Weird Comics: The Flaming Carrot, a Woman in a Fish Tank, and the Wankathon

Iowa collectors explore movies, music, and books … physically.

Bryon Dudley/Iowa Informer

Thanks to the huge success of film adaptations, there’s no longer the stigma associated with being a comic book nerd that existed just 25 years ago (give or take). However, although there are certainly a number of examples of indie comics having great success when translated to film or video (The Walking Dead being a good example, or the film Ghost World), there are some really strange comics out there still that will likely never be adapted. And I think that’s a good thing! Let comics be comics when they can’t be adapted.

For the more adventurous reader, though, here are three weird graphic novels worthy of your consideration:

Flaming Carrot Comics Omnibus

I used to pick up Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics whenever I could find them, which was rarely — an early indie comic, it didn’t enjoy the wide distribution of your average superhero fare. Super trippy stuff, and very much in the dadaist style, I was pretty excited to come across this collection, which, though published during the ‘80s, is still stranger than about anything being put out today. The main character wears a mask that is literally just a flaming carrot, and scuba fins, and he gets around on a nuclear pogo-stick, which takes him from strange situation to strange situation. Burden also created the Mysterymen, a comic focused on group of misfit heroes that was adapted into a 1999 film starring Paul Reubens, Ben Stiller, and William H. Macy. This collection also features a bizarre crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Strangehaven Vol. 1: Arcadia

This one’s a bit frustrating, because it quit coming out before it was completed, but Strangehaven is a great ride while it lasts. With a distinctly British flavor and tone, this series captures the feel of Twin Peaks, The Prisoner, and Lost all at once, but sort of as directed by Terry Gilliam. A stranger moves to a small British village, finds he can’t leave, and gets involved with the inhabitants who live there. There’s a secret society and a link to the Amazon rainforest, aliens, and a naked woman in a fish tank, among many other mysteries. The artwork is consistently fantastic, and you’ll be charmed by all the characters, even the more sinister ones. Three volumes of story exist, but, sadly, writer and artist Gary Spencer Millidge put the conclusion on hold to move on to other ventures.

The Invisibles

Clocking in right at 1,500 pages, this weird tome collects three different runs of Grant Morrison’s masterpiece, The Invisibles. It’s difficult to condense down what the series is really about, as it is truly mind-expanding, but it involves a super-secret organization battling the takeover of Earth by beings from another dimension. Along the way, there are astral projections backwards in time, transgender superspies, the Marquis de Sade, telepathic battles, and the author’s belief that the series serves as a “hypersigil” to jump-start our culture into a more positive (and probably weird) culture via chaos magic. Early in the series, sales were slow, so Morrison requested that readers engage in a “wankathon,” where they would all masturbate while concentrating on a magical symbol, in order to save the series. Sales picked up, whether through magic or the stunt bringing attention to the book, and the series became legendary, ranking seventh on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 50 Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels. Definitely not for those with delicate sensibilities, Morrison fought censorship constantly with this series, and if you commit to it, you’ll revel in the reasons why.

Bryon Dudley
Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.