Welcome back Heroes. Today we are gathered in the Satellite briefing room for information regarding our next mission into days gone by. One of the small joys of being a kid in the 80s for me was getting to spend as much time as I wanted at a comic book spinner rack! I would love walking to the store with my hefty 20 dollar allowance and blowing every cent on a fat bag of comics, which, in my buying prime, were 65-75 cents each!! So I came out with everything I wanted. I hit Pharmacies, Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and the occasional comic book store / Kiosk in my hunt of comic book treasures! One thing that always heightened that experience were Team – Up Issues! Marvel Team Up and Marvel 2 in 1 saw Spider-Man and The Thing team up with almost every famous Marvel hero at the time. The thrill of seeing Spider-Man team with Captain Britain, Or The Thing and The Hulk were a fan boys wet dream!!I was a DC guy mainly in the 80s so while Spider Man and The Thing were teaming with Marvels best I was loving DCs versions of Team Ups. Batman and SuperMan were the Worlds Finest. DC marched their two biggest heavy hitters to team up with every major DC character in two classic titles created to explore the team dynamic!! DC Comics Presents featured Superman teamed with everyone but the kitchen sink. Brave and the Bold Teamed Bat-Man with everyone you could name INCLUDING the kitchen sink. DC reached for everyone you could think of from a team up such as A-Listers like Green Lantern to Z-Listers like Ambush Bug. Just when you thought there was no one else for The Man Of Steel To Team-Up with then came…THIS!!
Begin Transmission: Aug.11.2014
That’s right…Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew. First some context is needed here. The era was the 1980s, DC had yet to streamline its massive continuity with its Crisis Event hence there was still room for `Funny Animal characters in its history..such as Captain Carrot and The Zoo Crew. Funny Animal comic books and newspaper strips had pretty much been a staple of the 50s and 60s but only small traces of those days in comics history still lingered in the comics medium of the early 1980s. Saturday Morning cartoons had retained a certain element of the talking funny animals on TV. Scooby Doo was a runaway hit, There were the Muppets, there was Mighty Mouse, and there were Disney’s Mickey and Friends. Harvey Comics still in its final days of publishing continued on the trend of funny animals books. DC not being one to buck a trend followed suit with what would be their final attempt at a Funny Animal book. Even the term “Funny Animal Book” carried a negative connotation even in the free for all early 80s. One of Comicdoms Godfathers, Roy Thomas along with Scott Shaw created The Captain and His Zoo Crew and Unleashed them onto the world in a special 16 page insert preview (Or Prevue as DC coined it!) inside the pages of the very popular Team Book New Teen Titans #16 in Feb. of 1982!
DC was experimenting with new titles at the time and were introducing new characters and concepts in various titles with 16 page previews wedged in the middle of their more high-profile books to provide maximum visibility to new properties! Such classic titles like Dial H For Hero, Arak Son Of Thunder, Night Force, Atari Force, Masters Of The Universe, Mask, Blue Devil, Amethyst, Flash Force 2000?? (Huh?), and Bat-Man and The Outsiders. (Damnit..thats when comics were comics..sigh..) Of course the most unusual title in the mix was Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew!
I choose to talk about Captain Carrot because this book was an absolute favorite of mine. I loved parody comics. I frequently bought magazines like MAD Magazine and Cracked and loved that style of humor..just the style Cap and his Gang were projecting! There was a local Hardware store in my hometown called Handy Andy’s that carried comics on its magazine rack and didn’t update them frequently or rotate them so it was quite common for several issues of a title would stay on the shelf en mass. Their lack of rotation landed me Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #5-#8. I was hooked! I loved DC Comics Team Books so titles Like Legion Of SuperHeroes and of course The Justice League Of America of which Captain Carrot and his crew were inspired by! On to the team and their inspirations..Captain Carrot was “Inspired” by SuperMan, Pig-Iron by Frankenstein,and The Thing, Yankee Poodle was a combination of Captain America and Wonder Woman. Rubber Duck was clearly Plastic Man. Alley Kat Abra was Zatanna, and FastBack was The Flash. The Zoo Crew Were an anthropomorphic JLA!! (Yes for the Zoo Crew aficionados there were another group of JLA Animal Heroes in the Captain Carrot Universe called Justa Lotta Animals…J.L.A…get it? More on them later!)
As discussed, the concept behind the DC Prevue inserts was to introduce the characters to a captive audience on popular books. No bigger book in that day than New Teen Titans. DC went the extra mile with The Zoo Crew however by pairing them directly with The Man Of Steel. Yes the first appearance of Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew were in a Team Up Story!! How and why did such an event happen? Well..I am glad you asked..synopsis time!
Metropolis was experiencing an epidemic where citizens were acting like primates for no apparent reason. Superman deduced that it was the planet Pluto of which was emitting energy rays causing said effect on the people of earth. Upon investigating the incident Superman is transported to an alternate earth know as Earth-C!! (After Crisis it is determined that Earth -C is not a part of the Multiverse but rather a Alternate Dimension! Great backdoor DC!) Superman encountered a number of Animal inhabitants who as a result of being struck by radiated fragmented meteor! The creation of these beings were all as a result of Superman’s efforts..so in actuality it is Superman himself that is responsible for the genesis of The Cap and his entire altered animal world! After dispatching some low-level Animal criminals Superman teams with Rodney Roger Rabbit..(Copyright Check!!) aka Captain Carrot! Hell don’t let me tell ya all about it..Satellite..bring up Comic Archive..GENERATE. Now Heroes ..Enjoy!
The result of this initial team up was almost a two year run for a “Funny Animal” book and in March 1982 Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew #1 hit the stands! It was an instant hit with my circle of fans! The very end of the prevue DC introduced the Zoo Crew as all over the world Animals were being infected with super powers as a result of this mysterious Meteorite fragments! The Superman team -Up continued into the very first issue of Cap and The Zoo Crew! Superman and the team discover the sinister mastermind behind all these strange occurrences…JLA heavy..STARRO!! Starro for those who have no idea what I am talking about was a giant galactically intelligent Star Fish hell bent on de-evolutionizing the human race! Of course the first villain of the zoo crew would be DCs Galactic Star Fish! Very appropriate! The team fought valiantly to defeat Starro but it wasnt until the team came together as a fighting unit!
After dispatching the giant fish Superman and the Zoo Crew thanked each other and the Man of Steel returned to his own dimension and the Zoo Crew became the official protectors of Earth – C! DC had the most unusual Super Team in the world with the Zoo Crew and I was hooked. I regret not getting every issue in the series but my unreliable comic shops did not carry every title so Carrot was one that didnt get great representation on the shelves! The issues I did have left a mark on me and I can proudly remember buying each issue! This could easily be the next great DC Cartoon series!! You listening DC…Zoo Crew in 2015..Get On it!!
In summary DCès attempt to use the Man Of Steel as a pole vault technique to launch a new series in the 80s was a recipe for success. Carrot lasted 20 issues and even returned for another mini series (The 3 issue Oz – Wonderland War!) shortly after cancellation.The Mini series alas was not my favorite Captain Carrot Story and I cannot in good faith recommend it to Satellite Readers. The Story centers on a villain called The Nome King who enslaves the world of OZ. It is up to the Zoo Crew to assist the storied land. Not satisfied with his conquest of OZ The Nome King then attempts to overthrow Wonderland..what ensues is an all out classic fairy tale cross over that should be a good read but does not work well in the context of a Captain Carrot comic. On a POSITIVE, THE ARTWORK INSIDE THIS 3 ISSUE DOUBLE SIZED MINI SERIES IS EXCELLENT!!
This was a special time. DC had a less serious approach to its continuity and embraced its silly past, and Superman or Batman could literally team with anyone! These days however such continuity has been all but erased however we know Captain Carrot still exists even in the NEW 52 as he was brought back in the ill-fated Threshold series as the space rabbit Captain K’Rot! It’s not my Cap but at least the leader of the Zoo Crew is still alive and well in some fashion.
So before we depart to other ends of the galaxy in search of retro 80s transmissions I just want to talk Zoo Crew one more time!! Who was your favorite? I was strictly an original Zoo Crew fan. Sorry Little Cheese and American Eagle but this guy keeps it old school! Sporting The Yellow and Red with a Carrot Emblazoned on the front of his suit Captain Carrot was the undisputed leader of the Zoo Crew!
Of Course The Captain may have been my favorite but I could not but hold a special place for the two-fisted ever loving Pig Iron! Cap was a comic book artist something I always wanted to be, but Pig Iron simply put bad guys on their asses!! Pig Iron was the reason I bought Zoo crew in the beginning! Look at a cover gallery of the best Zoo Crew issues and Pig Iron is always front and center! Frankenstein meets the Thing and BAM..Its Pig Iron!
No team is complete with out the magician character! Always wondered what a NEW 52 Zoo Crew Dark would be like? Hey DC its worth a shot! Alley-Kat-Abra would be a shoe in for that group! Doctor Strange meets his cat, meets Zatanna. Alley -Kat is a foundation member! As many of you know I am not a huge fan of the mystic arts in comics so Alley Kat was never on the top of my list for favorite Zoo Crew members but a lot of her inter-dimensional magic was heavily lifted from the great Steve Ditko run on Doctor Strange..and thats pretty damn cool.
I was always a Plastic Man fan, Rubber Duck filled the gap. Part Elongated man, Part Plastic man RubberDuck maintained the humor of Plastic man while bearing the sensibilities of old Ralph! Rubber Duck is the only member of the team who is a celebrity! His list of Funny Animal movies is great! His character is actually based on 70s and 80s celebrity Burt Reynolds. They even gave RubberDuck a celebrity buddy named after Reynolds real life best friend Dom Deluise! Thats attention to detail!
Fastback has probably my favorite look of all the Zoo crew even though he is underutilized in the comic. The more I think of it, if Flash inadvertently caused Flashpoint to create the goddamn horrible DC New 52 maybe Fastback is our only hope to reverse that mess! He is also the only Turtle who is just as cool or maybe far cooler than a certain group of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Then there’s Yankee Poodle, based on 80s gossip writer Rona Barrett , dimension’s Cs Rova Barkitt! After the incident with the meteor Barkitt gain the powers of magnetism and joined RubberDuck as he joined the Zoo Crew. Wonder Woman meets Captain America and you have Yankee Poodle. This character was more than filler but was also an antagonist for the other female character in the group Alley-Kat Abra!!
WARNING HEROES…we are encountering a distress signal from the rest of The SUPER-BLOG TEAM UP gang…we need to immediately change course…For ETERNIA..Home of THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE...
SUPER-HERO SATELLITE and The All New..All Powerful SBTU returns for the next big Crossover Event on September 24 2014. Join the team for Team-Up Tear Down where, like the transmission post above we all jump into to explore the best, most unusual and peculiar Team Ups in Comics History,..This is one you Do NOT want to miss..
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