Easter Sunday is upon us, that time of year when we gather with our families for buffets at the local country club, debate eating marshmallow peeps, and look for garishly painted eggs. And for some of us, it’s a time when we think about looking for that mysterious Easter Bunny. Who is he? Where did he come from? It hardly matters. Instead of trying to make heads or tails of Easter traditions, I’ve assembled this list of 5 rabbits that would definitely make your Easter Sunday one to remember.
Captain Carrot might not be the first rabbit superhero (that distinction belongs to Hoppy The Marvel Bunny) but, the good Captain might go down as the rabbit superhero with the most puns in a single comic book! The comic started from a simple idea: To bring back the funny animal comics that were popular in the intermediate aftermath of World War II. The instigator of this idea was long-time comics writer and aficionado Roy Thomas, who no doubt grew up reading such comic books. He figured that making the funny animals into superheroes was a way to sell the idea to readers.
The story of Captain Carrot takes place on Earth-C, a world much like our own except filled with talking animals and lots of things based around puns. The Zoo Crew itself is a group of superpowered animals operating out of Follywood, Califurnia. The president of the United Species of America is Mallard Fillmore. Captain Carrot was the alter ego of Roger Rodney Rabbit, who could eat a “cosmic carrot” and gain a variety of superpowers, but only for 24 hours. He is joined in the Zoo Crew by the likes of other super-powered animals such as Pig-Iron, a pig whose body is living steel. There’s also Rubberduck, who can stretch his body into any shape, and Yankee Poodle, who has the ability to repel and attract things (similar to magnetism).
Ultimately, the series proved short-lived, ending at issue 20. Since then, Captain Carrot and his gag-based friends have been mostly absent from the DC Universe, but not completely forgotten. In 2007, they returned in a three-issue mini-series called Captain Carrot and the Final Ark. After this, they made a memorable reappearance at the climax of Final Crisis, helping Superman defeat Darkseid. The Captain and his crew have mostly remained absent since. Now that an entire generation now knows Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, could a revival of the Amazing Zoo Crew be too far behind? As it is, the series remains mostly ignored and uncollected by all but the most cultishly devoted individuals. But, who knows when DC might decide to pull a rabbit out of its hat?
Roger Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit)
This next entry will be about one of the most famous cartoon rabbits of the 1940s. If you were thinking of Bugs Bunny, you’d be dead wrong. I’m talking about Roger Rabbit, who first appeared in Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, a mystery novel by Gary K. Wolf. The book was optioned by Walt Disney Productions and later became the hit feature film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Roger is a hyperactive, easily distracted rabbit that always finds himself on the wrong end of an anvil. So, pretty similar to your average kids cartoon, right? Well, the movie is anything but kids’ stuff.
In the film, Roger is a cartoon star in 1940s Hollywood. He exists in a world where cartoon characters actually exist, coming from Toontown, and are filmed by Hollywood production companies. Roger hires a private detective named Eddie Valiant to keep an eye on his wife, the voluptuous Jessica Rabbit. When the guy Jessica sees winds up dead, all fingers point to Roger as the prime suspect. Roger is innocent, however, and works with Valiant to clear his name. From there, a criminal conspiracy is unearthed that will demolish Toontown and put up a freeway. Along the way, cartoon characters from the golden age of animation interact with the real world in an incredibly well-done special effects bonanza.
The film was released in 1988 to rave reviews and box office success. Roger Rabbit became a bonafide cartoon superstar practically overnight. Surely a sequel was imminent, right? Well, unfortunately, a sequel entered development hell and never materialized. The director, Robert Zemeckis, still maintains that it could happen, promising to use the latest and greatest CGI. Apparently, nobody has mentioned to him that the combination of live-action footage and hand drawn animation was the big appeal of the first film. Roger himself went on to appear in a couple of theatrical shorts for Disney, but has mostly disappeared from the spotlight. I’m sure Roger will reappear soon, but only, as he says in the film, “when it would be funny”.
Greg The Bunny
Now here’s a rabbit who knows how to have some fun. Greg the Bunny is a small, brown precocious rabbit, whose cuteness and amiability help him get by as an actor when his smarts don’t quite do the trick. He was created in the late 1990s by scrappy filmmakers Spencer Chinoy, Sean S. Baker, and Dan Milano for a public access show called Junktape (Milano has been the voice and puppeteer for Greg since the very beginning.). This show caught the attention of IFC, the Independent Film Channel, who gave Greg his very own segment where he parodied the films featured on the channel.
This was enough to get the attention of the FOX network, who, in 2002, gave Greg and his puppet pals his very own show about Greg and his puppet pals as actors on a kids show called Sweetknuckle Junction. In the world of the show, puppets are animate beings treated as a racial minority. There were problems with the show from the start. The network advertised the show as “edgy and adult”, but would take every opportunity to tone it down and make it more tame. The showrunner assigned to the show wanted to focus more on the human characters, including some unknown actors like Seth Green, Sarah Silverman, and Eugene Levy, instead of the puppets. A classic case of the network executives completely misunderstanding the show they’re spending millions of dollars on, Greg the Bunny on FOX died a quick death after 13 episodes.
The real appeal of Greg the Bunny, in my opinion, comes from his return to IFC in 2005. Once again, the team parodied movies (including the likes of Annie Hall, Fargo, Pulp Fiction, and Monster) but this time, the production values were noticeably higher and the writing was much sharper. An encounter between Greg the Bunny and Gilbert Gottfried discussing the rules of Mogwai in Gremlins stands out as a memorably hilarious moment. Recently, their distributor, Shout Factory, hosted a marathon of these shorts with a reunion panel of Chinoy, Baker, and Milano; the entire run can be watched on the Shout Factory website, and I highly recommend it.
David Lynch’s Rabbits
Anyone even vaguely familiar with David Lynch’s work knows that his content isn’t exactly “kid-friendly”. From the surreal nightmare-scapes of Eraserhead to the quirky cosmic terror of Twin Peaks, Lynch manages to find both humor and horror in the most unlikely of places. In 2002, with the advent of the Internet, Lynch decided to tackle something slightly different for him. At the turn of the new millennium, Lynch took notice of how easy it was to create content with digital cameras and decided he was going to make a web series. Not just any kind of web-series, but a sitcom. This sitcom would be about some humanoid bunnies and called Rabbits.
Imagine the dumpiest living room with the highest ceilings you’ve ever seen, and you’d have a good picture for the main setting of Rabbits, the staging of which deliberately evokes the feel of a sitcom. The three humanoid rabbits are played by Scott Coffey, Laura Elena Harring, and Naomi Watts, and they all exist in a sitcom, seemingly devoid of any situations. The three rabbits drift in and out, spouting zen koans at one another. In between these proverbial non sequiturs, we are treated to uproarious laughter from the unseen studio audience. Every episode is isolating and uncomfortable, especially the ones where each individual rabbit is given their own spotlight to spout the urbane poetry that constitutes their monologue.
Theories abound about what is actually going on underneath the surface here. Are the rabbits dead? Is this reincarnation? Purgatory? We’ll never know. Rabbits is definitely one-of-a-kind, and yet, seems to presage the kind of twisted anti-humor surreality that is common on the internet. As far as combining sitcoms with horror, need I remind anyone of Too Many Cooks? Rabbits made its way into Lynch’s 2006 film, Inland Empire, to further confuse an already plenty confused audience. The whole series runs just shy of an hour, and is easy to find on all corners of the Internet. Just make sure you watch it when your Grandma is out of the room.
Bunny Rabbit (Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: Wishbones)
Finally, we come to the most disturbing entry on the list. If you were a fan of cartoons in the early 2000s, then surely you remember The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, a show about two kids entrapping the Grim Reaper to be their collective best friend that had the tendency to comedic in very dark and disturbing ways. Look no further than the episode “Wishbones”, which first aired in June 2005. In the episode, a magical skull named Thronambular gets passed around the show’s cast of characters, granting them wishes. However, these wishes come at a severe cost, similar to a Monkey’s Paw.
The segment making this list in particular involves the character of Pud’n, an insipidly sweet character in the vein of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons. Pud’n wishes for a bunny rabbit to love him, conjuring a cuddly, sweet pink bunny rabbit that anyone in their right mind would find adorable. With a voice reminiscent of Darth Vader on helium, the bunny goes on to explain “tough love” to Pud’n. Evidently, causing pain equates to love in this bunny’s eyes, which turn out to house a demon hell-spawn that wouldn’t be out of place in Cthulhu’s dimension. Pud’n tries to flee from the rabbit, which disturbingly hunts him down, evoking the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Pud’n manages to gain the upper hand and the bunny is seemingly lost in an explosion.
Pud’n immediately regrets that the bunny had to die, but before he can mourn for too long, the half-decayed bunny returns. It ensures Pud’n that it will never, ever leave him alone. This is an extremely disturbing two minutes of television, that has stuck with this author since he first watched it. This episode will be a surefire way to upset anyone under the age of 10; it’s shocking that this even aired on Cartoon Network as is, and somehow managed to avoid controversy. Don’t watch it on Easter. Don’t watch it ever. If you have enough strength of will, this episode can be seen on HBOMax for your viewing displeasure.