The 1980s had many surreal and outré comic-book stars. I recall particularly following The Tick, Concrete, and Nexus. They were respectively a nigh-invulnerable, possibly mentally ill superhero with a chubby accountant sidekick in a moth-themed flying suit; a writer whose brain was transplanted by aliens (themselves possibly escaped slaves) into a nearly invulnerable rock-like body often performing missions of mercy; and a man (later others, including men, women, and children) picked by a nearly omnipotent being residing in the center of a planet to atone the genocide of his father by being forced to be an almost indestructible and thoroughly powerful superhero, lest he face disabling pain.
You catch the theme here, right? Omnipotence, invulnerability, superhero—all but the Tick reluctant. Into that mix, Flaming Carrot was something altogether different.
The man wore a giant carrot mask (which I sometimes thought might be part of him) with a continuously burning flame on the top, and fought crime. He carried guns and killed people! He had sex (off screen)! He got flooby! Flaming Carrot was an endless source of nourishing nonsense that flooded forth from creator Bob Burden, who is still at it. Plotlines would meander about, involve strange supervillains (the Blipio!), strange allies, and strangeness in general. Burden drew the strip with a pulp feel, including buxom ladies in cutoffs and tight shirts.
Burden himself wrote, in issue 24, "While Flaming Carrot is an interesting character, the basic concept is not as easily grasped as with most super-heroes. Why does Flaming Carrot dress up in such a bizarre costume and go around shooting people? What are his powers? What's the point of it all? And that is the point. There is no point."
The comic books, which appeared largely in the 1980s through 1990s (with a reappearance from 2004 to 2006) followed the best rules of nonsense: those involved consider their lives absolutely serious, a la the original Airplane! movie. You can get a sense of these at his difficult-to-navigate Web site: click Special Features at the top and then Thrilling Visions for Flash-driven access to a 140-page collections of writings and sketches.
Burden also created the Mysterymen, a sort of third- or fourth-tier set of blue-collar-style superheroes like Flaming Carrot, who received Hollywood treatment in a terrible, terrible film full of great moments and actors. (It didn't pay for itself, but it actually made real money.) I particularly like The Sleek, the world's 17th-fastest superhero.
I'm recollecting Flaming Carrot, because he's...being re-collected! Burden and his team launched a Kickstarter campaign, already past its goal with new items being added, to produce digital editions of a previously published collection, Man of Mystery and The Wild Shall Wild Remain. The price is modest: $10 gets you the 250-page digital version of The Wild Shall Wild Remain; $15 adds the 130-page Man of Mystery.
Burden is also producing a new limited-edition hardcover of The Wild at $50, which includes a new eight-page adventure. The project offers packages at all sorts of price ranges that include original-run comics from his personal collection, and hand-drawn illustrations. I've opted for the $100 "champagne" level which gets you the new hardcover, a Burden-drawn Flaming Carrot, and both digital editions.
Flaming Carrot, like the best fever visions, can't be described so much as experienced. Ut!
Glenn Fleishman, @glennf, is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, a fortnightly electronic periodical for curious people with a technical bent. Glenn hosts The New Disruptors, a podcast about connecting creators and makers to their audiences, and writes as “G.F.” at the Economist's Babbage blog. He is a regular panel member on the geeky media podcast The Incomparable. In October 2012, Glenn won Jeopardy! twice.