In a time when television series canceled 20 years ago are making their way back to prime time, and sci-fi classics from 30 years ago are finding new sequels at the box office, the stage is set for a comic comeback. It’s time to resurrect another hero to the pop culture stage: Captain Carrot.
Created by comic book vets Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!, Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew was a fever dream of a funny animal book that made its debut in 1982 in the back of The New Teen Titans #16.
The short-lived series offered a pun-tastic parody of the DC Universe that went under appreciated and mostly forgotten.
The first issue of the Zoo Crew explored the origins of group’s powers, all stemming from a meteor fragment that went bopping along the globe to give out super powers to a “Just’a Lotta Animals.”
In Gnu York (Yes, there will be a lot of that), it made mild mannered cartoonist Rodney Roger Rabbit a muscle-bound bunny who double leap tall building in a single bound and dig tunnels all the way to China (or what animal pun is used for China in this universe).
As the meteor made the rounds, it created each member of the Zoo Crew. It pushed Peter Porkchop into in molten steel and turned him into Pig Iron. It gave red-white-and-blue beams to gossip columnist Rova Barkitt (aka Yankee Poodle) and stretching powers to Follywood actor Byrd Rentals/Rubberduck (See, I told you. The puns are intense.) Timmy Joe Terrapin became Fastback, the fastest turtle alive, while new age practitioner Felina Furr found herself with a magic Wanda.
Further issues would mostly cover crossovers with quips on pop cultures and modern comic themes. Introductions to the animal versions of the Wizard of Oz, Indiana Jones, Salvatore Dali and Conan the Barbarian are just a small sample what the comic covered.
Despite its talking animal premise and tendency to go overboard with the world play, Captain Carrot was surprisingly rich in character and deeper themes. There were class struggles between the different members, including issues with relating to reach other because of their different socioeconomic backgrounds and race (dogs vs. cats, cats vs. mice, etc.) There was love lost and broken dreams, as well as the occasional gender issues.
But what makes the comic stand out isn’t the pun overload, but that it expands the DC Universe by exploring the Multiverse concept in a comical way. By introducing “Earth-C-Minus” (later changed to Earth-26), a world of sentient animals who act as beastly doubles for the people, superheroes and supervillains on Earth C, the comic gives a wide berth to the DC Universe.
Unfortunately, after a small 20-issue run, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo was gone. The mostly-forgotten comic lacked the complex story arcs that is prevalent in modern comics, instead going with the Monster-Of-The-Week strategy. It made it easy for readers to skip a book here and there, then eventually, forget to come back.
However, in 2005, Captain and his pack were reintroduced to modern audiences in Teen Titans vol.3, #30-33 in “Whatever Happened to Captain Carrot?,” a one-off tale that took the troupe down a dark path. Rodney was a drinking due to the loss of his love and his friend, newer Zoo Crew member Little Cheese. The gang has disbanded due to anti-superhero laws, and those who are not on the run from the law are trying to practice their craft in secret.
While the comic had promise, it didn’t stick the landing, wrapping up the story in a nonsensical way that confused and angered fans of the original book.
A few years later, Captain Carrot and the Final Ark was launched as a response to DC’s Final Crisis. It appears that all of the former problems plaguing our heroes in the last tale were now resolved, but new threats have emerged. On Earth-26, the home of the Zoo Crew is in jeopardy as a great flood threatens every inhabitant on the planet.
Like “What Ever Happened…”, the story once falls apart with an ambiguous ending that seems out of place for a funny animal book. Without the proper build up or atmosphere to match the tone, the return of Captain Carrot was again marred by an unresolved ending (although the issues are later resolved in Final Crisis #7).
Recently, the Captain has popped up a few times in small roles in bigger books. In Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity, the Captain gets a makeover as a lapin badass who joins the fight against the gentry.
In 2015, Convergence: Harley Quinn #2 pitted the Captain against the insane antics of the Joker’s former flame. In the tale, the whole Zoo Crew makes an appearance, getting a nifty modern day makeover in the process.
And while the story does not bode well for Captain Carrot, the tale itself was a great introduction to the character to modern audiences unfamiliar with the Zoo Crew.
(NOTE: Captain Carrot is also fondly remembered in a small skit on Robot Chicken.)
But recently, the small hot streak featuring DC’s favorite rabbit has grown cold, with little or no appearances for the last few years. It is a missed opportunity as the latest version of the Captain is the perfect segway to reintroduce the character and his cronies to a new audience who might now appreciate all he has to offer.
It is time for another take on the classic character and his superheroes buddies.
The world is ready.