Shelton’s Freaks, One More Compendium

Posted by on November 16th, 2010 at 12:01 AM


Cover ©1968 Gilbert Shelton.


The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus
Gilbert Shelton
Knockabout Comics
625 pp.; $35
Color and B&W softcover
ISBN: 9780861661596

In the watershed winter of 1967-68 in Austin, Texas, Gilbert Shelton witnessed two movies, one about the Marx Brothers and the other about the Three Stooges, playing a fated double-bill at the Vulcan Gas Company, a theater for which he drew posters. Stunned by the Marx-Stooges experience, Shelton decided that he, too, could make movies. Enlisting the help of a friend in the film department of the University of Texas, he produced a five-minute movie, The Texas Hippies March on the Capitol. Shelton had been, in the early sixties, editor of Texas Ranger, the campus humor magazine at UT, wherein Shelton published, in the December 1961 issue, an early installment of Wonder Wart-Hog, featuring a protagonist he’d been fooling around with since high school; but that’s another story for another time. This time, the winter of 1967-68, Shelton was a moviemaker. And a cartoonist. As a cartoonist, Shelton decided the best way to promote his new film was to publish a flyer featuring a comic strip about three potheads. “Everyone liked the comic strip better than the film,” Shelton said, “so I abandoned my film-directing career and devoted my subsequent efforts to cartooning.”

For the next few decades, he produced more comic strips about the three potheads, denominated, for all time, “the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers,” a trio consisting of Phineas Freakears, Freewheelin’ Franklin and Fat Freddy, who, eventually, had a cat. The Brothers made their comic-book debut in Feds ‘n’ Heads (wherein Wonder Wart-Hog also appears) in the spring of 1968, just about the time Robert Crumb produced Zap Comix #1. Underground comix were officially off and running. In order to sell some of the comic books, Shelton drove a carload of them to San Francisco, an already fabled hippie mecca; once there, he decided to stay and try to make a living drawing posters. He was soon joined by three other displaced Texans, Fred Todd, Dave Moriarty and Jack Jackson (“Jaxon”), and they started Rip Off Press. Among their first productions was a collection of comic strips entitled The New Adventures of Jesus by Foolbert Sturgeon, a.k.a. Frank Stack, another fugitive Texan, then on the cusp of a career as a professor of art at the University of Missouri. (Some of this tale is rehearsed in a book of mine, The Art of the Comic Book, which is copiously described and simultaneously offered for sale at my website,


Click image for larger version. The poster that started it all, ©2010 Gilbert Shelton.


Shelton tells the same story in considerably more detail in the last (but one) three pages of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus, a 624-page compendium that purports to include all of the Freak Brothers oeuvre, including that very first movie-flyer strip, which shows up therein on page 35. By reason of this tardy appearance, we may conclude that the Freak Brothers do not appear in this volume in the chronological order of their initial publication. Amid the 624 pages are two 112-page color sections, one of which reprints the famed three-part “Idiots Abroad” epic; the other, various posters and covers.

All of the pages of this book are numbered, one number to each page, but I can’t imagine why: there’s no table of contents and the page numbers are never, otherwise, referred to. So why number them? Because, as any pothead knows, books have page numbers, and this production, kimo sabe, is a book, a fat stubby 7x10x1-inch door-stopper of a tome, which I bought (for $35 list price) so I’ll have a Freak Brothers source at hand, should I ever need one. You may want it for the same purpose or to enjoy Shelton’s wicked satire, in both pictures and words, with assistance in the former by Dave Sheridan and, later, Paul Mavrides. Alas, although the book is fat enough to include all the Freak Brothers, the page size is not kind to the artwork, which, in some instances, is reduced too small to see very well. Earlier compendia, most of which use an 8×11-inch format, are better if you hope to admire the drawing.


©2010 Gilbert Shelton.


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One Response to “Shelton’s Freaks, One More Compendium”

  1. […] Comix historian R.C Harvey reviews Gilbert Shelton’s 624-page “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus” over at The Comics Journal site… […]