Thursday, March 13, 2014

The surrealistic world of the Flaming Carrot by Bob Burden

Flaming Carrot Comics is a phenomena that sprung from the independent comics explosion of the early 80's. It's irreverent, crude, and incomprehensible at times but a it's pure exuberant joy!
The Flaming Carrot lovingly satirized the superhero comics genre that we all knew and loved. It was like a Golden Age superhero comic on acid.

In the early 80's the independent comics movement was in full swing. Many companies like Pacific, First and Eclipse were giving the best comic creators, like Kirby, Ditko and Starlin, a chance at complete creative freedom and a slice of the profits. Among the early comic companies that sprung up was Aardvark-Vanaheim a smaller company that grew out of Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark's success.
It's interesting to note that Image Comics founder, Jim Valentino got his start here making a comic called Normal Man.

Flaming Carrot is something that is hard to explain. It’s something that has to be experienced, and like a joke, if you have to explain it, it’s not funny. But one thing about the Carrot is that he is unique. He came out at a time where there was a very important need for diversity in comics. In the early 80’s “alternative comics” meant either the satirical Cerebus the Aardvark or the fantasy/adventure Elfquest. Then there was comic’s retarded brother, “the underground” that was condemned to life locked up in the basement because the family was too embarrassed for anyone to see him. Flaming Carrot was a breath of fresh air on the shiny new comic shops popping up all over early 80’s America.
Like every other aspect of the Flaming Carrot, his origin is highly unusual to say the least; "Once a mild mannered existentialist poet employed by the phone company, He read over 5000 comic books in a single sitting to win a bet.  He won but his mind could not take the strain and he became... simple."
The Flaming Carrot was superheroes comics spun on their ear. The best way to explain the Carrot to someone who hasn’t read him is to tell his origin, ”After reading 5000 comic in one sitting, the Flaming Carrot was born.” It’s all of those 5000 Golden Age comics with their action, crazy costumed characters and goofiness chewed up, digested and spit back out in a random order. The Flaming Carrot doesn’t make sense to someone that hasn’t read comics but to those who are quite familiar to the language and conventions of superhero comics, the Flaming Carrot is pure delight.

The Flaming Carrot has no super powers but he does have lots of gadgets like stink bombs and a nuclear-powered pogo stick.
He exploded onto the unsuspecting comics scene in 1984 in Aardvark-Vanaheim Comic's zany "Road Hogs from Outer Space".
From Aardvark-Vanaheim's Flaming Carrot #1, 1984.

Now you may ask yourself, “what kind of guy would create such strange comics?” Well I have a kind of answer for you.
This bio is taken from Flaming Carrot #1, a self published, magazine sized one shot that came out in 1981.

Bob Burden self portrait from Flaming carrot #1, 1981.
Bob Burden had a pretty long career in comics. He stayed with Aardvark-Vanaheim Comics for a number of issues which eventually became Renegade Press due to a divorce settlement between co-publishers, Dave Sim and Deni Loubert. This arrangement lasted until the big independent boom of the 80's was winding down. Then Dark Horse Comics took over the publishing reigns of The Flaming Carrot.
Under Dark Horse, the Flaming Carrot had a successful run throughout the 90's. Bob even developed a whole line of comics written by him and drawn by others, producing series like Mysterymen Comics.
And in the late 90's Bob Burden hit the big time when his Mystery Men Comics was made into a major motion picture starring Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, and Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens.
For a quarter of a century Bob Burden has been dazzling us with his unique blend of surrealistic superhero shenanigans, and whatever you think about him, you have to admit that he is unique. All I've got to say is, what a long strange trip it's been!

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