Most of you reading this are probably familiar with ODDBALL COMICS, the long running CBR column published Fridays and written by Scott Shaw. While for some of you that might have been your first introduction to the cartoonist, other comic fans probably know him best as the co-creator of "Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew" with Roy Thomas. Created in 1982 and making their first appearance as part of an insert in the pages of "New Teen Titans" #16, Captain Carrot was, at the time, DC Comics' first journey into the world of funny animal superheroes in decades. It also turned out to be one of their last.
The series ran for 20 issues before being cancelled. 1986 saw the release of the Captain Carrot special "The Oz-Wonderland Wars," but aside from a brief appearance in the Evan Dorkin penned "Superman/Batman: World's Funnest" and an unofficial appearance in Gail Simone's YOU'LL ALL BE SORRY column here at CBR, the Zoo Crew hasn't been heard from much since then. That changes later this month when they make their first of two appearances in, quite appropriately, the pages of "Teen Titans" #30 & #31, written by Geoff Johns. CBR News caught up with artist Scott Shaw to find out how this all came together.
To start with, Shaw penciled and inked the pages, which will be interspersed among the pages of the regular story in "Teen Titans" #30 & #31. "I don't wanna reveal too much here, but suffice it to say that Impulse/Kid Flash is a fan and collector of the ongoing 'Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew!' funnybook that's published 'inside' the DC Universe," Shaw told CBR News. "Rather than an actual 'story,' these eight pages are intended to be key pages excerpted out of a much 'bigger' storyline that's only hinted at. (That's why I keep putting 'story' in quotes.) It's as if Captain Carrot was never cancelled, and we're catching up the ongoing series. What's different now is that-- like nearly every other superhero title currently published-- CCAHAZC! has gone 'grim 'n' gritty,' with all that entails…except we're doing more of a parody of 'Watchmen' and 'Dark Knight' and their fallout which has led, over the last few decades, to modern-day stuff like 'Infinite Crisis.' Lost faith and innocence, heroes-in-hiding, a teammate's betrayal, murder; it's all there, only funny animal-style. Additionally, Geoff and I introduce a cool new character who's a dark and tragic patriotic-themed superhero, American Eagle-- but whether he's out to save or destroy the Zoo Crew is one of the many mysteries we raise."
While Shaw wrote many of the original Captain Carrot stories with Roy & Dann Thomas, Shaw told us that this story is all Johns. "I have tried to add quite a few visual clues that enhance (I hope) the otherwise unseen aspects of Geoff's storyline, though."
This new journey for Captain Carrot began over a year ago when Johns e-mailed Shaw to see if he'd like to have lunch. "It turns out that [Geoff's] office is only a few minutes away from my home studio, so we got together and compared geek-notes," Shaw explained. "I knew and admired Geoff's work, but we didn't know each other personally before that. It turned out that Geoff had written a phony preview of a new 'Captain Carrot' series for a fictitious 'Vertigo Junior' line of DC comics for 'Wizard Magazine's' annual April Fool issue a few years ago. Frankly, 'Wizard' has always had scorn for CCAHAZC!, but this piece showed real affection and knowledge of the characters and their history. (I was impressed; I didn't even remember some of the details included in that article!) Anyway, Geoff asked me if I'd like to draw a single CC page for an issue of 'Teen Titans.' A year passed, and even though we'd occasionally run into each other in the neighborhood or at conventions, I'd kinda given up hope for it to happen. (Over the years, I'd made a few pitches to DC for new CC projects, but to no avail; although the Zoo Crew definitely has fans and supporters up at DC, the response was always 'Now is not the time; but what else do you have for us?') Then, one day out of the blue, I get a script in the email from Geoff for the one-page sequence…and within a few days, it had expanded to eight pages! Apparently, to my delight, 'Teen Titans' editor Eddie Berganza dug Geoff's script so much that he requested the additional material. Frankly, if Geoff wasn't attached to this mini-revival, I seriously doubt if it would have ever happened in the first place, and for that, he has my undying gratitude."
Shaw keeps busy as a professional illustrator, doing regular work with the Simpson's characters over at Bongo Comics, as well as a large and varied assortment of animation, advertising and story board work, he admits that revisiting these characters has been a huge delight for him. "It's been a lot of fun to revisit my characters. If nothing else, I hope folks notice that I'm a much better cartoonist now than I was way back then!"
Regarding any long-term plans for Captain Carrot following this story, Shaw's not aware of any, but would love to see this lead to another Captain Carrot project for DC Comics. "Over the years, whenever I've had fans ask if I'd consider bring back the series; my response has always been, 'If you'd like to buy and read new 'Captain Carrot' stories, please inform the brass up at DC." There, I said it again!
The fondness many fans still have for "Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew" 20 years after their first appearance is sort of remarkable. This reporter remembers a time not long ago when questions of the fine Captain's return would be asked by at least one fan at most every DC Comics panel during conventions around the country. What is it about these characters that has generated such long-lasting interest? "Over the years, I've been truly gratified to learn how many fans 'Captain Carrot' has had; it was an entry-level "first-comic-book-ever" for many kids who grew up to now have children of their own. (Which, in my opinion, makes the Zoo Crew utterly ripe for revival now more than ever!) A surprising number of these fans would go on to their own careers as professional cartoonists, which especially pleases me. Apparently, 'Captain Carrot' was sufficiently different and appealing to attract the attention of readers to make a twenty-year lasting impression. It's almost as though Roy and I (and Stan Goldberg, Al Gordon, E. Nelson Bridwell and everyone else that helped out on the book) produced a sort of G-rated underground comic - or dare I say >ahem< Oddball Comic? -- for young kids as well as older comic readers. (Remember, the original CCAHAZC! actually appeared before Eastman and Laird's 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' saw print!) I don't think Geoff or I are gonna let anyone down - I think it shows that we've had a lot of fun doing this new 'story' for 'Teen Titans,' despite some of the material's grimmer aspects -- but as always, it'll be up to our readers to determine that."
Before we let Shaw go, we had to get ask at least one fanboy question: does Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew survive the events of the Johns penned "Infinite Crisis?" Y"'know, I wouldn't touch that question with a ten-foot carrot! Seriously, the Zoo Crew somehow avoided oblivion in 'Crisis on Infinite Earths, so I can only hope they manage to dodge that cosmic bullet once again!"