Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Amazing Zoo Crew!

There's something impeccably charming about funny animal comics. They were once upon a time a staple of the industry, as animals of all sorts stood in for humans in both comics and animation. Mighty Mouse, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, Super Rabbit, even the later Thunderbunny are all great characters. Pitching a story containing a rabbit or a duck and then having all manner of mayhem unleashed upon the poor creature was a neat trick to remove the effort from the immediacy of concern that humans might be injured in the production of the product. Nowadays we lavish overweening concern for animals, enraptured with a Disney-inspired adoration for the cuteness of  all creatures great and small, which neither know nor especially care that we find them adorable. But funny animal comics faded when the average age of a comic book reader slipped from six to sixteen and the randy adventures of superheroes came to dominate the concerns of the four-color worlds. Animals ceased to talk and went about their business.

Then came Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew. Roy Thomas grew weary of his years in service at Might Marvel and especially so since his time as a largely independent force at the publisher was cast into doubt by the rise of Jim Shooter, an editor with an eye to making the MU a unified edifice once again. The man Kirby once dubbed "Houseroy" brought to DC his adoration for the Justice Society of America and his success with Conan the Barbarian. The former he resurrected in the pages of All-Star Squadron and the latter he attempted to imitate in the pages of Arak. But less remembered I suspect, maybe not, was the feature he co-produced with Scott Shaw.

The Zoo Crew was a delightful attempt to satirize superheroes and at the same time in the tradition of the best funny animal comics, to create a book which was exciting in its own way.

As was the custom at the time, the team debuted inside an actual issue of the hit New Teen Titans comic, insuring a large audience for the title. This is a great idea and I'm stunned it's not used more often, even today to garner interest in new titles.

That story combined the wild artwork of Scott Shaw with the more traditional work of Ross Andru to create a real blend of styles that served to showcase the distinctiveness of the funny animal world. To read this classic go here.

It was  a successful kick off and the debut issue landed not long thereafter. Here the covers for what are some fantastic issues which poke fun at the popular culture of the day as well as exceedingly familiar tropes from comics.  Later in the run, Rick Hoberg takes on the art chores.

After the title was cancelled it was revived later in a weird trilogy of tales which take the Zoo Crew into the combined worlds of OZ and Wonderland. These are exotic and totally strange comics, and pretty well done to boot the creative team of E. Nelson Bridwell, Joey Cavaleri and artist Carol Lay.

After that the Captain and his Crew went to rest in the mists of comic oblivion until recently when they were dusted off and brought back into a post-Crisis DCU as part of the myriad realities which form that multiverse.

The Zoo Crew defies attempts to make them extinct, the funny animal is a tough breed indeed. I own all of the originals save for the most recent stuff. The Showcase volume for the original series is delightful and I need to get a copy of the more recent "Final Ark" story line for my very own.

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  1. My older brother has all these issues, but I never collected it.

    1. I got all the issues eventually. They were always available for tiny money and recently the arrival of the Showcase volume (love having this stuff in handy reading bundles) made me give it a closer look.

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