Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics: Omnibus, Vol. 1

You might not know you need this book: but you do.

If you like superheroes because they battle evil to save the world, the Flaming Carrot is for you.

If you think superheroes are silly and bizarre, the Flaming Carrot is very much for you.

If you think the world is meaningless and random, full of things that never can and never will make any sense, the Flaming Carrot is the dose of dada you never realized you were missing in your comics.

Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics: Omnibus, Vol. 1 collects thirteen issues of the series written and drawn by Burden, out of about thirty-eight total issues over a twenty-five year period. It has the first two issues of the 1984 main series (we all now quietly don't talk about the one-off in 1981; I don't know if I ever read it, it's never been reprinted, and it's now hugely expensive), skips a flashback issue from #3, and then finishes up that first epic storyline as it ran through issue 11 in 1988. Then, almost as a lagniappe, there's a three-part storyline from a few years later - the Dark Horse years; 1991 in particular - in which our hero the Carrot meets the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and they team up, very oddly, to save New York City.

There are two Flaming Carrot sequences that should be on the Internet somewhere - they're probably in one of the earlier collections, somewhere upstairs in one of my sons' rooms -- that I want to put here to demonstrate better than I can explain. But I can't find them. So here are the raw quotes, which isn't as good: 

Am I a killer?...Yes.

Am I a monster?...Perhaps.

Am I wrong?...Hardly Ever!

I am Flaming Carrot! Even best friends fear me a little!

I am grim... and harsh... and ripe with fury! I fight and kill and howl and get all bloody! I go bowling whenever I want!

And here's one panel sequence I could find, since everything Cerebus is lovingly cataloged online by Dave Sim's devotees. (The joys of monomania: you will always have at least a few fanatical followers.) This is authentic Carrot dialogue, embedded in someone else's story. The Carrot can go anywhere. He already is anywhere he needs to be.

The Flaming Carrot is a superhero. And an idiot. And a lunatic. And the main character of stories set in a surreal, bizarre world. And the hero of stories told absolutely straight. And not.

He is clearly heroic, in the old swashbuckling, womanizing style. But he's also childlike. Creator Bob Burden is not contrasting different aspects of the Carrot: he is one man, one crazy, contains-multitudes man, and this is all him, all the time. His world is equally as crazy and bizarre; he is a man deeply of and part of his world.

Flaming Carrot is the pure Bob Burden superhero - Burden is also the guy behind Mystery Men, though you might guess the original comics versions (Flaming Carrot secondary characters, to begin with) were much odder and quirkier than what got into the movie. Everything about Bob Burden is like that: it's all much weirder than you suspect, and fractally weirder, where the weirdness continues down multiple levels.

Anyway: there is nothing else like this. Burden writes and draws like no one else in the word. Buy this book, read it, incorporate it into your psyche. And then, if you are lucky, there will be one or two more books to collect the rest of the Flaming Carrot stories.

At that moment, you will be enlightened.

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