The Red is a force which connects and pervades all animal life in the universe. It is intended to be the force from which a number of animal-powered heroes get their abilities. Those who can tap into The Red are:
- Animal Man (Buddy Baker)
- Maxine Baker
- Vixen (Mari McCabe)
- B'Wana Beast (Mike Maxwell)
- Tefé Holland (Flesh Elemental)
- Freedom Beast (Dominic Mndawe)
- Beast Boy (Garfield Logan)
- Tabu, an African woman whose power comes from the different masks she uses to hide her disfigured face.
- Tristess, a shaman woman who befriends Animal Man.
- Yolanda Montez, the embodiment of the Red on Earth 2.
It is primarily Buddy Baker, and later his daughter Maxine, who interact with The Red. Initially, Grant Morrison introduced the concept via yellow aliens, who are guardians of something they call the template. They explain that, through the years, they have allowed certain individuals to access that template. This meant that the Tantu Totem used by Vixen was their creation, as were the helmet and elixir that were found by B'Wana Beast.
It is not until a man named James Highwater comes into Buddy's life, and they go on a vision quest in Arizona that the template is described as an all-pervasive force called the morphogenetic field. The field is described as a "mesh of countless smaller fields; each one a blueprint which guides the formation of atoms into molecules, molecules into cells, cells into tissues, organs, systems!" Understanding this, Buddy learns that he can access animal powers even from animals he is nowhere near, so long as he accesses the field. Notably, one of Buddy and James' hallucinations in Arizona is the appearance of a vast red sea surrounding the mesa.
Tom Veitch's run on the Animal Man book took the idea in a new direction, removing the yellow aliens from Buddy's origins, and replacing them with a group of shamans known as the Animal Masters. During this story arc, Buddy's connection with the field begins behaving erratically, killing many of the creatures from whom he borrows abilities. A physicist and engineer named Travis Cody helps Buddy test his powers using a device called the m-field meter. Around this time, Maxine begins developing her own abilities.
The leader of the Animal Masters, Stone, calls on Buddy and the other people who are connected to the field to join him in fighting an evil entity known as Antagon. He explains that the Animal Masters have existed for centuries, using the field to create animals. Unfortunately, Antagon appeared as the field's opposite, and they were forced to fight it. Ten million years in the past, Antagon was nearly defeated, but it escaped, only to return in the present. Eventually, Stone and the other animal masters sacrifice themselves so that Buddy, Vixen, and Tristess can tap into the morphogenetic field, and defeat Antagon by creating an entirely new universe for it.
Finally, in Jamie Delano's run on the book, the morphogenetic field was named The Red. In the first issue of Delano's run, Buddy is run over by a truck and killed. In the following issue, Buddy is depicted traversing a vast and surreal landscape of redness and gore. Despite realizing that he is dead, Buddy uses The Red to get back to his own body. Unfortunately, his body is already dead, and he can't use it to return to his family. Eventually, he realizes that he can use The Red to send his consciousness from body to body, just as he found his way to his corpse. He begins by residing in a mite in his wife's hair, and follows the food chain until he winds up in the body of a triceratops brought into existence by his own daughter's connection to The Red.
Buddy then determines that he can use The Red to recreate his own body, but without a blueprint for his body he ends up creating a chimera that seems to be comprised of every animal in existence. He nearly resigns himself to this new body, but when his corpse's fingers are discovered, he eats them and uses them as a map for creating his old body. This lasts for a while, but eventually his connection to The Red becomes such that his physical form morphs as he takes on different powers.
In addition to her connection to The Green, Tefé Holland was born as a flesh elemental, with connections to The Red, due to the fact that she is a human-plant hybrid. As the Flesh Elemental for Earth, Tefé had control over not only her own body but the bodies of all other animal life on the planet, allowing her to alter them in any way she saw fit, such as turning them into living hydrogen balloons.
The DC Universe heavily changed its continuity into the DCnU following the events of Flashpoint in 2011. This was part of an effort to make storylines more accessible to newer readers, beginning with the New 52. This new timeline combines elements from the DCU, Vertigo Universe and Wildstorm Universe while drastically changing the origins and histories of characters.
Following changes to the timeline, the nature of The Red was slightly altered. Buddy Baker is not an Avatar of The Red, but rather, his daughter Maxine is. They are both called to the heart of The Red; to the Parliament of Limbs, where the Totems of the Red - former Avatars - have come to rest.
The emergence of The Rot prompts the Totems to reveal that Buddy was never the Avatar, but he is meant to be Maxine's protector until she can grow strong enough to protect herself. He has been lent animal powers in order to facilitate that.
The Red and The Green have been allied in battling against The Rot for all time. Both have turned to humans to be their champions, as they are the most resilient.
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