BONUS BOOK – Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew (February, 1982)
“This Bunny Unbound!”
Writers – Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway
Pencils – Scott Shaw! & Ross Andru
Inks – Bob Smith
Letters – Gaspar
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Len Wein
Man, it’s no joke that New Teen Titans was kind of the “straw that stirred the drink” for DC Comics back in the early/mid-80’s… we’re about to cover a handful of Insert Previews/Bonus Books that first appeared in issues of that particular mag!
We begin with a look at the… I dunno, “re-imagining” of the Funny Animal genre? A blend of the Funny Animal and the Superhero… it’s Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! (though, the Crew doesn’t really play much of a factor in the story we’re about to look at). This preview first appeared in New Teen Titans #16 (February, 1982)… which is pretty early in the run. It’s cool when we realize that the New Teen Titans concept itself kicked off the Insert Previews of the era… and is now being used as a launchpad for new and revitalized IPs!
Let’s get to it!
Our story opens in Metropolis, where Clark Kent is delivering the WGBS evening news broadcast. Top story of the day is people, ordinary humans, are going from acting completely normal one moment… to wild apes the next! After the report, Clark heads off to investigate the situation in his “work clothes”. He spies a fella who was in the middle of crossing the street… when he is suddenly bathed in a glowing light, and reverted to ape-behavior!
After wrangling the man-ape, Superman decides to head into the altitude and see if he can track down the source of that light-beam… which he feels came from, of all places, Pluto. What he discovers is that the Earth is surrounded by a sort of energy barrier… which, somehow, a glowing meteorite is able to effortlessly pass through. Our man grabs hold.
The thing goes boom… shattering into a half-dozen pieces. The flash of light from the blast manages to temporarily blind Superman as he plummets back toward… the Earth?
Flyin’ blind, Superman attempts to find his way back to the Daily Planet Building. Once inside, he finds it curious that his head keeps hitting the ceiling. Oh well, looks like Superman’s become a giant again! As he laments in the panel, it wouldn’t be the first time! He changes back into his Clark Kents before anyone might see him, and goes to sit down at his desk…
… Only, it ain’t his desk! It’s the workstation of Roger Rabbit (not that Roger Rabbit), the creator and artist of the Just’a Lotta Animals comic book series! As you might imagine, the bunny is pretty freaked out at the giant pink monster who just tried to sit on him.
Clark gets his bearings and tries to reconcile just where he might’ve wound up. It’s clearly not the same Earth he’d woken up on that morning, that’s for sure. Turns out, he’s not at the Daily Planet, but inside the building of Wombat Communications. Perhaps a play on DC’s parent company Warner Communications? Anyhoo, we (and he) can see that the entire world is comprised of anthropomorphic animals. The most interesting part of this page to me is a newspaper that mentions a Prez… which, makes me hope they’re talking about that Prez. As Clark and Roger try and figure things out, the latter heads over to his window box to start chowin’ down on some carrots.
Roger tells Clark that they’re having similar evolutionary problems on his Earth… ordinary anthropomorphized animals are his with a beam… and start acting the way they “used to”… kinda like the humans on Earth-1 acting like apes, ya dig?
It’s probably worth noting that the carrot Roger is eating is… glowing. Superman notices this fact, and uses his x-ray vision to get a better look at the window box. It would appear that a rogue chunk of that meteorite landed there! He swats the carrot away…
… which causes (a now-glowing) Roger to recoil and punch the Man of Steel through several walls of the building!
After apologies are exchanged, Superman vows to get a better understanding of everything that’s going on. Meanwhile, Roger realizes that not only is he super-strong… he’s also got super-hearing, and… well, super-everything. Once Superman’s gone, Roger heads back into his office to try on an old superhero Halloween costume.
Before long, he’s already caught up to Superman… who, is pretty shocked to see puny Roger all buffed up. Also, flying! Well, okay… not actually flying, he’s got more of a “Hop, Skip, and Jump” trajectory.
Together, they head to the U.N. Building (that is, United Nature)… where all of the anthro-aminals have “reverted to type”… which is to say, they’re acting like, ya know… amin… err, animals.
Roger proclaims himself to be “Captain Carrot”, and the pair’a heroes get busy saving the animals from themselves. When the dust settles, a bevy of television monitors around the U.N. podium begin to light up… it would appear that there were five other Funny Animals affected by those rogue meteorite shards, and given powers beyond anyone’s wildest imagination! There’s our Zoo Crew!
The story ends with Superman revealing that all of their problems have originated on Pluto… and Captain Carrot following him to their next adventure (which we’ve already discussed here… ages ago!)
Ya know, as a self-proclaimed fake-ass comics historian, I’ve always felt like I should like Captain Carrot a whole lot more than I actually do. I mean, it’s fun enough… I just can’t help but to feel that it falls just short of actually being interesting. It kinda gets tackled on the one-yard line for me, ya know? Almost there, but not quite.
What we get here, however, is probably my… I dunno “favorite” Captain Carrot story? Probably… well, almost certainly, due to the Superman bits… and it’s actual connectivity to DC Universe lore. I thought having two different artists for the two different characters was an awesome touch to boot! It gave the story a very… uh, Roger Rabbit (that Roger Rabbit) look and feel.
As for the story… well, it’s light and fun. Nothing offensive, though I suppose your evolutionary mileage may vary? In revisiting plenty of these Insert Previews (or Prevues), it’s pretty eye-opening seeing how many have Roy Thomas’ name attached. He was new to DC at this point, and it looks like they were rolling out the red carpet for him… just letting him explore different concepts and genres, and carving out his own corner of the universe. As much as I kinda get the dry-heaves over just giving a newcomer carte blanche, especially in the “nowadays”… at least back then, the stuff that Thomas was doing didn’t usurp the entire direction of the company!
This was decent enough… and, worth checking out. If you’re a Captain Carrot fan, you’re going to really dig this. If you’re not… well, there’s still a Superman story here to enjoy! And heck if we’re being technical, an entire issue of New Teen Titans sandwiching it! This story is included in the SHOWCASE Presents: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! volume.
UPDATE (February 11, 2020):
Advance Look at Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew, from Amazing Heroes #5 (October, 1981):
UPDATE: February 16, 2020:
A blurb from Amazing Heroes #1 (June, 1981) regarding the return of the “Funny Animal”
Interesting (and Relevant) Ad: