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Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

From Academic Kids

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is a series of underground comics originally created in 1968 by the U.S. artist Gilbert Shelton. Shelton has continued to write the series up to the present day, in collaboration with Dave Sheridan (since 1974) and Paul Mavrides (since 1978). The work enjoys a sizeable cult following, and the magazines are widely available in underground comic stores.

The comics relate the humorous adventures of the eponymous "brothers" and, more often than not, their attempts to procure drugs and avoid apprehension by the police. The stories are highly satirical in nature and often poke fun at the establishment and right-wing politics. For a counterculture production, the standard of artwork is exceptionally high; Shelton's striving for accuracy and attention to detail have earned him comparisions with Hergé.

The majority of the titles in the series 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.

Contents

Characters

The Freak Brothers are a threesome of hippies (hippies were commonly known as "freaks" in U.S. slang) from San Francisco: Phineas Freakears, the politically-aware idealist, Freewheelin' Franklin, the terminally laid-back "brains" of the group and Fat Freddy, the food-addicted slob. The trio are anti-heroes, taking large quantities of drugs and consistently defying authority. They are lazy (several storylines revolve around the "horror" of one of the brothers having to find work) and unreliable — particularly in the case of Fat Freddy.

The three Freak Brothers have very different personalities. Freewheelin' Franklin is by far the most street-smart of the trio. He has no known last name, and apparently has always been on the streets. Tall and skinny, he has a big bulbous nose, a waterfall moustache, and a ponytail, and wears cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.

Phineas Freakears is the intellectual and idealist of the group; he can and has created new drugs, and is the most committed of them to social change. He is the hairiest, tall and skinny with a thick bush of black hair, a beard and glasses.

Fat Freddy Freekowtski is the least intelligent, and can be seen as an embodiment of pure appetite. He regularly gets "burned" on drug transactions. He is fat, or at least plump (hence his name) with curly yellow hair.

Other regularly occurring characters include:

  • Fat Freddy's cat, who appears mainly in his own, separate strip at the bottom of the one-page Freak Brothers strips, but who also has several multi-page stories devoted to him. Many of his strips parallel a storyline in the corresponding Freak Brothers story, and often have themes of a scatological nature. The Cat's name is Fat Freddy Scat, but he is usually refered to as "Fat Freddy's Cat". He has been known to use the alias "F. Frederic Skitty". A sort of hippie "Garfield", he is far smarter than his owner and regards the Freak Brothers with amused contempt.
  • Norbert the Nark, an inept DEA agent who is continually trying, and failing, to arrest the Freak Brothers.
  • Country Cowfreak, an ancient hippy who grows vast quantities of marijuana at his isolated farmstead.
  • Dealer McDope, one of the trio's dealers. He is often name-checked in the magazines but rarely appears "in person".

Storylines and themes

Predominant is the use of narcotics, particularly marijuana but also numerous other stimulants and hallucinogens. Every story in the canon uses drugs, or the attempt to purchase them, for humorous effect, although heroin is notably missing from the list of drugs that the Freak Brothers would condone the consumption of. The theme of foreign travel is often explored, most notably in the three-part Idiots Abroad series. 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. Several stories satirise governments, particularly the U.S. government. These stories invariably show politicians and their agents as corrupt, incompetent, or both.

It is common for the storylines to begin with an air of realism, but rapidly descend via surrealism into complete insanity.

Some of the best-loved Freak Brothers stories include:

  • Grass Roots: The Brothers find a "year's supply" of cocaine and move to the country with the proceeds
  • Chariots of the Globs: Fat Freddy's Cat is abducted by aliens
  • Mexican Odyssey: The Brothers holiday in Mexico, are thrown in jail and escape with the help of shaman Don Longjuan, in a partial spoof of the Carlos Castaneda books
  • The Idiots Abroad: The Brothers go their separate ways; Fat Freddy accidentally joins a group of nuclear terrorists, while Phineas becomes the World's richest man after founding a new religion

Catchphrases

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

"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 paraphrased this as "Books will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no books." on an in-library poster featuring the likeness of Freewheelin' Franklin. This poster is now so rare as to be virtually priceless in mint condition.
"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."

List of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers titles

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

  • The Collected Adventures Of... (Freak Brothers No.1)
  • Further Adventures of those... (Freak Brothers No.2)
  • A Year Passes Like Nothing (Freak Brothers No.3)
  • Brother, Can You Spare 75¢ for the... (Freak Brothers No.4)
  • Grass Roots (Freak Brothers No.5)
  • Six Snappy Sockeroos (Freak Brothers No.6)
  • Several Short Stories (Freak Brothers No.7)
  • The Idiots Abroad, Part I (Freak Brothers No.8)
  • The Idiots Abroad, Part II (Freak Brothers No.9)
  • The Idiots Abroad, Part III (Freak Brothers No.10)
  • Freak Brothers No.11
  • Freak Brothers No.12
  • Freak Brothers No.13

A number of compilation titles have been published that merge several of the original titles into one book. Compilations of Fat Freddy's Cat stories have also been published.

External links

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