PERSONAL: Born in Buffalo, NY. Education: University of Georgia, Athens, B.A., 1976.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dark Horse Comics, 10956 Southeast Main Street, Milwaukie, OR 97222. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and illustrator. Creator of comic-book series Flaming Carrot Comics, Mysterymen, and Robot Comics, and comic strips, including "Guys from Limbo."
AWARDS, HONORS: Eisner award for best single issue, 1988, for Gumby Summer Fun Special #1; Ignatz award; Inkpot award; ACE award.
Flaming Carrot: Man of Mystery, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1997.
Flaming Carrot Comics Presents the Wild Shall Wild Remain! (issues 4-11), Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1997.
Flaming Carrot's Greatest Hits (issues 12-18), Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.
Flaming Carrot Comics: Fortune Favors the Bold! (issues 19-24), Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.
Contributor of strips, art, and articles to publications, including Heavy Metal, Art Papers, and Village Voice Literary Supplement.
ADAPTATIONS: Mysterymen was adapted for film, 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Bob Burden is best known for his Flaming Carrot Comics comic-book series, which was published during the 1980s and set in the Northeast. Burden was born in Buffalo, New York and lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Akron, Ohio, and Sharon Pennsylvania before heading south to Atlanta, Georgia, where he has remained.
The character, which has been compared to Krazy Kat, is a human-size carrot with flames shooting from its top. It debuted in the first issue of Visions in 1979. Asked by Roger A. Ash to describe it during a Westfield Comics interview, Burden remarked that Flaming Carrot "is a second-string, mill town, blue collar superhero living in Iron City, in the rust belt of the Northeast. He has no super powers and is stupid. When he gets in a spot, he just shoots his way out in a hail of gunfire. It's kind of a Monty Python version of the superhero, but it's not satire. Zen-stupid."
Burden said he got the idea for Flaming Carrot because he "wanted to do a surrealist work. At a glance, Flaming Carrot looked like a superhero and sounded like one. If comics were based on 'westerns' instead of 'superheroes,' I would have done a surrealist western, you know, the Aluminum Cowboy or something…. Flaming Carrot was just about the dumbest idea for a superhero a person could come up with. But it had a certain ring to it. So I just ran with it."
Burden also created the comic books Robot Comics and Robot Crime in 1987 and 1997. In 1997, he also illustrated a six-page Robot Crime story for the twentieth anniversary of Heavy Metal magazine. Invincible Man, a spinoff from Flaming Carrot Comics, was never published.
Dark Horse collected, in book form, the Flaming Carrot Comics issues from 1983 to date at about the time Mysterymen was launched. The characters first appeared in issue sixteen of Flaming Carrot Comics. Bruce Costa, who interviewed Burden for Dark Horse Comics Online, asked Burden to describe the Mysterymen. Burden said that "gritty realism is an element of Flaming Carrot, a background statement, but … Mysterymen … delve[s] into the human condition a lot further…. Maybe a little Willy Loman, Holden Caulfield, and Glass Menagerie come to comics. Revisionist? Definitely. Revolutionary? I hope so." As Burden continued, "I don't want to damage the integrity of Flaming Carrot. I want to keep Flaming Carrot Comics the feel-good, spirit-raising, hangover-curing, leap-before-you-look, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants venue that it is. It's my answer to a nation suffocating in the swill of its own mediocrity."
Burden explained that with the Mysterymen series, "the story is the star, not the characters. The characters are often interchangeable between stories. It's like Alfred Hitchcock or Tales from the Crypt. Some stories will be horror, some will be whimsical, some will be character studies, some will be surreal, some will be bleak." Four issues of Mysterymen were published in 1999, and in the same year, a film based on the series was released. Richard von Busack wrote in Metroactive Books online that the film version presents "an unpretentious Legion of Superheroes parody. The heroes are, among others, the low-rent vigilante Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), and the Shoveler (William H. Macy). As they battle villains in Champion City, they also fight with their own moms and girlfriends."
In addition to his comics, Burden has created covers for periodicals and contributed articles and reviews, including to the Village Voice Literary Supplement. His work has garnered many major awards in the comics industry, and he won an Eisner award for a single issue, Gumby's Summer Fun Special, in 1988.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bob Burden Home Page, http://www.flamingcarrot.com (January 29, 2004).
Dark Horse Comics Onlinehttp://www.darkhorse.com/ (December 6, 1996), Bruce Costa, interview with Burden.
Metroactive Web site, http://www.metroactive.com/ (August 12, 1999), Richard von Busack, "The Much-Hyped Movie The Mystery Men Originates in the Weird Comics of Atlanta Genius Bob Burden."
Westfield Comics Web site, http://www.westfieldcomics.com/ (May 20, 2006), Roger A. Ash, interview with Burden.