Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!
|The Zoo Crew|
|First appearance||New Teen Titans #16, February 1982|
|Created by||Roy Thomas
|Base(s)||Follywood, Califurnia (Earth-C's version of Hollywood, California)|
Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! is a DC Comics comic book about a team of funny animal superheroes called the Zoo Crew. The characters first appeared in a special insert in The New Teen Titans #16 (February 1982), followed by a series published from 1982 to 1983. The Zoo Crew characters were created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!. Although the series, which was the last original funny animal property created by DC Comics, proved short-lived, it is still fondly remembered by many comic fans of its generation, and the characters appear occasionally in cameos in the mainstream DC Universe (this is made possible due to the existence of a "multiverse" in the DCU, which allows the Zoo Crew characters to exist on a parallel Earth).
The series was introduced in a 16-page insert in The New Teen Titans #16. The series was cancelled after twenty issues, with six issues still in preparation. These six issues were eventually published in three double-sized issues as Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew in the Oz-Wonderland War Trilogy, with the indicia title Oz-Wonderland Wars (plural). The series did not, in fact, depict a conflict between the Land of Oz and Wonderland, which plotter E. Nelson Bridwell considered antithetical to Ozite politics, but rather depicted the Nome King retrieving the magic belt and using his powers against both Oz and Wonderland, with the Zoo Crew coming in as reinforcements against him. The series was praised for its artwork, by Carol Lay, for its close emulation of the work of John R. Neill and Sir John Tenniel, but the story, scripted by Joey Cavalieri was seen by many to be too close to the plot of Ozma of Oz to reach its full potential. The series featured cameos from Hoppy the Marvel Bunny and the Inferior Five.
A Showcase Presents reprinting of the entire series was slated for September 2007, but has been postponed along with several other Showcase editions due to royalty issues in DC's contracts of the 1980s.
After years of absence, the Zoo Crew was reintroduced in Teen Titans in 2005. In October 2007 a three-issue series called "Captain Carrot and the Final Ark" featured the Zoo Crew picking up from the Teen Titans storyline.
The various members of the Zoo Crew lived on a parallel Earth that, during DC's pre-Crisis multiverse system, was named "Earth-C." Earth-C consisted of a world where various anthropomorphized talking animals existed; the series featured many animal-themed pun names for real-world aspects. For instance, the Zoo Crew operated out of "Follywood, Califurnia," a parody of Hollywood, California. Similarly named Earth-C cities include "Gnu York" (New York City), "Tallahatchee" (Tallahassee, Florida), and "Loondon" (London). Countries on Earth-C include "Cornada" (Canada), and the "United Species of America" (United States of America); the capital of the United Species was "Waspington, DC" (Washington, DC).
The President of the United Species of America was "Mallard Fillmore" (a reference to the 13th president of the United States, Millard Fillmore). Other famous figures of Earth-C included "Liz Whaler" (Elizabeth Taylor), "Marlin Brando" (Marlon Brando), and "Byrd Rentals" (Burt Reynolds)---the last of whom became a member of the Zoo Crew.
Historical figures and events on Earth-C also parallel those of the real world, including the "Second Weird War" (World War II; Earth-C's version featured the U.S. and the Allies fighting the "Ratzis" (Nazis)) and President Abraham Linkidd (a goat, Earth-C's version of Abraham Lincoln), who was immortalized in the nation's capital in the "Linkidd Memorial".
Earth-C's population also consisted of the various "funny animal" characters that appeared in DC Comics over the years, particularly those in such Golden Age and Silver Age DC titles as Funny Stuff, The Dodo and the Frog, Real Screen Comics, and so forth. Indeed, several characters from these series made cameos during the run of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew.
Eventually, readers (and the Zoo Crew) were introduced to the parallel Earth of "Earth-C-Minus," which turned out to be the home of "Just'a Lotta Animals" (a parody of the Justice League of America) and whose world was an all-animal reflection of the mainstream DC Universe.
After the 1985 miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was stated that Earth-C and Earth-C-Minus were actually "alternate dimensions" rather than parallel Earths, and thus were spared from the effects of Crisis. More recently, the miniseries The Kingdom presented Earth-C as a Hypertime reality. In the series, Countdown, the Monitors include one who has a neck and head that appears to resemble a giraffe's. There is an equivalent of Earth-C in the newly reestablished DC Multiverse, designated "Earth-26", with a history and population similar to that of the Pre-Crisis Earth-C.
The origin of the team came about when Superman was investigating a strange phenomenon causing the citizens of Metropolis to begin acting like their primate ancestors. He determined the cause to be rays of energy originating from the planet Pluto. Flying towards outer space he encountered an energy barrier around the Earth, but after noticing a meteor pass through unaffected, he grabbed the meteor and attempted to use it to get him through the barrier. When Superman and the meteor struck the barrier, they were both shunted into an alternate dimension of "funny animals" later designated Earth-C. There, Superman met several of the world's residents, who had gained superpowers when they were struck by the various meteorite fragments.
The animals and Superman soon teamed up to stop the source of the ray (which was also causing the denizens of Earth-C to behave like their non-anthropomorphic animal ancestors), which turned out to be the old Justice League villain Starro, a sentient starfish, who was launching his de-evolution assault from the Earth-C universe's Pluto. After defeating the villain, the animals decided to stick together and form the Zoo Crew, and Superman returned home.
Unlike many superhero teams, the Zoo Crew initially had considerable difficulty fighting as a unit. For instance, they would often take on a foe in pairs, and find themselves interfering with each other and put out of action as a result. However, as the series progresses, the Zoo Crew persevered to develop on their tactics to become a coherent fighting force.
Zoo Crew reunited
In Teen Titans vol.3, #30-31 (December 2005-January 2006), the Zoo Crew made their first return appearance in some time, in stories presented as excerpts from a comic book story "Whatever Happened to Captain Carrot?" that Kid Devil reads in #30. In these excerpts, the Zoo Crew is shown to have mostly disbanded and now lives in a "darker" world than in their prior adventures. Little Cheese is dead. Yankee Poodle has lost her secret identity and is a fugitive from the law, accused of trying to assassinate President Mallard Fillmore. Fastback has disappeared, Pig-Iron and Rubberduck operate as underground superheroes against the current anti-superhero law and Captain Carrot is in self-imposed retirement after the death of his partner, Carrie Carrot, at the hands (or paws) of Armordillo and Frogzilla. He has not left his apartment in years, and drinks heavily out of guilt over Carrie's death. The only Zoo Crew member prospering is Alley-Kat Abra, who has revealed her identity publicly and become a world famous magician. The story is a parody of the grim and gritty trend most often identified with late 1980s to early 1990s superhero comics, and it includes references to several of DC's own series (such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, including the cover of the Captain Carrot comic, which bears a resemblance to the cover of Watchmen #1).
A new hero, The American Eagle, overhears Pig-Iron, Rubberduck and Yankee Poodle at the scene of Little Cheese's murder when they decide to regroup in order to avenge him. Acting independently of them, he confronts Roger Rodney Rabbit and bullies him into becoming Captain Carrot again. The others are disappointed when Abra refuses to rejoin the team, but rejoice when American Eagle brings Captain Carrot back to them. Their investigation reveals that the crimes against their members are connected. The president bribed Alley-Kat-Abra to reveal all of the Zoo Crew's secrets to the government; she took the money and made herself rich and famous. She banished Fastback into the future, killed Little Cheese and framed Yankee Poodle when she got too close to finding out what happened to Fastback. When Alley-Kat-Abra is arrested for murdering Little Cheese, she tells them she did it simply because she is a cat and cats hate mice. The Zoo Crew inducts American Eagle as their newest member and heads into the future to retrieve Fastback. Issue 31 was drawn by ghost artist Scott Roberts. Many fans spotted the difference and complained. Scott Shaw! had, in fact, drawn the pages, before DC's switch to another artist.
The Zoo Crew returned in a Countdown to Final Crisis tie-in entitled Captain Carrot and the Final Ark (October–December 2007). In the new DC Multiverse, the Zoo Crew now resides on Earth-26. It is revealed that they enlisted the aid of Chip Hunter, Time Master in a successful rescue of Fastback from the future. They returned to their own time to find major changes. President Mallard Fillmore's bribing of Alley-Kat-Abra was revealed and he resigned in shame. Vice President Beneduck Arnold took over and promptly created the Collar I.D. Initiative, (a parody of the superhuman registration storyline of Marvel Comics' Civil War event), which requires superheroes to reveal their secret identities to the government and to wear identity collars. The government immediately stopped funding the Zoo Crew, and they were forced to leave their headquarters and all the equipment that came with it. The Zoo Crew officially resisted the Collar I.D. Initiative and refused to sign up, but fought crime on the sly.
The Zoo Crew members restored both their civilian and their super hero identities. Roger Rodney Rabbit regained his status as a comic book artist/writer, but he had to stop writing Just'a Lotta Animals. Their attorney presented him with a cease and desist order, and he complied. Fastback started The World's Fastest Delivery Service. Rubberduck's acting career as Byrd Rentals was all but over, but he did get a reality TV show featuring him and other washed up actors. American Eagle continued his radio career as Johnny Jingo, "the radio talk show host with two right wings". Pig-Iron got a job working on an oil derrick, and Yankee Poodle became the highest rated talk show host in the business after she was exonerated of all charges.
The Zoo Crew operated briefly in defiance of the new law in battle with the Salamandroid (at a comic book convention where Roger Rodney Rabbit was on a writers' panel) and again when they learn of a threat to destroy Gnu York's greatest landmarks. Frogzilla reappears in a dumbed-down state (reminiscent of the "Hulk smash!" version of the Hulk) and battles the Zoo Crew. During the fight, he swallows Pig-Iron. He is manipulated into vomiting Pig-Iron into a particular building which houses a dimensional warp. The crash frees Alley-Kat-Abra from a nether world. After defeating Frogzilla, Abra tells her former teammates that she was imprisoned there by Dark Alley, an evil counterpart created by Just'a Lotta Animals foe Feline Faust. Dark Alley was the one who killed Little Cheese and framed Yankee Poodle. Pig-Iron vouches for her and tells them she contacted him telepathically from the nether world while he was in Frogzilla's belly and told him her escape plan. The team accepts her back as a probationary member and they promptly go to search for the Salamandroid's base under the ocean. Starro the Conqueror surprises them and uses his starfish duplicates to make them forget how to use their powers. Only Pig-Iron escaped- he could not go underwater for fear of rusting.
Starro is working with Rash Al Paca to flood Earth-26 so he can rule it. When President Arnold reveals that the ID collars have eliminated the powers of every superhero on Earth-26, they summon the Just'a Lotta Animals for help. Green Lambkin leads a JLA team (including Hawkmoose, Elon-Gator, The Crash, Batmouse and Zap-Panda) to help, and they and the Zoo Crew fight in vain to prevent the flood. They manage to evacuate a number of Gnu Yorkers using a huge ocean liner. As Pig-Iron stays behind battling Starro hoof to tentacle, Green Lambkin, Zap-Panda and The Crash combine their powers to transport the ship full of refugees to Earth-C-Minus. En route, the JLA encounters Muttron, Lightstray and Orihound of the New Dogs; while the two groups face off, the ship is accidentally sucked into the New Dogs' Kaboom Tube and sent to New Earth. Hawkgirl, Zatanna and Red Arrow encounter the ship and land it safely, but all of the passengers, including the Zoo Crew, are transformed into non-anthropomorphic animals. Zatanna takes Roger Rodney Rabbit to participate in her stage show as the other transformed Zoo Crew members look on helplessly. (A pig is amongst the transformed crew, although Pig-Iron had not been on the ship when it left.)
In the climatic battle in Final Crisis #7, Monitor Nix Uotan restores the Zoo Crew to their anthropomorphic forms and powers.
The members of the Zoo Crew include:
- Captain Carrot: Roger Rodney Rabbit of Gnu York; a rabbit. The leader of the team, whose real name is Roger Rabbit (or Rodney, as the latter comics named him to avoid confusion with the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit). After consuming one of his "cosmic carrots" (as Rodney called them), Rodney gains superpowers for roughly 24 hours, although major exertion could exhaust the powers sooner. His powers include super-strength, endurance, heightened hearing and vision senses and a super-powerful leap. As such, he is the only member who has to constantly replenish his powers and keeps a pair of carrots holstered on him for such a need in emergencies. The source of these carrots was initially a windowbox in which he grew carrots, which one of the meteor fragments had struck. Later he arranged a grow-op at the team headquarters to ensure an adequate continuous supply. In his alter ego, Rodney was the writer and artist of the comic book Just'a Lotta Animals, until its members sued for copyright violation and prevented any further reproduction of their adventures.
- Alley-Kat-Abra: Felina Furr of Mew Orleans; a cat. A martial arts instructor and student of the mystical arts, Felina uses her "Magic Wanda" (a magic wand) to cast various types of spells. She has a crush on Rodney/Captain Carrot, and was relieved to see Wonder Wabbit (of Earth C-Minus) return to her own world due to her attraction to him. She was imprisoned by Feline Faust, unknown to her teammates, during which time an evil counterpart, "Dark Alley," impersonated her and murdered Little Cheese.
- Pig-Iron: Peter Porkchops of Piggsburgh; a pig. Struck by a meteor fragment, the diminutive Peter fell (along with the meteorite) into a vat of molten metal in the steel mill where he worked. The consequent chemical reaction transformed his now-enormous body into living steel, with strength and invulnerability to match. Peter was originally a character from an earlier series of DC "funny animal" comics. Pig-Iron is also nicknamed the "Swine of Steel" and "Porcine Powerhouse".
- Rubberduck: Byrd Rentals of Follywood, Califurnia; a duck. Byrd, a movie star, was given the power to stretch his body into any shape and length when a meteor fragment struck his hot tub. Byrd Rentals' name is a parody of actor Burt Reynolds. Rubberduck is also nicknamed the "Malleable Mallard" and the "Ductile Duck".
- Yankee Poodle: Rova Barkitt, also of Follywood; a poodle. Rova, who worked as a gossip columnist, was interviewing Byrd when they were both struck by meteor fragments. Rova gained the ability to project a repelling force (in the form of blue stars) with one hand and an attraction force (in the form of red-and-white stripes) with the other. Rova Barkitt's name is a parody of gossip columnist Rona Barrett.
- Fastback: Timmy Joe Terrapin of the Okey-Dokey swamp in the American South; a turtle. While trying to catch a bus to Kornsas City, Timmy was struck by a meteor fragment and gained the ability to move at superchelonian speed. Fastback is also nicknamed the "Reptilian Rocket." Timmy Joe is not the first fast-moving turtle in his family. His uncle Merton McSnurtle was secretly the Terrific Whatzit, a crime fighter during the Second Weird War. One issue mentions McSnutle's participation in "Operation Overlard."
- Little Cheese: Chester Cheese, a student at Follywood High School; a mouse. Chester had the ability to shrink from the comparable size of his teammates to a size of only a few centimeters, and was the only team member not to gain his powers from a meteor fragment (rather, he gained them from eating a piece of experimental cheese brought back from Earth-C's moon), as well as the first non-founding member. He soon revealed his secret identity to the public and left the Zoo Crew to become a lawyer. "Dark Alley", an evil counterpart of Alley-Kat-Abra, later killed him.
- American Eagle: Replaced Little Cheese on the reconstituted Zoo Crew after the latter's death. In his civilian life, the Eagle is Johnny Jingo, "the talk radio host with two right wings". He is the only member who does not have powers, though he does use gadgets similar to those used by Batman.
In the story in Teen Titans vol.3, #30-31, deceased Earth-C meta-animals named (other than Little Cheese) include Carrie Carrot, Giant Giraffe, Marvel Bunny Jr., Ballistic Baboon, Amazing Ant, and Power Panda. These may or may not have been former Zoo Crew teammates.
Enemies of the Zoo Crew included:
- Dr. Hoot: an owl who uses various scientific gadgets to commit crimes.
- A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C.: A Cabal Recently Organized Solely To Instigate Crimes (and other variants designed to fit that particular acrostic), a secretive organization that plots to overthrow the American government.
- Brother Hood: A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C.'s shadowy leader, named for his black hood. He turns out to be "Feathers" Fillmore, Mallard Fillmore's criminally adept brother.
- Cold Turkey: A turkey with weather control and "cold ray" devices; he calls his hoodlums "Snowbirds."
- Jailhouse Roc: a giant flying vulture who had been in jail since the late 1950s until released to work for A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C.
- Digger O'Doom: a mole who gains tremendous strength after eating one of Rodney's carrots.
- Frogzilla: formerly Fennimore Frog, who is turned into a giant frog by A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C. as a means of seeking revenge against his old foe, Dunbar Dodo. Both Fennimore and Dunbar originally appeared in DC's "funny animal" title The Dodo and the Frog.
- Feline Faust: a cat sorcerer from Earth-C-Minus, and a counterpart of DC Comics villain Felix Faust. His servitor, "Dark Alley", later killed Little Cheese and framed Alley-Kat-Abra for the crime.
- Gorilla Grodd: The brilliant, mind-controlling gorilla once transported himself to Earth-C, only to be defeated by the Zoo Crew and Changeling.
- Armordillo: A villain from the "Lone Stork State" of Taxes with "nine-banded armor" and razor-sharp claws.
- Kongaroo: A massive kangaroo from Aukstralia who is transformed into a giant by A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C.
- King Kone: Garrison Gorilla, a disgruntled ex-employee ape of the Basset & Robins ice cream company who wears a refrigerated suit (à la Mr. Freeze), equipped with a gun that projected destructive blasts of ice cream.
- The Time-Keeper: A rotund bear who collects great moments from history, disrupting the normal flow of time on Earth-C. His time-control powers are considerable; he proves capable of aging or infantizing others at will, and transporting others through space and time. He attempts to pursue Alley-Kat Abra romantically.
- Salamandroid: A heat-based villain and creation of Dr. Hoot; a member of the anti-mammal movement in The Final Ark.
- Rash Al Paca: An Earth-26 analogue of Ra's al Ghul, he is working with the anti-mammal movement in The Final Ark to flood the world.
- Starro: A piece of the DCU's starfish conqueror regenerates to full-strength on the Zoo Crew's world, though his tactics are somewhat different. He was the Zoo Crew's first opponent, and most recently appeared in Captain Carrot and the Final Ark.
- Wuz-Wolf: An Earth-C version of a werewolf, in this case, a wolf who turned into a monstrous super-strong human. Formerly Peter (Pig-Iron) Porkchops' neighbor A. Wolf, nicknamed "Wolfie", he started becoming the Wuz-Wolf after acquiring a talisman that contained some of the steel Peter had fallen into when he gained his powers (thus it also contained some of the meteor fragment). Having suffered from the compulsion to eat Peter in his youth (which he got psychiatric help for), Wolfie acted on this impulse as the Wuz-Wolf and was left disgusted after the Zoo Crew managed to cure him.
- The Zoo Crew appeared in the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special in a skit in which the superheroes of Earth-One travel to Earth-C for the funeral of Captain Carrot. Green Lantern can't keep from cracking up however, because the natives of that dimension are all talking animals that look like cartoon characters.
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "In a sixteen-page bonus preview insert in the middle of The New Teen Titans...was the debut story of Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew."
- New Teen Titans #16, February 1982
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #1, March 1982
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #6, August 1982
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #3, May 1982
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #5, July 1982
- Mougin, Lou, Waid, Mark (w), Pérez, George (p). Official Crisis on Infinite Earths Index 1 (March, 1986), Eclipse Comics/Independent Comics
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #20, November 1983
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #2, April 1982
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #18, August 1983
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #9, November 1982
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #10-11, December 1982-January 1983
- Obscure DCU Guide: Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew
- Big Comic Book DataBase entry
- Toonopedia entry on the Zoo Crew
- Interview with series co-creator Scott Shaw! on the Zoo Crew story in Teen Titans (current series) #30 & #31
- Aliens Vs. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew