In the fifth issue, a kind of Prometheus-myth allegory, “The Coyote Gospel,” we open on a Wile. E. Coyote-type character as he falls off a cliff after being foiled once again by the Road Runner, but this time the coyote falls into “our” reality smashing end from end against the cliff, breaking limb after limb and even settling with the trademarked dust cloud upon landing on the ground. In this issue a few things change: Morrison goes from aping Alan Moore’s style of storytelling, which usually focuses on a real-life issue (in this case: animal rights) and makes use of grave-narrative captions and internal monologues. In the fifth issue, Morrison moves away from this manner of storytelling, replacing Moore’s style with an omniscient narrator; and even though the tone is very serious, the pictures within the book are absurd. This gives Timothy Callahan the idea that Morrison is an absurdist, and engages against Alan Moore who is an ironist (Callahan 70).
This change of approach adds pathos to the Coyote character, and it certainly tied into a Moore-like animal-rights theme of the first storytelling arc, but Morrison goes in another direction entirely. In this single issue, Crafty the Coyote, confronts the “God” of his universe, “[whom] we see only parts of: gingham pants, short-sleeved shirt, wrist watch, and paintbrush. Crafty challenges this ‘God’ to end the suffering and violence in his world and offers his own life in trade for the peace he desires. The bargain causes Crafty to be reborn in Buddy Baker’s world as a flesh-and-blood creature.” (71)
The story is basically one of Crafty wandering around in Animal Man’s world, wrapping up with a trucker who witnesses Crafty in all of his cartoonish glory and thinks the coyote is a demon of some kind. So the trucker crafts a silver bullet from his crucifix to gun down the hapless cartoon character. The trucker shoots Crafty just before Animal Man arrives on the scene. There is Crafty, arms outstretched in a Christ-on-the-Cross figure, being held by Animal Man, and he gives him a note, entitled “The Gospel According to Crafty,” which says, “While he lived, there still remained hope that one day, he might return. And on that day overthrow the tyrant God. And build a better world.” However, Buddy can’t read the note—all he sees are lines of gibberish with no words, and as we pan out of the death scene we see in the final fourth panel—the hand that paints the scene with a brush.
This is just the beginning of Buddy Baker’s journey to meet his maker and realize his place in the universe. By the end of the series, Baker meets Morrison and asks him why he’s been putting the character through this terrible ordeal, just as Crafty the Coyote did. Animal Man #5 is the first instance of the Morrisonian trope that would make him popular among readers; the commentary on the creation meeting the creator and the creator himself or herself becoming a part of the fictional world, creating an internal magic of the self made into a fiction suit. A fiction suit is something Morrison often refers to as a way a writer puts himself into the story, essentially making the writer a character within the fictional narrative. The idea behind it runs similar to an astronaut’s space suit (Morrison 117). Morrison uses this concept of the fiction suit on a regular basis in his seminal comic book piece, The Invisibles.
The other magic that Morrison makes use of, along the positive idealistic principles championed by Pico and his contemporaries like Trithemius and Agrippa, is in his process for sigils, which I will explain further down. “The magical system” Borchardt writes, “even at most idealistic among the Italians before Trithemius and certainly at its most hazardously practical in the writings of Agrippa before him, proceeds ‘positively,’ ‘affirmatively.’ Study leads to knowledge and, by stages, to power and miracle.” (69) Positive magic is something that Morrison exemplifies at every turn. The practice he is known for, for actualizing creation, is in sigils. The process is, well, eclectic.