In his late teens, Buddy was a happy hellraising punk rocker. One fall afternoon he went hunting in the Adirondack Mountains... and when he returned home, he had changed. Whatever it was, something in the woods had connected him to what is variously referred to as the Red, the Lifeweb, or the Morphogenetic Field - the force that binds together every living animal on Earth. Encountering some escaped animals from a nearby zoo, Buddy discovered that in the presence of an animal, he was able to absorb its special abilities. He was now the Man With Animal Powers.
At the suggestion of his best friend, Roger Denning, Buddy donned an orange-and-blue costume (and on occasion, a black one) starting a minor career as the super-hero Animal Man. Partly for kicks, partly as a way to promote their rock band, Buddy actually managed to do several heroic deeds, ranging from foiling a few robberies at the local pet store, to battling actual space aliens and odd crooks such as the Mod Gorilla Boss.
After a few years of adventuring, Buddy retired his Animal Man identity, married his high-school girlfriend, Ellen Frazier Baker, and moved to San Diego. Living on the salary from Ellen's work as an illustrator and Buddy's newly-started career as a movie stuntman, the couple mortgaged a house in the suburbs and raised two children, Cliff and Maxine.
Buddy thought his super-hero days over, but that was to change. After stumbling on an ancient golden pyramid, he was contacted by the mysterious Immortal Man. Joining up with other has-been adventurers - including Cave Carson, Dane Dorrance, and Dolphin - who had encountered similar pyramids around the world, Animal Man became part of the organization called the Forgotten Heroes. Under Immortal Man's direction, the group was able to destroy the pyramids, saving the world in the process. For a time, the group stayed together, opposing threats such as Vandal Savage and the Forgotten Villains. During the world-shattering event known as the Crisis, Immortal Man (seemingly) sacrificed his life, and soon after, the Forgotten Heroes disbanded.
Buddy returned to his family life, although the thought of superheroics was still nagging in his head. He wanted to make a difference, but had to support his family as well. Convinced that there was still a place for Animal Man in this world, Buddy resumed his full-time superhero career, battling villains such as the new Mirror Master and a delirious B'wana Beast. He also assisted in foiling the Invasion of Earth by the Alien Alliance. Still not satisfied, Buddy made the decision to become a protector of animal life on Earth. He sabotaged foxhunting in England, dolphin slaughter on the Faroe Islands, and animal experiments all over the USA. He worked with Vixen to overthrow the government of M'Changa, and with the Freedom Beast to oppose the apartheid powers of South Africa. About this time, he learned from a scientist named James Highwater that his powers were greater than he initially had believed, due to his previously unknown contact with the morphogenetic field.
Becoming a member in good standing of the European branch of Justice League International (which he could access via a teleporter in his basement), he was also able to draw a monthly salary. As part of the JLE, he battled the Queen Bee, the Time Commander, and the wrath of Dr. Irwin Teasdale. The media wrote lots about him and his popularity increased. Everything was going his way...
...And then it wasn't anymore. After a fireman had accidentally been killed in a fire started by his animal activist group, a shocked Buddy began to reconsider the path he had chosen. Though still a convinced vegetarian, environmentalist and animal rights activist, he asked himself if superheroics and illegal sabotage activities were the right ways to go. Refusing to become a role model, he quit the Justice League and the activist group, attempting to hang up his super-hero costume for good.
Then, when a corporate organization (worried about the popularity of the left-wing Animal Man) threatened to kill his family if he did not stop doing his deed, Buddy teamed up with the Mirror Master to oppose them. Suddenly, he found himself in the role of a hero once again, getting tangled up in saving the world from a second Crisis at the hands of the Psycho-Pirate, and ultimately, believe it or not, learning the fact that he was a comic book character. He even got to meet his writer, Grant Morrison, in person.
Naturally, Buddy was not allowed to remember such revelations for long. Some time after these events, he woke up from a coma with amnesia. This would have been his return to normal life, had it not been for the fact that the world he woke up in was that of an alternate Buddy Baker. In this world, Ellen had divorced him, America was controlled by a right-extremist corrupt government, and Buddy himself had no control over his powers. After a series of weird adventures, Buddy could finally return to "his" world.
Once again a movie stuntman, Buddy continued as a part-time superhero, but his life was to get weirder still. His powers continued to malfunction; birds died when he was flying, he absorbed animal behavior and appearance unexpectedly, and animals around him acted strange. After his powers accidentally had killed every animal on the San Diego Zoo, Buddy and his family moved to Ellen's mother's farm in Pownal, Vermont. Later, it was revealed that the reason for this "animal weirdness" was the coming of a hostile Animal Antagon, a.k.a. the Shining Man. During this course of events, Buddy encountered a Native American shaman named "Stone That Cracked Open the Earth Like an Egg", who revealed that Buddy was one of a group of chosen people called the Animal Masters, destined to be the guardians of nature. Together with fellow Animal Masters Vixen and Tristess, Animal Man was able to defeat the Shining Man, who had already corrupted, possessed, and killed B'wana Beast, still another Animal Master. He also learned that his daughter Maxine was an Animal Master as well, developing powers similar to his own.
Settling down at the farm in Vermont, Buddy's next mission was to fetch back his son Cliff, who had been kidnapped by Ellen's insane uncle Dudley. While looking for his son, Buddy was run over by Dudley's car and actually died. His life-force survived, however, and after many months living in the bodies of various animals, he was reborn as a hybrid animal and saved Cliff. Later, he was able to re-create his original body.
Still, Buddy was now legally deceased, which he did not really mind. He had become tired of city life and superheroics, being content to live in peace on the farm with his reunited family. Fearing that nature would inevitably get rid of the vermins called humans, he started thinking of ways to make them understand what they were doing to their planet. Ellen's mother's farm became something of an "ark", a refuge for outcasts who did not fit in anywhere. Among them were a woman named Annie Cassidy, who also stood in contact with the Red, and her daughter Lucy Cassidy, who started a relationship with Cliff.
More and more, Buddy felt the animal instincts in him taking over. Overwhelmed by the power of the Red, Buddy and Annie made love to each other. The strengthened connection to the Red made Buddy step over the line, and once again adopt the appearance of a hybrid animal. Flying in rage to Washington D.C. , he plagued the city with all kinds of animals, threatening humanity to change their ways or go under. At the end, the authorities captured him, but he was released soon after, partly due to a lot of compassion from many Americans, who believed this "Animal Man" had a point.
Then, Annie came up with an idea; Buddy wanted to change the ways of humanity, they all wanted to make a difference, and they already had many followers. Why not start a cult, or a religion, with Buddy as an "enraged prophet" and Maxine as the savior - the Life Power Church of Maxine? Though they met a lot of resistance from the authorities, the Church immediately grew in popularity, especially among young people. Ellen could not cope with all this, especially not after Buddy revealed that he had had kind of an "affair" with Annie. Alienated by their community, and the forces she did not understand, she finally broke up with Buddy - at least temporarily. Buddy, Maxine, Cliff, Annie, Lucy, and their followers traveled across the state, picking up countless new "disciples" and rebelling animals in a wild caravan on Route 66. Dubbed "the Red Plague" by the media, they finally settled down as a Church in Montana.
After this, Buddy entered what we can refer to as his "cosmic phase". Once again, he died and was reborn, this time with a white-and-black-striped hair. While his friends worked with the Church's activities on Earth, Buddy became less aggressive, making an odyssey through various realms in search for universal truth. He had many revelations from agents of higher power, among them a spiritual bulldog named Mister Cow (!) Ultimately battling an evil called the Spider Queen, Buddy finally realized that the truth was inside him. Just as diamonds and coal are the same substance, so is the divine and the human. Buddy, as well as anybody else, was the Body of God and the Soul of the World. With this knowledge, he easily defeated the Spider Queen. Shortly after, Annie gave birth to his second daughter, supposedly a human incarnation of the World Soul.
The next time Buddy appeared, a competitive supervillain called the Gamesman had kidnapped Maxine, just for playing a hunting game with Buddy. With the help of Aquaman, Buddy was able to defeat the Gamesman and save Maxine. In the process, he guided the temporarily blind Aquaman, making him realize he had elemental connections.
Maybe this adventure was the spark that Buddy needed to return to his super-hero life, because a few months later, Animal Man appeared in public again, dressed in his old colorful garb, and once again with blond hair. He has assisted the JLA on several occasions, even helping them saving the universe in their battle against Mageddon. At the start of the new millennium, Buddy attended a party together with the Swamp Thing, Shade the Changing Man, Black Orchid, and other fringe heroes. Together they helped stopping the coming of a new strange world as envisioned by a Bernie Madden. He has also rejoined the Forgotten Heroes, joining the Immortal Man and Resurrection Man in battle against Vandal Savage and the Millennium Creature. Buddy remains a semi-active member of the Forgotten Heroes, joining up with other members when the need arises.
Animal Man was one of many heroes, who helped search for the murderer of Sue Dibny.
He was recruited by Donna Troy as part of a team journeying to New Cronos to try and help stop the threat of Alexander Luthor. During this adventure, he formed a mentoring friendship with the newFirestorm, Jason Rusch. He, along with most of the heroes in space, went missing.
Animal Man was stranded on a paradise-like planet with fellow heroes Starfire and Adam Strange after the battle. After several weeks, Adam was able to get his spaceship working, and they departed for Earth. Their ship, however, was attacked by Devilance, who they had encountered on the planet and who had pursued them into space. Lobo appeared just in time to destroy Devilance, and after a some negotiation, agreed to help them out. During a battle with Lady Styx and her horde, Animal Man is killed by a necrotoxin, which causes its victims to rise again in the service of Lady Styx. Animal Man makes Starfire promise not to let him come back as a zombie. He gestures to the reader, saying, "Look, they're cheering us on. I told you the universe likes me." At the moment of his death, Ellen, still on Earth, senses his death and begins to cry.
Moments after Starfire and Adam Strange leave Animal Man in space, he comes back to life. The aliens that originally granted his powers stand next to him, saying: "And so it begins." After plucking him out the timestream and repairing his body, they leave him in outer space. Animal Man must reach out to another life form in order to survive, and claims the abilities of a group of Sun-Eaters, including a homing sense. He then observes his wife from a wormhole in space, pondering a return to Earth, or stay in space, as he saw her seeing another man and putting her grief past.Buddy finally returns, describing the marvels of space to his delighted family. Ellen holds a party to celebrate his return, but some followers of Lady Styx appear, bent upon killing the family. They are eliminated by Starfire, who has partially recovered from wounds suffered in space. She delivers Buddy's jacket and faints out of suprise when she sees him alive, leaving the family to care for her.
The Red conduit: Later, Baker learned to draw abilities directly from the "Red", an energy field that connects every animal ever to have lived on Earth. Apparently the Red extends past earth and exists as a universal concept. In 52, Buddy experiences an upgrade that allows him to connect to the Universe's morphogenetic field, providing him unlimited access to all animals in the universe regardless of origin, making him one of the most powerful beings to ever exist.
The level of Buddy's abilities are proportional to the size of the animal they are drawn from. Hence, drawing the jumping ability from a flea would allow him to cover great distances. However, taking the abilities of a larger animal does not result in diminished power for him.
Buddy stores gear in his faux-leather jacket.