Strange superhero Flaming Carrot goes digital

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!


    Concrete by Paul Chadwick is really, REALLY good comics. The trade paperbacks are essential reading for anyone who collects graphic novels or comics. You know what’d be a great Boing Boing feature? Track down Paul Chadwick and ask him what’s going on with Concrete. I’ve been waiting YEARS to find out what happens with Concrete’s baby. I’ve queried Mr. Chadwick by email several times and never received a reply. I think his wife was seriously ill so no surprise he’s not answering every e-mail that comes his way but… I’d love to get some fresh info on the topic. I think the most recent thing I heard was that he was working on several short Concrete stories and even a Concrete novel (text, not comics!) but that info was from back in 2010.

    1. w00t, Concrete had a baby? Wow. Need to check up on that.

      Great heady vibes with the Flaming Concrete Nexus Carrot. Memories of Steve Rude’s linework. Happy.

    2. Actually, just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of picking up a Concrete one-shot comic, “Three Uneasy Pieces,” from Dark Horse at my local comics shop. It had 3 short stories that move the Concrete story forward a bit, and it was pretty good.

      Maybe you’d rather fight a flying dead dog with a jellybean for an eye? I LOVE Flaming Carrot. Much more unpredictable and weird than The Tick!

      1. Hm, is that a reprint of the stories from Dark Horse Presents?  I’m betting it is.

        (I picked up a Beasts of Burden one-shot a couple weeks ago and was disappointed to find it was a collection of 3 stories I’d already read.  But seriously, Dark Horse Presents is awesome.)

  2. Don’t forget Steve Purcell’s Sam & Max: Freelance Police! That was hilarious. And I WAS STEVE’S EDITOR AT OUR COLLEGE NEWSPAPER! I actually got to watch him draw the thing, and commission my own illustrations from him!

    If you haven’t ever seen it, LOOK IT UP. I can’t believe Steve never took off like Mike Mignola, ANOTHER OF MY GOOD PALS AT CCAC.

    Someday, YOU WILL REMEMBER MY NAME. Just not today.

  3. I loved Flaming Carrot’s sometime sidekick Screwball, whose “super power” seemed to be the ability to wield a Ronco Pocket Fisherman like Indiana Jones did a whip or Spiderman did with his webbing.

    Also, when wounded his insides appeared to be made of shredded wheat, “pure moral fiber” as the Flaming Carrot called it.

  4. I remember laughing my ass off at  cross-over issue of Flaming Carrot that featured the TMNT.  The plot was one of them had amnesia and the FC adopted him as a sidekick with a paper bag for a mask.  At least teenage-me thought it was funny, not sure how it would hold up today.

    1. As you get older, misplacing your reading glasses leads to all sorts of humorous malaprops, like the League of Super Herpes.

    2. That was my introduction to the Flaming Carrot.

      They fought the Evil Umpires!

      If I recall correctly, they were vampire umpires.

  5. Horse.

    (Pedantic corrections department: it’s The Wild Shall Wild Remain.)

    Anyway.  Great to hear Burden’s back at it.  I’ve been a fan since FC’s first teamup with the Ninja Turtles; I think I cleaned out the back issue stock at Atomic Comics in the late 1990’s.

  6. He said one day “I’m sick of spandex clad muscle men and giant breasted woman comics.  That’s it, I’m going to make a carrot a super hero just to f with them.”

  7. The 1980s were an amazing sort of Precambrian Explosion of comics creativity, pretty much all of it taking place in weird little black-and-white indie comics that the general public never even knew existed. I somehow never got into Flaming Carrot, even though it was published by Aardvark-Vanaheim, home of Cerebus, which I loved more than any other comic ever. 

  8. I loved The Flaming Carrot through my comic-collecting years.  As an adult, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the trappings of youth, but my FC comics collection remains complete.  I’ve got all of the collected volumes that have been released to date, but something tells me that I’ll be chipping in for the champagne edition before the day is out.

  9. Thanks for the reminder of Nexus.  I had forgotten all about that book.  I have a stack of those packed away somewhere in my basement.

    1. There are new Nexus stories appearing in Dark Horse Presents.  I’m not crazy about the coloring (too many gradients) but other than that I’m enjoying it.

      Met Steve Rude a couple times.  He was a nice guy.

  10. Loved “Flaming Carrot” and my copy of #1, “Martian Roadhogs” is one of the favourite items in my collection.  “See Statues Slamdance to Destruction!”.

    At a Niagara Falls con (Contraption?) there was a guy with a fully functional Flaming Carrot costume.  They wouldn’t let him light the sterno flame on the top indoors because it would set off the sprinklers but we tried it out in the parking lot and it was awesome.

    The thing about “Nexus” was that he very definitely *wasn’t* a superhero.  What he had to do was assassinate murderers whose identities and crimes came to him in dreams that increased in intensity up to the point of lethality until he bumped them off.

    “Good old Doctor Jip!  He’s really quite a pip!
      He experimented on the demented
      And let their organs drip!”

    There was an incredible, mostly non-human, supporting cast of aliens, demons, gods, disembodied heads and machines in the Nexus-verse all written by Mike Baron and drawn by Steve Rude.  Easily the equal of any of the mainstream comics in art and story and far more adult than most of them.  Very hard to collect as it jump from sinking comic company to sinking comic company with great irregularity but I have a tonne of them including the black-and-white “Capitol Comics” magazine sized edition with the flexi-disc record insert.

    1. Good point on Nexus: he had all the trappings of a superhero without any the motivations of one. The costume, the mission, the powers, the back story, but absolutely didn’t want to kill anyone (at least Hellpop).

      Part of what I liked is that the alleged killers often had perfectly plausible explanations that the comic didn’t sort out. Recall the three Nexus sisters and the nurse who did mercy killings, for instance. Was he guilty? Well, the Merk decided he was.

  11. Loved all the comics you mentioned, but I stopped by to declare my undying love of the Mystery Men movie. I have a feeling there are a few other boingers who love it too.

    1. I remember enjoying the hell out of it, but I haven’t seen it in probably a decade.  I am willing to concede the possibility that it is “a terrible, terrible film full of great moments and actors”.

      1.  It’s a horrible movie, with some funny moments, I remember that I got to go see it for free, and they gave me a hugely oversized shoveler T-shirt that my gf uses to sleep sometimes (hell it looked like a dress on me).

  12. Flaming Carrot and Nexus are up there with the best that comics has ever produced. Add David Boswell’s Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Mailman to the list.

  13.  Great timing on the article!  Bob Burden was an artist guest at Dragon*Con and I got to meet him on Monday.  Picked up a trade paperback of FC #1-4 (Image comics series, apparently #33-37 of the original series) which Bob happily autographed on the spot.

Comments are closed.