Rating: 4.5/5 – Return to an Era When Comics Were Fun.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
This will be difficult for anyone who started reading comics around 2011 to believe, but there was a time when DC Comics actually created fun, whimsical titles that didn’t take themselves too seriously. Okay, there was that issue of ‘Mazing Man with “Brenda’s Story”, but DC became known for creating a line of fun books that didn’t need a rating for parents to know it was safe to let their children read them. If the parents themselves could enjoy the same book, even better, right? I guess we just must have lived simpler lives in the early 80s, because it’s difficult to picture the original Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew finding any home in DC’s New 52 universe.
“But wait,” you say. “I know about Captain Carrot. I’ve read Grant Morrison’s Multiversity. He was right there. I also seem to remember a Captain K’Rot from the short-lived (and vastly under appreciated) Threshold series.” And you’re right…the good Captain certainly did show up in both those books. Heaven only knows what he’ll be like by the time Morrison gets through with him, but even the updated Captain Carrot’s candle bears a dim light when compared to the brilliance of the original 1982-83 run of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, which is faithfully collected here, along with the Oz-Wonderland War mini-series (take that, Zenescope!).
If you ever get the chance to attend original Carrot artist Scott Shaw!’s annual panel at San Diego’s Comic-Con International, where he focuses on some of the oddest comics to ever be published, you’ll get an idea of the kind of madcap insanity he and fellow creators Roy Thomas and E. Nelson Bridwell brought to this title. The puns come fast and furr-ious (yes, I did that on purpose) and while some of the references may be dated – will anyone under the age of twenty know who Yankee Poodle’s alter ego Rova Barkitt is lampooning?(note: it’s Rona Barrett) – for the most part, the jokes, bad puns, and satirical swipes are fairly timeless and still smile-inducing some 30 years after the book first saw print.
While you could likely find the entire run of Captain Carrot for little more (or maybe even less) than the cost of this book (and in color), there’s a good reason to pick this reprint up anyhow. The word “Showcase” definitely applies to the unsung heroes of the book – Carol Lay, Al Gordon, and Larry Houston – the inkers. Seeing their work reproduced in black and white without the color getting in the way really gives you an appreciation for what they were bringing to the title. Unlike your standard superhero or action/adventure title, Captain Carrot’s hyper-animated style demanded a lot of exaggeration that had to be captured by the inkwork done over Shaw!’s pencils (and yes, Shaw! uses an exclamation point in his name). I enjoy this about pretty much every Showcase (or Marvel Essential) book I get, but for some reason the importance of getting a good inker on your team stands out in this volume.
Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew will likely confound and confuse anyone who didn’t grow up in or look back to that ever-distant time we call the 80s when comics took a lot more risks than we see these days. In an era where the risks now involve “edgy” moves like repeatedly killing off main characters (only to have them return a bit later) or having a titular villain completely deform his face, the true times when large comic companies took chances seem like a distant memory. If nothing else, do yourself a favor and pick this book up and have a look at it. If only as a monument to a series DC could never put out in its current environment, and hope to have it sell to a modern audience.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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