PopCult Comix

Fifty Freakin’ Years Of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
by Gilbert Shelton
Knockabout Comics/Fanfare
ISBN-13: 978-0861662616

This slim volume of the best-selling Underground Comics characters of all time, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, is just a little late to the celebration of the comic trio’s drug-addled fiftieth anniversary year, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun souvenir for a pretty wild party. An earlier Knockabout edition was published in comic shops a few weeks ago, but the official bookstore edition is due to be published in April.

The Freak Brothers are a trio of hippies with little in common except for a love of pot and sex and a serious dislike of work. Freewheelin’ Franklin is the loner stoner from Texas, Phineas is the excitable genius and Fat Freddy is the one with the permanent munchies. They’re a bit of a blend of The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges, filtered through a pot-clouded lens.

The Golden Anniversary of the Freak Brothers was actually last year, but production of this book took a bit longer than anticipated. The series’ creator, Gilbert Shelton, is pushing eighty years old and living in London, but he supplies a quick, sharp-witted history of his characters, from their origins on a poster promoting a short film he’d made to their role in the best selling underground comics of all time (with millions in print) to their many failed movie options.

The big attraction for the die-hard fans here is 28 pages of new Freak Brothers comics that were published since the 2008 collection of every Freak Brothers comic in a huge omnibus collection. The completist will want to have these new strips, which include a guest appearance by Robert Crumb’s Mr. Natural, and a parody strip by Hunt Emerson.

This anniversary update contains several brand new strips: Phineas becomes a Suicide Bomber, Franklin got his Gun, Fat Freddy gets Religion, and more Freak Brothers short strips. There is also a gallery of merchandise and production stills from an animated feature that never quite finished getting produced. The best part is Shelton’s introduction and explanations of various parts of the book.

Fifty Freakin’ Years Of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is a fun look one of the classics of underground comics. It’s perfect for the completist, and it’s good for anyone already familiar with the characters who wouldn’t be offended by the sex, nudity and drug use that play key parts in many of the stories. It’s probably not the best introduction to the Freak Brothers mythos, but it’s filled with lots of Freaky treats.