attitude espoused by the hunting-party members is a key to setting the tone of the series, I think…

    Also–I’ve been thinking a lot about the way that Morrison sets up a link between animal research and animal sacrifice… it’s kind of obvious, but interesting nontheless, don’t you think? We bring animals to the Science-God’s altar, in the hopes of being delivered from Cancer/perfume-rashes… This works even better if you believe (as I do only fitfully, but Morrison almost certainly does!) that the men in lab coats are the new high priests…


    — 19 February 2004 at 8:25 pm (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    Well, I figured you’ve got overviews and a lot of the themes covered, so I was planning to work more from the ground up.

    I don’t know about the gendered nature of slaughter. I was thinking of those two as separate topics, but I think there are a lot of examples of white men feeling oppressed. And the only woman I can think of who’s involved in slaughter is the counterexample, Ellen and the kittens, since Ellen’s role is passive. Well, and there’s that odd Africa sequence…. More on this later, of course. But it’s interesting that most of the battles over animal rights are fought between white male hunters/scientists and white male activists. I don’t know why!

    — 19 February 2004 at 8:45 pm (Permalink)