Animal Man’s first five appearances were published at the rate of about one every six months, from 1965 to 1967, in the pages of Strange Adventures Vol. 1.
In his first appearance, in Strange Adventures Vol. 1 #180 (Sept 1965), Animal Man wasn’t named as such. He was simply Buddy Baker, who acquired animal powers and battled a monster, only to lose those powers and propose to his girlfriend Ellen at the story’s end. It was a one-off story, like most in Strange Adventures, a DC-published anthology loosely in the science-fiction genre.
Buddy Baker returned, however, a mere four issues later, in issue #184 (Jan 1966). In a silly story, his powers returned when two yellow aliens went on a ray-gun rampage. This time, Buddy was left with his powers intact — though still unmarried to Ellen.
By Buddy’s third appearance, in issue #190 (July 1966), the issue’s cover advertised its super-hero content, reflecting how the anthology’s sci-fi content was faltering a bit in the marketplace. The Buddy Baker story inside reflected this new tone. In it, Buddy donned a super-hero costume for the first time and got a super-hero name: A-Man.
The title of the fourth story, in issue #195 (Dec 1966), used the name Animal Man, but Buddy was still A-Man within the story. For the first time, A-Man battled a gang of thieves, in what feels like a more conventional super-hero story.
Animal Man only really came together as a concept in his fifth and final story, in issue #201 (June 1967). There, Animal Man got his craziest story yet. The story, entitled “The Mod Gorilla Boss!”, saw Animal Man battle a gang leader who uses a secret formula to transform himself into a gorilla. In order to use his gorilla strength for crime. It’s preposterous, but it’s charming. And it’s just the kind of story that would make him a perfect candidate for his 1980s revival.
And that was it. Animal Man wouldn’t return until 1980, almost 13 years later. He’d only appear a few times prior to Grant Morrison reviving the character, in 1988, for his own ongoing series.
Five issues certainly isn’t a lot of Silver Age material. It’s even less when one considers that each issue featured two stories, only one of which starred Buddy Baker, so the total page count of this era’s Animal Man material is only about two and a half to three standard issues. While written by Dave Wood, these five stories were illustrated by three completely different different artistic teams: Carmine Infantino and George Roussos (stories one and three), Gil Kane (story two), and Jack Sparling (stories four and five).
Until 1988, no one would have guessed that anyone would have ever remembered these five stories, let alone that they featured the earliest material of a character who would become a mainstay of the DC Universe.