The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus by Gilbert Shelton

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus
by Gilbert Shelton
Rip Off Press, 2008

Truly a mighty tome, with enough drug humour and filthy hippies to last most people several lifetimes. This omnibus reprints all of the Freak Brothers adventures from their regular publication from 1968 until 1992, by which time the counterculture they satirised was practically ossified. Annoyingly, the strips appear to be printed in only approximate order, and Shelton’s finer details are sometimes illegible in this format. It’s 624 pages long, so I suppose if the pages were larger it would fall apart under its own weight.

The early strips are as fundamental a lesson in cartoon character obsession as Krazy Kat’s pursuit of Ignatz Mouse, Obelix’s pursuit of wild boar and Garfield’s pursuit of money. The Freak Brothers need dope, and lots of it. Often there will be obstacles in the way, such as pigs, narcs, fashionable ’70s ideology, and their own crippling stupidity. The later strips are more expansive and surreal, especially the extended mid-eighties colour odyssey of The Idiots Abroad. The endpapers note that these strips were commonly pirated in underground newspapers, and sure enough, Salient ran them regularly through the seventies and even into the early (pre-Lange) ’80s, and I doubt very much that Shelton saw a red cent.

The companion strip Fat Freddy’s Cat appears at the bottom of some of these strips, and yes, a certain Wellington band got their name from blotter acid printed with the cartoon cat.

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