THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERSMedium: Comic books
Published by: Rip Off Press
First Appeared: 1968
Creator: Gilbert Shelton
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early '70s. But somehow, they've managed to survive beyond that time, and remain in print even today.
Gilbert Shelton, already known for Wonder Warthog, created the Freak Brothers (Fat Freddy, Freewheelin' Franklin, and Phineas Phreak) in 1968, when he was living in Austin, Texas. Their first adventure appeared in Feds 'n' Heads, a counter-culture publication that is still reprinted from time to time. Later, the trio turned up in Yellow Dog, Radical America Komiks, Zap Comix, and other underground comix, as well as in the Los Angeles Free Press, the East Village Other, and various other underground newspapers.
In 1969, Shelton and three college buddies, Jack Jackson, Dave Moriarty and Fred Todd, moved to San Francisco and founded Rip Off Press, which became one of the major comix publishers — and which is today one of the few still producing new comic books. Most of Shelton's subsequent work has been published by Rip Off Press.
In 1971, Rip Off Press brought out the first collection of Freak Brothers adventures, gathering together stories and pages from over a dozen different sources and putting them between two covers for the first time. Another collection appeared a year later, and a third in 1973. That took care of most of the reprintable material, so the fourth issue, which came out in 1975, contained new stories. That's when the series started to evolve from what has been called a "hippie sitcom" into fabulous, world-spanning, epic adventures.
By then, Shelton had begun collaborating with other underground cartoonists, Paul Mavrides (Anarchy Comix, Young Lust) and the late Dave Sheridan (Dopin' Dan, Dealer McDope). With them on board, the series continued, a new issue coming out every two or three years, then every three or four — but still coming out. The 12th issue appeared in 1992 and the 13th in '97. Early issues are now available in album form, and later ones are still in print.
In 1977, Rip Off Press started an anthology series, Rip Off Comix, where the Freak Brothers were a regular feature. That same year, Fat Freddy's Cat, one of the comics medium's more obnoxious felines, was spun off into a title of his own.
In 1979, Universal Studios bought an option on producing a Freak Brothers movie. That option — as well as several subsequent movie options — was allowed to lapse. To date, no film version has ever been produced.
The secret of the Freak Brothers' longevity is simple. Perhaps not everyone likes their lifestyle; in fact, some may actively abhor everything they stand for — and for that matter, probably nobody at all would consider them role models. But there is one thing on which most people who have read them agree: Gilbert Shelton tells a story very well, and his stories are very, very funny.