You know what? I think it’s time to take a break from the Golden Age this week.
The Golden Age of Comics was an age of ridiculous comic book characters and a “well let’s just throw things against the wall and see what sticks” attitude, which is the main reason why I started this blog in the first place, but I’d like to branch out and see if there might be other characters that could be just as ridiculous and crazy.
Sure, we’ve talked about comic book characters from different time periods before, but there has to be something there that’s crazy, bold, and…
oh hello, where have you been all my life?
Screw tradition, this is the Flaming Carrot.
Origin and Career
The Flaming Carrot made his first appearance in a small comic called Visions which was published by a convention called the Atlanta Fantasy Fair in 1979.
A bit of context here: the early 1980’s were a time when the independent comic book scene was really starting to take off. Creators were often ditching the big publishers of Marvel and DC to self publish their own stuff or with smaller publishers who were much more generous with their checkbooks and willingness to share credit.
For a bit more context, this was the time period that gave us the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The Flaming Carrot comic would later be self published through a company called Killian Barracks Press and then find different homes through various publishers over the next thirty years.
He was created by comic book author and illustrator Bob Burden.
The hero was meant to be a parody of superhero comics at the time.
he got his powers by suffering from brain damage after reading 5,000 comics in a single sitting.
Just goes to show you, comics are bad for you and will rot your brain.
How did his head turn into a carrot?
Don’t ask such stupid questions.
The Carrot lived in the fictional neighborhood of Palookaville in Iron City. He didn’t have any superpowers but he would often win the day through grit, determination, and sheer dumb luck. Also, he had a toy chest of gadgets to help him along with a gun, which he used without hesitation or remorse.
His enemies were equally ridiculous, as you can see below.
You’ll notice that a lot of the interior artwork is in black and white. It was like this to cut down on art and printing costs. Believe me, I know.
Over the course of his career, the Flaming Carrot developed a cult following and became pretty popular. He even found some time to create a team of working class heroes known as “The Mystery Men”
We’ll touch on that later.
So what we have here is an independent creator, publishing a black and white comic, that parodies super hero stories, and is self published without any help or support.
Can’t imagine why I would relate to something like that.
Side note: did you know that we actually have another web comic up and running? It’s called “Questing 9 to5” and it’s on our Tapastic account which you can find here
So what happened?
It’s actually kind of difficult to pinpoint the exact time and moment when Flaming Carrot ceased publication ended. Despite its success as an indie hit, it ceased being an ongoing title when issue #31 was released in 1994.
The hero would make various appearances in one shots and crossovers over the course of the 1990’s, including a crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1993.
Sadly, this did not make it into the show.
In 2004, the character was picked up by Image Comics and four more issues were published.
His last appearance was in 2006 and to this date, Bob Burden hasn’t published anything else.
Thankfully, Flaming Carrot was just crazy enough, and just popular enough, to garner attention from Hollywood, and in 1999 Burden helped create a movie based around Flaming Carrot’s teammates. The movie was called Mystery Men,
and it failed spectacularly. It’s actually kind of sad really, the movie has some great actors who would go on to better things, so it was clear that there was SOME effort put into it. Although, it had Dane Cook in it which was just…
However, there was one thing about the movie that has stayed with us and has gone on to pop culture immortality.
You know that one song by a band called Smash Mouth? The one that was really REEEAAALY popular in the early 2000’s and everyone knew as “that song that plays at the beginning of the first Shrek movie”?
Yep, this is the movie where that song came from and why the introduction has a whole bunch of ridiculous superheroes…and Dane Cook.
I’m going to level with you, Flaming Carrot is that kind of ridiculous cheesiness that makes comic books the unique and wonderful medium that they are. He was a rough and tumble, blue collar, scrappy hero with the kind of gimmick that would make you roll your eyes and groan.
But it was very clear that there was a lot of heart and effort put into The Flaming Carrot, and although he was ridiculous, he was drawn proof the the wonderful and heartfelt insanity that could only occur in comic books.
Last week we talked about a superhero known as “The Hand”.
Everyone seemed to like it so here’s a write up about another body part that decided to become a superhero.
Yes, there was more than one of these, and this one was actually a bit more successful.
Say hello to The Eye.
Origin and Career
The Eye made its first appearance in Keen Detective Funnies #12 in December of 1939.
The book was published by a company called Centaur Publications, one of the earliest comic book publishers in American history and the company that helped Bill Everett get his start in comics.
Bill Everett is the man who helped create Namor the Submariner and Daredevil.
The character itself was created by a man named Frank Thomas.
You may not know the man’s face, but I’m willing to bet that if you’re an animator or a Disney fan you know his his name and his work.
The man was one of the original animators on Walt Disney’s creative team when the company was just starting out and helped produce some of the most recognizable classics in modern animation history. One example? He animated this scene from Snow White.
He also helped write a book with a colleague of his named Ollie Johnston called The Illusion of Life,
a book that remains one of the most important milestones in 2D hand drawn animation to this day. In fact, the two men were so influential that they were given a cameo appearance in The Incredibles, one of my favorite movies of all time.
Basically Frank Thomas was a big deal, and The Eye was his contribution to the comic book world.
As for The Eye itself, his first adventure starts with the whitest Afghani family on the face of the planet.
The old man laments that he was once a prosperous businessman but had his livelihood stolen from him. Suddenly, a disembodied eye appears in the room.
Meanwhile, in Kabul we’re introduced to the vain and pompous villain of the story, a man named Herat, who wants the old man dead.
You know, I can’t help but wonder how differently this story would play out if it was published today.
Anyway, the villain tries to hire two hitmen to take out his rival. Fortunately The Eye stops them with his ability to travel anywhere and shoot heat blasts out of his…well eye.
Boy, I know red eye flights are a pain…but this is ridiculous. (wait don’t go…come back!)
The story resolves itself quickly and just in the way you would expect. The villain is defeated, and justice is served. The Eye has saved the day and the old man and his daughter are free to return to their business.
The Eye would go on to become something of a regular back up feature in the comic. The stories weren’t connected, it was more of an anthology tale where The Eye would drop in on a group of criminals committing a crime and use one of his many ill defined powers to save the day.
He was also given a sidekick, a young attorney named Jack Barrister who would assist The Eye whenever it needed a hand.
The Eye ran for eight issues in Keen Detective and must have been popular because he was given his own series in November of 1940.
So what happened?
The Eye may have been popular enough to get his own series, but his publisher wasn’t so lucky. While Centaur may have been one of the first comic book publishers ever, poor distribution and business sense saw the company go under in 1940.
While the company folded, it did retain something of a legacy. In 1987 one of his stories was reprinted in a book called Mr. Monster’s Hi Shock Schlock by Michael T. Gilbert.
And in 1992 a company called Malibu Comics revived a bunch of Malibu characters into a team known as The Protectors,
and the Eye was cast as a supporting character.
The Eye was a genuinely interesting idea and character for a superhero. He had an interesting gimmick and he had a legendary creator behind him. If it wasn’t for his publisher going out of business I’m willing to bet it would have gone on to become a staple of modern comic book superheroes as well.
It’s a real shame to see an idea like that go to waste.
This one is going to be a short one, but boy is it a weird one.
We’re all familiar with the idea of a giant hand that is used as a metaphor for controlling things. The hit video game Super Smash Bros. has the “Master Hand” as a final boss,
Marvel Comics has the super secret group of ninja demons known as “The Hand”,
and many real life people love to claim that our lives and fortunes are at the whim of the “invisible hand of the market”.
Yes, the hand is always there. It’s big, it’s powerful, and it’s completely unknown to we small pathetic creatures.
But did you know that someone tried to take this idea of “The Hand” and turn it into a superhero in the 1940’s?
Told you this was going to be weird.
Origin and Career
The Hand made his first appearance in Speed Comics #12 in 1941.
The comic series was the first comic book title published by Harvey Comics, a relative newcomer to the comic book scene and a company that would become famous for licensed titles such as Caspar the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich.
Fun fact: Speed Comics had been bought from a struggling publisher called Brookwood Publications and was Harvey’s entry point into comic book publishing. Without this title, Harvey wouldn’t go on to become a major comic book publisher.
The character of The Hand was created by Ben Flinton and Bill O’Connor, two men who would go on to create the Golden Age version of the superhero known as The Atom.
Unfortunately, both men would wind up joining the armed services in 1942, and while both men survived they did not return to comics after that.
In his first and longest adventure, the Hand doesn’t fight Nazis or stop saboteurs. Instead, he stops a couple of card sharks from ripping off a casino.
He is introduced with no fanfare, no explanation, and no backstory. He just appears and warns two men that they better watch themselves.
The two men ignore the warning and begin to clean out the house. The Hand warns management, who takes it all in remarkable stride and agrees to let the disembodied hand help him.
I like to imagine that the hand belongs to some sort of cosmic being that is actually a child and is trying to act all grown up by helping people.
Why not? It’s more explanation than the comic gives.
The Hand is also a capable fighter…and capable of phasing through walls.
However, when the criminals attempt to stop The Hand by confessing, The Hand realizes that they will not be arrested or charged for their crimes. So he brands them on the forehead so the world will know what they’ve done.
Apparently, The Hand has never heard of hats. Which kind of makes sense.
On a side note: this comic issue deserves special mention for the story that came directly after this one. Since most comics at the time were anthologies publishing short stories of only a couple of pages, we got treated to this one.
A kid taking out a head of state with a rifle and people being okay with it? Boy the times really were different back then.
Anyway, The Hand would have one more story in the following issue of Speed Comics where he played the patriotic game and helped the F.B.I defeat some foreign spies.
It was shorter, but had more action.
So The Hand was an established hero with a gimmick and a creative team behind him…
So what happened?
…and that was it, those were the only two issues that featured The Hand as a superhero.
It’s really not that surprising really. The character was a small backup feature in a series that didn’t last very long and was published by a company that shifted focus away from original characters and into licensed stories.
Plus, let’s be honest, the two stories that The Hand appeared in weren’t that exciting or good.
The Hand may have been a small time character with boring stories, but that doesn’t mean the concept wasn’t interesting or that he didn’t have any value. Sure, the creature was a hero and had a sense of agency and purpose, but it always had room for normal people to step in and take over when the time was right.
It appeared that The Hand was some sort of benevolent spirit who helped where he could and allowed normal people to do the right thing, and if that isn’t heroic I don’t know what is.
The Hand had potential, it would be a shame to forget that.