The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

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Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers #1, Feb. 1971. Artwork by Gilbert Shelton
Publication information
PublisherRip Off Press
FormatOngoing series
Genre
Publication dateFeb. 1971 - 1997
Number of issues14
Creative team
Creator(s)Gilbert Shelton
 
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Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers #1, Feb. 1971. Artwork by Gilbert Shelton
Publication information
PublisherRip Off Press
FormatOngoing series
Genre
Publication dateFeb. 1971 - 1997
Number of issues14
Creative team
Creator(s)Gilbert Shelton

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers are a trio of underground comic strip characters created by the U.S. artist Gilbert Shelton. The Freak Brothers first appeared in The Rag, an underground newspaper published in Austin, Texas, beginning in May 1968; and were regularly reprinted in underground papers around the United States and in other parts of the world. Later their adventures were published in a series of comic books.

The lives of the Freak Brothers revolve around the procurement and enjoyment of recreational drugs, particularly marijuana. None of them has the slightest concern about gainful employment and the only use for money is to procure food and drugs without getting "burned" by unscrupulous dealers or busted by the police. Other storylines involve Fat Freddy's Cat and occasionally a military empire of cockroaches in the kitchen. The stories often satirize the establishment and right-wing politics, and are highly topical with respect to the counterculture era.

Comic strips[edit]

The Freak Brothers first appeared in The Rag, an underground newspaper published in Austin, Texas, beginning in May 1968; and were regularly reprinted in underground papers around the United States and in other parts of the world.

Their first comic book appearance was in Feds 'n' Heads, published by Berkeley's Print Mint in 1968. In 1969 Shelton and three friends from Texas founded Rip Off Press in San Francisco, which took over publication of all subsequent Freak Brothers comics. The first compilation of their adventures, The Collected Adventures of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, had its first printing in 1971 and has been continually in print ever since. In addition to underground and college weekly newspapers, new adventures appeared in magazines such as Playboy, High Times, and Rip Off Comix; these too were collected in comic book form. Shelton continued to write the series until 1992, in collaboration with Dave Sheridan (1974–1982) and Paul Mavrides (since 1978). The work enjoys a sizable cult following and the magazines are widely available in comic stores.

The majority of the comic books consist of one or more multi-page stories together with a number of one-page strips. Many of the latter have a one-row skit featuring Fat Freddy's Cat at the bottom of the page. Some of the titles also contain a small number of strips featuring completely unrelated characters.

Characters[edit]

The Freak Brothers are not siblings. They are a threesome of freaks (similar to but distinct from the more well-known hippies) from San Francisco. Their names are Phineas Freakears, Fat Freddy Freekowtski and Freewheelin' Franklin (whose surname has not been revealed so far). The trio are anti-heroes, ingesting or smoking large quantities of drugs and consistently defying authority. They are lazy (several storylines revolve around the "horror" of one of the protagonists having to find work) and unreliable—particularly in the case of Fat Freddy.

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, from left to right, Phineas, Fat Freddy and Freewheelin' Franklin

The three Freak Brothers have very different personalities:

Other recurring characters include:

Storylines and themes[edit]

Freddy, with his cat

The use of assorted psychoactive drugs is a predominant theme that runs throughout all volumes of this title. Marijuana is the most frequently mentioned, but numerous other stimulants and hallucinogens are mentioned as well. Most of the Freak Brothers stories include the use of drugs, or attempts to purchase them, for humorous effect, although heroin is notably missing from the list of drugs that the Freak Brothers would condone using. In one adventure, Franklin is shown to refuse, with alarm, an offer of 'smack' when hitching a ride.

Food is a commonly recurring subject. These stories most often involve Fat Freddy and his marijuana-induced "munchies" (increased appetite). The squalor engendered by the Brothers' indolence is often highlighted; several strips feature the household's cockroach population, ruled over by a fascist monarchy whose leader resembles General Douglas MacArthur .[citation needed] Several stories satirise governments, particularly the U.S. government. These stories invariably show politicians and their agents as corrupt, incompetent, or both. The theme of foreign travel is sometimes explored, most notably in the three-part Idiots Abroad series.

It is common for the storylines to begin with an air of realism, but rapidly descend into comic pantomime.

Freak Brothers stories include:

Catchphrases[edit]

The Freak Brothers comics include a number of catchphrases that have worked their way into the underground consciousness :[citation needed]

"Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope."—Freewheelin' Franklin. The Los Angeles Public Library featured Anne Herbert's modification of the original quote written by Gilbert Shelton: "Books will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no books" and was used on a in-library poster featuring the likeness of the Freewheelin' Franklin character.
"Don't get burned!" (usually aimed at Fat Freddy as he sets out to purchase drugs)
"Smoking grass and drinking beer is like pissing into the wind."
"While you're out there smashing the state, don't forget to keep a smile on your lips and a song in your heart!"
"Keed Spills!" - Fat Freddy: from a 1-page poster (shown above) that parodied the anti-amphetamine campaign phrase "Speed Kills".

Other appearances[edit]

In film[edit]

In 1973, without permission from Gilbert Shelton, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers appeared in the full-length pornographic film Up in Flames, although two of them were given different names. The story involved the brothers' attempts to raise cash to make their rent deadline (the trio being in danger of being evicted from their apartment). Fat Freddy gains employment at a local food store run by graphic artist Robert Crumb's character Mr. Natural (also used without permission).

In animation[edit]

Grass Roots.
Main article: Grass Roots (film)

In 2006, the company Grass Roots Films began production on a feature-length clay-animation film based on the series, called Grass Roots, co-produced by German distribution company X Filme.[1] In 2013 work on the film had stopped and conversion of the script to a musical had started.

In The Simpsons episode "The Lastest Gun in the West", ca. 10 min. 56 sec into the episode, all three of the Freak Brothers can be seen in a clip from the 1970s detective show "McTrigger", where they are shot at, and Franklin killed, by the eponymous hero, McTrigger.

In other cartoons[edit]

Cartoon characters similar in appearance to the Freak Brothers and styled The Fabulous Furry Fructose Brothers appeared in a 2013 parody cartoon by Jen Sorensen, entitled High Fructose Corn Syrup Times.[2]

Other references[edit]

A bar and restaurant in Galway, Éire, is named Fat Freddy's and decorated extensively with materials referring to the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers characters, including Fat Freddy's Cat.[3]

List of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers titles[edit]

Titles in the series are often referred to by their number, but almost all of them additionally have a title in words.

Also, there have been two full color books:

And a Fat Freddy spinoff:

Compilations[edit]

A number of compilation titles have been published that merge several of the original titles into one book. There have been two large collections, the first reprinting comic book covers in color, the second entirely in color.

An omnibus edition (ISBN 978-0-86166-159-6) of the entire series was published in late 2008.

Compilations of Fat Freddy's Cat stories have also been published.

References[edit]

  1. ^ A three-minute piece of test animation can be seen here.
  2. ^ Sorenson, Jen (March 20, 2013). "High Fructose Corn Syrup Times". Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Fat Freddy's Restaurant". Retrieved 2014-02-12. 

External links[edit]