Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: Fifty freakin' years, man

It's a little disconcerting to realise that Gilbert Shelton's Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers are 50 years old, but also quite comforting to see that they haven't changed all that much, and haven't learned a goddamn thing in all those years.

The Brothers were absolutely born out of the sixties counter-culture, part of the wave of undeground comics that shoved their way into our culture. Shelton's comics always stood out from the pack because they were genuinely funny ones that didn't just rely on shock horror, but on broad, stoned farce for laughs. It was always a bit R18, but also very, very silly.

Unlike a lot of his original contemporaries, Shelton has continued telling the story of the Bros over the years, periodically publishing new adventures of Phineas, Franklin and Fat Freddy. And the comic has proven to have a life well beyond Haight Ashbury district – the comics were still as strong in the 1980s, skewering the money-is-everything greedy capitalism of the eighties yuppie on the point of a fat blunt.

And now, nearly 20 years into the 21st century, and the Freaks are still out there. Shelton's line is a lot shakier than it used to be, but that's only to be expected after all the drugs, and he deserves a lot of credit that he's still doing new comics, all these years after they first emerged, blinking and already hungover, out into the world

A special comic noting the 50th anniversary of the Freaks came out late last year, full of homages and weird ephemera but also new stories that are still as sharp and as funky as ever.

Most importantly, these strange characters are facing the modern world but dealing with the same old problems – Phineas ia going to make a fool of himself trying to make some dodgy political point, Franklin is going to pull a pistol on the dumbest aspects of modern society, and you know Fat Freddy is going to get totally burned when he gets sent out to score (and will probably find religion along the way).

Of course, Fat Freddy's Cat is still the best character in the whole thing, putting up with all their hippy crap with disinterested resignation, while having his own crazy adventures off on the edges of the panel.

This lack of change might be frustrating for those who want their fictional characters to grow over time, but nobody reads the Freaks for their continuity, and after all these years, they exist in the eternal now, like all the great cartoon characters. The dope haze is as thick as it ever was, and isn't dissipating any time soon. 

We're all getting older, but the Freak Brothers keep rolling on, on their eternal high.

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