Monday, March 18, 2013

365 Comics...77: Captain Carrot And His Amazing Zoo Crew #14 (1983)

I loooved Captain Carrot & Co. when I was a kid.  I only had maybe 6 of the 20 issues of the series, which I'm quite sure came my way after the title was already cancelled, but I was somewhat fixated with it pretty much until I discovered Giffen/DeMatteis' Justice League and Byrne/Ordway's Superman titles on the newsstand.  I was still keen for Carrot's return, up to and until the Final Crisis tie-in "The Final Arc".  That series just didn't seem to recapture the magic of my youth, but I realize now that anthropomorphic funny animal comics are almost exclusively children's fodder.

My Captain Carrot comics were passed down to my step-son a couple of years ago and he seems to have keyed into them in the same way I did at his age.  Next to Tin Tin and Astrix, they're hands down his favourite comics (certainly of those that have come from my old collection).  I do manage to find the odd issue here or there to add to the run (it is about two-thirds complete at this point though they're not that easy to come by... I still don't believe that the Oz-Wonderland War mini-series exists... I've only ever seen the ad for it) but I haven't read most of the additions found in recent years.

Issue 14 I only read about in the letters page (err... Lettuce Page) of issue #18, so it's rather infamous to me, the debut of the Earth-C JLA: the Justa Lotta Animals, animal variants of all the DC heroes:

Super Squirrel
Wonder Rabbit
Green Lambkin
(with cameos from:
The Martian Anteater
Rat Tornado
The Item (the Atom as a tiny elephant)
Stacked Canary (really!?)
Green Sparrow
and my favourite, Firestork

Now in Captain Carrot-world Carrot's alter ego R. Rodney Rabbit is the illustrator of the JLA comic book so this poses a conundrum, which is explained by a visit to the JLA's original writer, Gardner A. Fox, who explains his understanding of the multiverse and the fact that he and Rodney Rabbit must be subconsciously tapping into another reality when writing his "funnybook stories" (a common explanation when breaking the fourth wall like this in comics).

But their actual coming together is the result of the teaming of Carrot's enemy Dr. Hoot and the JLA enemy Feline Faust.  They've hatched a scheme to take over the JLA's home planet Earth C-minus and by scuttling the JLA over to Earth C and keeping them busy with terrorist acts from the likes of Armordillo and Amazoo (splitting off into smaller groups of 3 just like the real JLA).  Once the two super-teams catch wise to the situation they teleport post-haste, hopefully to Earth C-minus (but potentially not).

I'll be blunt, this is some silly reading which I think is what appeals to kids so much and has adults straining to get through.  There's some old-school pre-Crisis fun to be had (and I always loved Scott Shaw!'s cartoons) but at time the script is painful, mostly revolving around the Carrot/ Super Squirrel/ Wonder Rabbit love triangle or Yankee Poodle's mooning over Supes (who comes across like a real dick, seriously... he's more a villain here than Amazoo or Shaggy Dog).  The reduction of the female heroes to lovesick gawkers is really, really sad, to the point where these crude stereotypes make me reconsider whether my kids should be reading this chauvinist Earth-pig material.  My 11-you-old also consumes a lot of Archie so he's already getting a lot of this boy-crazy-girl crap (even today's Archies are still somewhat reductive).

Captain Carrot has returned, sort of, in the pages of Threshold in the New 52, but not as a cartoon super-bunny but as a one-eyed, leather-clad space pirate with a Han Solo complex. Its evident that DC is trying to make a Rocket Raccoon-like breakout character out of a silly property but they should instead try to create a new kids brand which is what he was created for in the first place.

[my favourite part of this issue: the cover illustrations of the creators as Earth C characters:

Scottie Shaw!
E. Nelson Birdwell
Owl Gordon
Duck G. Ordano
Roy Tomcat