Flaming Carrot Comics
The Flaming Carrot, from Flaming Carrot #4 (Image Comics, 2006).
Art by Bob Burden.
Publication information
PublisherAardvark-Vanaheim (1984–1985)
Renegade Press (1985–1987)
Dark Horse Comics (1988–2002)
Image Comics (2004–2006)
First appearanceVisions #1 (Atlanta Fantasy Fair, 1979)
Created byBob Burden
In-story information
SpeciesHuman
AbilitiesAbility to induce himself in a state of "Zen Stupidity"
Use of nuclear powered pogo stick and a semi-automatic pistol
Wears a utility belt
Flaming Carrot Comics
Series publication information
ScheduleIrregular
FormatOngoing series
GenreIndependent
Publication date(Aardvark-Vanaheim)
May 1984 – Jan. 1985
(Renegade Press)
Mar. 1985 – July 1987
(Dark Horse Comics)
June 1988 – Dec. 2002
(Image Comics/Desperado Publishing)
Dec. 2004 – Mar. 2006
Number of issues37
Main character(s)Flaming Carrot
Creative team
Writer(s)Bob Burden
Artist(s)Bob Burden

Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics first appeared in the early days of the comic book direct market in Visions #1, a magazine size comic book publication that premiered at the Atlanta Fantasy Fair in 1979. Launched as the world's first surrealist superhero Flaming Carrot chronicled "the further adventures of the strangest man alive" the series introduced Bob Burden as one of the founding members of the comic book "New Wave" movement of the early 1980s. [1] Flaming Carrot is often noted for his distinctive exclamation "Ut!"[2] Flaming Carrot adventures have been published by Aardvark-Vanaheim, Renegade Press, Dark Horse Comics, and Image Comics, among others. He has guest-starred and made cameos in comics published by Fantagraphics, Mirage Studios, Atomeka Press, and others.

Concept and themes

The Flaming Carrot was in part inspired by the obscure Golden Age character The Fin.[2] Burden recounted that, "I took this particular idea and scratched it down one night when I came home about three o'clock in the morning. I'd been out on the town all night, and it was one of those nights when I came home tired, and fell asleep with my clothes on."[2] Asked to explain the meaning of "Ut!", he stated,

I'll tell you who said it. At Shea Stadium, when the Beatles were all up there, and the fans were trying to rush the stage, and the police were trying to keep them behind the barricades, George Harrison points to one that gets through, and says, "Ut!" It's like oops! It's just a goofy thing that's kind of childlike and fun.[2]

Flaming Carrot Comics and Burden's Spin-off Mysterymen project went on to forsake the elitist, perfection-oriented traditional super heroes with characters who were blue collar, second string, roughnecks and goofballs with mediocre powers: outcasts that couldn't make it into the major leagues but, none-the-less saved people, risked everything and fought evil.

Hailing from rust-belt mill-towns and backwater boondocks of America, Flaming Carrot and his fellow Mysterymen were irreverent, carousing, hard drinking, ruffians and rabble rousers, hammering square pegs into round holes, dodging lawsuits, cutting up, skirting the thin line between good and evil and earning a hot meal, a refreshing cocktail and some romance now and then.

"Our theme was do the best you can with what you got, never leave a pal behind, lost causes are sometimes the best ones and keep it fun." says Burden. "I'd say, Flaming Carrot was to the regular superheroes what Huckleberry Finn was to Tom Sawyer."

Publication history

The Flaming Carrot first appeared in Visions #1 (1979), a direct-market magazine[2] and in subsequent yearly issues that eventually became the program booklet of the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, with Flaming Carrot stories went on to appear in each yearly edition of the magazine through 1987. Bob Burden illustrated and wrote the book, with lettering by Roxanne Starr, who went on to be one of the first pioneers of computer lettering.[citation needed]

In 1981 Burden, under the company name Killian Barracks Press, self-published Flaming Carrot Comics #1, an oversized one-shot.[3] Four- to eight-page Flaming Carrot stories appeared in each subsequent annual issue of Visions through #4 (1982), that last of which contained an apocryphal Flaming Carrot history that convinced Dave Sim, of the self-publishing company Aardvark-Vanaheim, to publish Flaming Carrot as a regular comic,[4] First, however, Sim included back-up stories of the Carrot in the pages of Aardvark-Vanaheim's Cerebus' #61–62 (cover-dated April–May 1984). The Carrot eventually guest starred in the series proper in Cerebus #104 (Nov. 1987).

In the meantime, Aardvark-Vanaheim had published Flaming Carrot #1-5 (May 1984 - Jan. 1985).[5] The company also published a 3-D special, A-V In 3-D #1 (Dec. 1984).

After Dave Sim and Deni Loubert, the couple behind Aardvark-Vanaheim, divorced, Loubert established Renegade Press to publish all of Aardvark-Vanaheim's former titles apart from Cerebus. Flaming Carrot was one of these, and remained with Renegade until the publisher went bankrupt[citation needed] in 1988. Renegade published issues #6-17 (March 1985 - July 1987).[6] Burden also published a short Flaming Carrot piece in the Fantagraphics anthology Anything Goes! (Oct. 1986).

After Renegade, Burden took Flaming Carrot to Dark Horse Comics, which published 14 more issues of Flaming Carrot, #18-31 (June 1988 to Oct. 1994).[7] Dark Horse also published Flaming Carrot stories in its anthology Dark Horse Presents #20 (Aug. 1988) and its annual anthology San Diego Comic Con Comics #1.

Following issue #31 in 1994, the character appeared only sporadically in one-shots over the next decade as Burden focussed on writing stories for a number of new properties including a new Mysterymen comic series. In winter 1994, Bob Burden self-published Flaming Carrot Stories No. 1, referred to on the cover as a "Text Version of Future Issue". From 1997-1998, the company published four volumes of the Flaming Carrot Comics Collected Album, which was the first time the series had been reprinted, and the 64-page "Flaming Carrot Comics Annual No.1", featuring a new story. In 1999, Dark Horse published four issues of the spin-off series "Bob Burden's Original Mysterymen Comics", which did not feature the Flaming Carrot. In 2002, Dark Horse published the crossover special Flaming Carrot & Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman, listed as Flaming Carrot Comics #32 in the indicia.

In 1993–1994, Mirage Studios published the four-issue series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/ Flaming Carrot Crossover.[8] Burden did not do the art for this series, however.

Flaming Carrot was relaunched in 2004 with Image Comics and Desperado Publishing. This series lasted two years, comprising four issues (simultaneously numbered 1-4, and 33-36).

The final appearance of Flaming Carrot was the 2006 Photo Comic Special #1, (#37) featuring "fumetti" style of storytelling using photographs instead of illustration, in conjunction with Sam Gaffin and his Killer Robots project.

Fictional character biography

The Flaming Carrot origin states that "having read 5,000 comics in a single sitting to win a bet, this poor man suffered brain damage and appeared directly thereafter as—the Flaming Carrot!"[9] a origin which is considered by some to be possibly apocraphyl.

In the tradition of Charles dickens and Dick Tracy, which featured a host of bizarre and iconic villains as a mainstay, Flaming Carrot has presented in it's pages, a plethora of odd and off-the-wall villains, such as the Artless Dodger, Don Wiskerando, The Bicycle Thief, Garbage Mouth, Mr. Chicken Pants, a giant spider with diapers on, and many others. The Carrot, who lives in Palookaville, a blue-collar district of rust-belt era Iron City,[10] has staved off at least three alien invasions, a Communist takeover of Iron City, flying dead dogs, the Man in the Moon, Death itself, and a cloned horde of evil marching Hitler's boots. Possessing no real super powers, the Carrot wins the day through sheer grit, raw determination, blinding stupidity, and bizarre luck. Flaming Carrot even died in #6 (fell into a deep toxic waste pit in Palookaville), was brought back from clinical death in #7, described his sojourn in Limbo in #8 and got back at those who sent him to Limbo in #9.

Flaming Carrot was also a founding member of the blue collar superhero group the Mystery Men, introduced in a flashback/dream sequence in Flaming Carrot Comics #16. The story of this group was later made into the 1999 movie Mystery Men and a short-lived spin-off comic book series. The Flaming Carrot himself does not appear in the film, although a handful of characters like Mr. Furious, the Shoveler, and Dr. Heller do.

Powers and abilities

The Carrot wears a costume that consists of a giant carrot mask which extends from above his head to below his crotch, a white shirt, red pants, and flippers on his feet (in case he has to swim). The mask has a continually burning flame at the top and a secret compartment containing a nuclear-powered pogo stick (the mask and the pogo stick were invented by Dr. Heller of the Mystery Men).[11] Flaming Carrot also wears a crime fighting utility belt, but unlike that of Batman, his is filled with Silly Putty, rubber bands, laughing gas, random playing cards, sneezing powder, and other similarly frivolous items (which nonetheless can become lethal weapons in his hands). Dr. Heller upgraded Flaming Carrot's equipment after bringing him back from the clinically dead. The Flaming Carrot also relies heavily on his 9mm Radom pistol to kill his enemies without hesitation.

Flaming Carrot is able to go into a self-induced state of "Zen Stupidity" in order to face danger and evil boldly and without trepidation.[12]

Legacy

Flaming Carrot’s unpredictable antics, irreverent humor, fantastic characters and surreal storylines engendered a cult following and legendary status that exists to this day.Burden attributes his longevity and success to the storytelling more than anything else. "The stories seem, at first glance, non-linear and spontaneous, and in truth they start that way, but they are really linear. I always somehow manage to orchestrate a beginning, middle and end. I believe I was born a natural storyteller, but journalism school and the Robert McKee books and writing seminars didn't hurt at all. Studying is not about memorizing or mimicking the methods of others. When trying to mentor young, new artists, my main objective is to teach them to teach themselves, to also learn on their own and experiment, take risks... just use knowledge as a jumping off point for wisdom. And always remember, no matter how hard it seems, it's also got to be fun. Never lose sight of that." says Burden.

Like the primitive, raw New Wave music of the early 80s, spawned from the art-student/garage-band movement the New Wave comics championed creativity over musical experience and expertise. Flaming Carrot was one of the founding elements of the New Wave in comics, where independent, self-published, outside-the-box, creator owned books rebooted, reformatted and revived the comics industry. Burden never went to art school or took lessons, but collected and studied original comic art and took tips and critiques from experienced comic and art mentors like Jim Steranko, Stanislav Szukalski and Steve Ditko.

Working outside of the company environment and skirting the creative hegemony of caution and apprehension that is born out of corporate liability and fear, the "Indi Comics" creators of the early 80s set a trend of more literary, more creative and more fun stories for the medium, with a fresh, novel approach to comics: one that brought in new, older and more diverse elements, and set new standards for the traditional, corporate elements of the comics industry to live up to.

The early, pioneering, and seminal New Wave/independent books like Cerebus The Aardvark and Flaming Carrot Comics served as "missing links" to the of heritage of the then fading Underground comics. Books like Flaming Carrot carried on the explorations and off-the-wall forays of the preceding undergrounds, and revived the sense of freedom and creativity that the undergrounds had instigated.

As time went by the comic revolution of the early 80s was absorbed and co-opted by the big companies and the mainstream comics industry, but not before giving inspiration to more commercial properties like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spawn and The Crow which crowned and validated the Indi comics movement with mass-market success. "Even Flaming Carrot succumbed to the pop comics frenzy with the 60 million-dollar spin-off Mystery Men movie from Universal." says Burden. "But walk down artist alley at any comic convention and there's a whole new generation of go-getters and story-tellers sharpening their pencils with a pocket knife, publishing their own short run books, having fun and ready to take on the world."

Awards

References

  1. ^ Burden, Bob. "Bob Burden: Home". Bobburden.com. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mallette, Jack (November 1986). "Bob Burden (part 1)". Comics Interview (40). Fictioneer Books. pp. 22–41.
  3. ^ Flaming Carrot Comics Killian Barracks Press, 1981 Series at the Grand Comics Database
  4. ^ "Flaming Carrot Bibliography". Flamingcarrot.com. Archived from the original on August 30, 2010. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
  5. ^ Flaming Carrot Comics, Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984 Series at the Grand Comics Database
  6. ^ Flaming Carrot Comics, Renegade Press, 1985 Series at the Grand Comics Database
  7. ^ Flaming Carrot Comics, Dark Horse, 1988 Series at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Flaming Carrot Crossover » 4 issues". Comicvine. 1993–1994. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  9. ^ Burden, Bob. "When the Shoes Aren't Worth the Shine," Flaming Carrot #7 (May 1985).
  10. ^ Flaming Carrot page at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived 2012-04-16 at WebCite from the original on April 16, 2012
  11. ^ "Secrets of the Carrot!". FlamingCarrot.com. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  12. ^ Burden, Bob. "Bob Speaks!", Flaming Carrot #33 (Images/Desperado, December 2004).
  13. ^ a b 1992 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Nominees and Winners, Comic Book Awards Almanac