RETRO REVIEW: Flaming Carrot #1 (May 1984)

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Hey, buddy…  Wanna see something REALLY peculiar?

Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
Delightfully bizarre.
Burden’s art is a hoot.


Cons

If you’re looking for traditional story beats, you’re probably in the wrong place…

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)


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FlamingCarrot1CoverFLAMING CARROT #1
Writer: Bob Burden
Artist: Bob Burden
Letterer: Roxanne Starr
Editor: Deni Sim
Publisher: Aardvaark-Vanaheim Publishing
Cover Price: $2.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $80.00

Previously in Flaming Carrot: Is he man, or is he carrot? His origin is as simple as it is believable: “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!”

I…

…got nothin’.

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Interestingly, though there was a self-published first issue a couple of years before, and short stories that had popped up in ‘Visions’ magazine, this book is often cited as the first appearance of Flaming Carrot.  Given that I’m a comic book grader by profession (or at least by one of my professions, anyway), it’s a bit maddening to try to deal with the misconceptions around this issue.  To be honest, I bought it at a pretty high premium, thinking it was the first appearance as well, and was a little bit confused to find our opening moments a retrospective of the history of the Carrot as a long-lost hero of myth…

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If you’re unfamiliar with Flaming Carrot’s adventures (and, to be honest, the work of Bob Burden in general), the experience of Flaming Carrot can be a divisive one.  I, myself, love the absurdity of it all, especially the faux-history that Burden has created for the character.  Indeed, that backstory is reputedly what convinced Dave Sim of Aardvark-Vanaheim to pick up the character in the first place, and the first few pages are devoted to ace reporter Radzak Zokey’s remembrances of his favorite Flaming Carrot adventures and villains. As for the whereabouts of the hero himself…

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Heh.  That transition (“Where is he now?” to “Just then, across town”) always cracks me up, for some reason.  Burden’s tale is a surreal, stream-of-consciousness affair, with Carrot lamenting the death of a poor chocolate bunny, then transitioning to the home of Doctor Heller (the same Doctor Heller played by Tom Waits in the ‘Mystery Men’ movie, I might add), where Zokey has come for some startling news!

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There’s a direct line to be drawn between several of today’s comics (Axe Cop for one, and the ‘Tiny Titans’ stories of Baltazar and…  that other guy, y’know the guy) and the example set by Bob Burden in the 90s, but there’s an undertone of adult menace to Flaming Carrot’s stories that differentiates them from their spiritual godchildren.  When the aliens arrive, their message is a clear one: Humanity needs to get the hell out, ’cause their claiming Earth for themselves…

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Unfortunately, when Zokey takes his news back to the paper, the editors don’t believe him, and the Martians’ reign of terror goes on, under the noses of the unsuspecting public…

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While the monsters continue to make life miserable in the city, Zokey searches out his comic-book hero, only to find that Flaming Carrot wants no part of him and his terrible haircut.  As the Martians threaten the populace, scaring the children and running down pedestrians, Zokey returns to his hero with a buzzcut, and makes the carrot an offer he can’t refuse…

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Many readers are probably asking: Why does The Flaming Carrot wear swimfins?

In case he has to swim, duh?

After the best efforts of Doctor Heller (his ray turns the Martians into door-to-door salesmen) and the army fail, The Flaming Carrot finally makes his triumphant return to deal with the alien menace once and for all.

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Tense moments pass, and suddenly, Martian ships begin leaving the Earth in droves, as the would-be alien overlords decide to take their leave en masse.  What mighty force could our vegetable warrior have channeled to get rid of them?  Sonic screwdriver?  Ion cannon?  Crazy dog to bite the queen on the bum?

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Heh.  I’m fully aware that the entire story ends up being something of a shaggy dog tale, but the stream-of-consciousness narrative entertains me greatly, especially in the digressions and side-bits like the Hobo Jungle and the Martian broadcasts.  (“Mommy…  I don’t want them to eat my feet!”)  Admittedly, it’s not for everybody, and sometimes it doesn’t work in full-length tales, and I very much feel for anyone who has ever tried to describe individual issues, the tales of the Flaming Carrot can be incredibly engaging.  Flaming Carrot #1 isn’t really number one, and it’s a weird off-the-cuff affair, with some lovely noodly art and a nice dose of the bizarre, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s hard not to get at least a little bit involved with something so wholeheartedly goofy, especially when the creator is clearly having fun with what he’s doing…

Rating: ★★★☆☆