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365 Reasons to Love Comics #158

Alright, we went over the ducks. Let’s take a look at the rabbits. There are four of ‘em on my list (it looks like Anthropomorphism Fortnight, now), and the first appears below. We all know that Ducks and Rabbits are really the royalty of funny animals (yeah, I’m dissin’ the Mice), and today’s star is no exception. He’s totally cool, and he’s brought some friends. It’s the one you’ve all been waiting for.

Also: archive.

6/7/07

158. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew

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Oh Captain Carrot, my Captain Carrot.

Captain Carrot was DC’s last hurrah into the funny animal genre, and they chose to go with a superhero theme. And by God, it was charming as hell. Created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw! (of Oddball Comics, formerly of CBR), the Zoo Crew were anthropomorphic animal denizens of Earth-C, a world populated by puns and funny animals. The president of the US was Mallard Fillmore– but not the one we’ve got in the comic strip these days, thank goodness.

“The world’s twelfth-greatest comics magazine!” according to the cover of issue six, the series had a trial issue as an extra in New Teen Titans before launching into a twenty-issue run. The star, naturally, was Captain Carrot, a.k.a. Roger Rabbit, later changed to Rodney Rabbit, ’cause of one of the greatest films of all time. He was a comic book writer/artist who ate a radioactive carrot and was granted super-powers.

The good Captain was joined in his superheroic ventures by the Zoo Crew, which consisted of Pig-Iron, formerly Peter Porkchops, a character who debuted in 1947; Fastback, a turtle with super-speed who was no relation to the New God Fastbak but was the nephew of McSnurtle the Turtle, a.k.a. the Terrific Whatzit, a Jay-Garrick-inspired speedster (Roy Thomas loved his continuity, by God); Rubberduck, a stretchy hero whose secret identity was a parody of Burt Reynolds, “Byrd Rentals”; Yankee Poodle, with powers of patriotic animal magnetism; Alley Kat-Abra, the kung fu Kat-Fu sorceress; and Little Cheese, who was given shrinking powers by cheese from the moon.

And they did encounter the Just’A Lotta Animals, who were comprised of Justice League parodies, as seen here:

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That’s a lot of funny animals. Together, they fought marvelous villains like Dr. Hoot, ACROSTIC, Frogzilla, and Armordillo.

The series was wacky, light-hearted, and charming as hell. In fact, you could call it “cute, charismatic, and funny.” Naturally, it was canceled. DC promised to return to it in the future, but only put out one three-issue mini-series, The Oz-Wonderland War, before Captain Carrot and friends vanished into limbo.

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That is, until now. Geoff Johns, scourge of comics (hee hee), brought the group back, once again in Teen Titans, as a parody of grim and gritty storytelling. And this autumn, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew will be returning to their own title in a mini-series by Bill Morrison and Scott Shaw! That’s not all, though– there’s also going to be a Showcase volume of the original series! Hurray! They’re spoiling us. Honestly.

In a world where even Captain Carrot needs to be dark and modern, is the concept of fun truly safe? I dunno. I do know that the old series was a hoot and a half, and that the new, upcoming mini looks promising. In the end, all we can hope for are good comics. Captain Carrot is immensely silly, but if there’s one lesson I want this column to teach, it’s that silliness is not a bad thing. Long live Captain Carrot.

Be sure to visit The Annotated Captain Carrot, an immensely detailed (but still unfinished) labor of love. And take a look at Gail Simone’s classic You’ll All Be Sorry column, which gave us the greatest crossover of all: Aliens vs. the Zoo Crew.

14 Comments

when did they turn up in teen titans? how could i miss a super rabbit?

It was New Teen Titans #16, back in the day when DC would launch a title by offering an 8-page preview in one of their other books.

I love the Zoo Crew. I was thrilled to hear about the new mini-series and the Showcase volume. However, I hope that Alley-Kat-Abra’s heroism is restored. Scott Shaw! said that he was against one of the Zoo Crew killing another member. Let’s just hope that the mini-series ignores “Whatever Happened to Captain Carrot?” and picks up where the old series left off.

Teen Titans #30 and #31 are the ones that feature Johns’ parody of himself in the future.

However, I hope that Alley-Kat-Abra’s heroism is restored. Scott Shaw! said that he was against one of the Zoo Crew killing another member. Let’s just hope that the mini-series ignores “Whatever Happened to Captain Carrot?” and picks up where the old series left off.

Huh, weird. Shaw! doesn’t seem that opposed to it – him and Morrison are sticking with Johns’ story and picking up where it left off, I think.

I honestly thought it was a pretty clever twist, especially when you consider that the early parts of the original Zoo Crew run seemed to be building up to a betrayal by Yankee Poodle. The hints evaporate once the book gets into the double digits and starts regularly running into scheduling/production issues. So the Johns story effectively picked up and reversed the obvious intent of the dropped storyline, by making Yankee Poodle actually noble and sweet Alley-Kay-Abra arbitrarily the villain. Talk about your continuity porn! You see this exact sort of ridiculous twist in modern comics all the time, so I dunno, it worked for me.

Andrew Collins

June 7, 2007 at 8:42 pm

What I love is how Captain Carrot and his crew were included in DC’s original Who’s Who series, which means they are (or at least were) firmly entrenched as part of the “DCU.” Heck, they’re probably out there on one of the 52… :)

They also showed up in a recent issue of Birds Of Prey on some glasses that Black Canary had bought for Sin.

What I love is how Captain Carrot and his crew were included in DC’s original Who’s Who series, which means they are (or at least were) firmly entrenched as part of the “DCU.” Heck, they’re probably out there on one of the 52… :)

They also showed up in a recent issue of Birds Of Prey on some glasses that Black Canary had bought for Sin.

It goes deeper than that.

They were officially om Earth “C.”

(Except when they were embroiled in one of their infrequent crossovers with the heroes from Earth C Minus.)

Occasionally characters from Earth One would stop over for a visit… Superman, Beast Boy, Gorilla Grodd.

Good times.

hifidigitalboy

June 7, 2007 at 10:44 pm

Hell yeah! I loved the Zoo Crew. About time somebody gives credit where credit is due.

A magician in red. A speedster in blue. A guy in metal. And someone wearing the US flag. And, if those covers are to be believed, they even get to fight their own version of the Squadron Supreme. I can’t believe I just got that (though, in my defense, I’ve never read much Zoo Crew).

The Oz-Wonderland War? Wow, that’s a lot of iconic mythology in one book. Can anybody out there who’s read it remember: Was it any good? I see some lesser-known figures like Baum’s Woggle-Bug on the cover, so it’s clear the cover artist knew his stuff, at least.

Fans of the Oz and Wonderland books would probably enjoy it. As a Captain Carrot story, it wasn’t so good– the art was odd and the Zoo Crew characters felt more like passengers in someone else’s story than anything else.

Oh Captain Carrot, my Captain Carrot.

Amen, Bill, Amen!

I picked up issue 3 on a whim. I was 12 years old, it was (fittingly) Easter weekend, it was a nice day and I thought ‘what the heck?’

I loved it. It was hilarious stuff– I laughed and laughed. Great comic book parody (the fact that they can’t find a place to put the title/splash page), silly superhero satire (ACROSTIC, whose name stands for…well, pretty much anything those letters can stand for!), funny sight gags (“Coyote Canyon”), and lovely jokes. I bought every issue from that point on.

The thing was, when Roy Thomas wrote it (the first 8 or so issues), it was a really funny book. When Scott Shaw replaced Thomas as writer, there were good individual issues (like the one introducing Little Cheese) but on the whole, Shaw’s stories were a touch too cerebral and the gags weren’t very good. And then they went into this long cycle of fill-ins, where E. Nelson Bridwell wrote a lot and a whole whack of artists some good (Rick Hoberg) and some iffy (Stan Goldberg) took over. Finally, when they actually got a good team together– Bridwell plotting, Joey Cavaleri scripting and Hoberg on art, it lasted two issues before the series was cancelled (mostly because Hoberg moved to All-Star Squadron).

It was a shame, because the first Bridwell / Cavaleri / Hoberg issue was the first really funny issue since Thomas left (Cavaleri wrote great dialogue with lots of funny in-jokes, my favourite being where a character who is very angry has his word balloon burned away and the comment written in ‘if this dialogue were printed Sparta Illinois would be a parking lot’)

I re-read Captain Carrot last year, and I think my instincts as a 12 and 13 year-old were spot on: The New Teen Titans preview and Issues 1-8 are great fun, as is issue 19 (the first Bridwell/Cavaleri/Hoberg issue) but the rest are just kind of there. But I still treasure this series, produced at a time when Dick Giordano was rising in ascendancy at the company and DC was willing to try all sorts of different (and fun) ideas ranging from Amethyst to Arak to Blue Devil to a funny animal series like this. Good times.

Argh, somehow I left out my favourite bit of Zoo Crew dialogue. Frogzilla has come out of the water. He’s 40 feet tall and he has ship’s Captain Dunbar Dodo wrapped in his tongue. He makes a long diatribe ending in announcing his name.

Rubberduck: We’re in trouble Pig Iron, that frog is something else.
Pig-Iron: Why because he’s bigger’n the whole boat?
Rubberduck: No. Have you tried talking with your tongue wrapped around a Dodo?

Well, it made me laugh out loud when I read it in 1982. I still find it funny today.

This series got me into comics. Of course, I had to start with #19, just one issue before the last — which meant it was also my first experience in tracking down back issues.

It’s great to see that so many people dug CAPTAIN CARROT AND HIS AMAZING ZOO CREW! But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! It may have taken twenty-five years, but the team will be back this fall with a three-issue mini-series that firmly establishes them in the DC Universe. Bill’s script is smart and funny and everyone who’s seen my pencils seem to notice that I’ve learned a lot about telling a story and drawing over the last two-and-a-half decades. I promise you, even if you loathe the idea of funny animals, you’ll be surprised by what we’ve got in store for you…lotsa laughs and lotsa drama, too! And we wrap up a lot of unanswered questions, while posing new ones. Plus, my favorite inker of my stuff, “Amiable” Al Gordon is inking the whole shebang, while Tom (GROO THE WANDERER) Luth is coloring. And get this; much of the first issue takes place at a funny animal version of the San Diego Comic-Con International, with a two-page spread that’s guaranteed to blow your minds.

I guess that’s enough hype for now. Drop by ODDBALL COMICS discussion board for more info on CAPTAIN CARROT AND THE FINAL ARC!

Aloha,

Scott!

P.S.: Many thanks for including CCAHAZC! in your list of reasons to love comics! (And no one loves ‘em more than Yours Truly!)– SS!

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