365 Reasons to Love Comics # 273
What do you think about Gilbert Shelton, the creator and guiding hand behind our latest reason?!
Why, he’s as near as comics have come to producing a natural comedic genius of the same stature as a Chaplin or a Tati. He is truly one of the greatest and most sublimely funny talents that the comic medium has to offer.”
273. The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.
They haven’t matured at all since Woodstock. They don’t get much love from traditional Green Lantern and/or Ghost World comic fans. They’re unkempt, unpolite, unmotivated and, in one case…
almost miraculously unintelligent. They spend most of their time smoking dope, scoring dope or engaging in hair-brained get rich quick schemes so they can engage in one of the above.
In fact, the only member of the group who seems to be even remotely competent has four legs and fleas.
Although Fat Freddy’s Cat generally has better things to do than hang around with his owner. His adventures generally appeared in a short gag strip underneath the main story, but he proved so popular he headlined six issues of his own book.
So. Why do the adventures of Phineas Freakears, Freewheelin’ Franklin, and Fat Freddy remain in print loooong after the glory days of love beads and tie-dye?
Well, heck, let’s take a look.
(Click to Bigamatize.)
For one thing Shelton (and art assistants Dave Sheridan and Paul Mavrides) are genuinely great cartoonists. Check the fourth panel of the last strip. In one panel, Shelton (A) defines setting, (B) tells us something about the characters, (C) moves the plot forward, and (D) keeps the action perfectly clear and easy to follow. In ONE PANEL. In this age of decompression that feels like a minor miracle.
But there’s more than that. I think it’s the Freak’s cheerful mixture of IN and EX clusiveness that’s allowed them to prosper. See, Shelton’s clearly familiar with the inner workings of hippie/drug culture, and he incorporates a nicely anarchic spirit into the proceedings… The only people more lazy, stupid, and corrupt than the Freaks are the authorities.
On the other, well, there’s not a shred of nostalgia or romance in these strips. The Freaks ARE lazy, stupid, and corrupt, and nine times outta ten the strips end in much the same vein as Gary Larson’s the Far Side with SOMEBODY about to get it… Generally the Freaks themselves. So whether you’re laughing WITH the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers or laugh AT the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers… Or a queasy mix of both… the end result is pretty damn funny.