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Shelton at Comicfestival München 2013
May 31, 1940 |
|The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
Fat Freddy's Cat
Not Quite Dead
Gilbert Shelton (born May 31, 1940) is an American cartoonist and underground comix artist. He is the creator of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy's Cat, Wonder Wart-Hog, Philbert Desanex, and Not Quite Dead. He later did the cover art to The Grateful Dead's 1978 album, Shakedown Street. He also did the cover of the early classic computer magazine compilation The Best of Creative Computing Volume 2 in 1977.
Early life and education
Shelton was born in Houston, Texas. He graduated from Lamar High School in Houston. He attended Washington and Lee University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his bachelor's degree in the social sciences in 1961. His early cartoons were published in the University of Texas' humor magazine The Texas Ranger.
Directly after graduation, Shelton moved to New York City and got a job editing automotive magazines, where he would sneak his drawings into print. The idea for the character of Wonder Wart-Hog, a porcine parody of Superman, came to him in 1961. The following year, Shelton moved back to Texas to enroll in graduate school and get a student deferment from the draft. The first two Wonder Wart-Hog stories appeared in Bacchanal, a short-lived college humor magazine, in the spring of 1962. He then became editor of The Texas Ranger and published more Wonder Wart-Hog stories.
After switching from graduate school to art school (where he befriended singer Janis Joplin) for two years, he was finally drafted, but Army doctors declared him medically unfit after he admitted to taking psychedelic drugs. After this, in 1964 and 1965, he spent some time in Cleveland, where his girlfriend at the time was going to the Cleveland Institute of Art. He applied for a job at the Cleveland-based American Greeting Card Company (where a fellow underground comic artist Robert Crumb had worked) but was turned down.
He formed the Gilbert Shelton Ensemble and released a 45 record on ESP Records in 1966, "If I Was A Hells Angel" b/w "Southern Stock Car Man."
Around this time Shelton became art director for the Vulcan Gas Company, a rock music venue in Austin, Texas, where he worked with Jim Franklin. He created a number of posters in the style of contemporary California poster artists such as Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin. After a year of this, he moved to San Francisco in 1968, hopeful that being closer to the action would enable him to do more poster work; as it turned out, he finally got his break in the alternative comix business.
That same year, Millar Publishing Company, who had been publishing regular Wonder Wart-Hog stories since 1966, published two issues of Wonder Wart-Hog Quarterly. 140,000 copies of each were printed, but distributors did not pick up the magazine, and only 40,000 of each were sold.
After a strip named Feds 'n' Heads (strips first published in the Austin Rag, then collected in a self-published edition, and finally re-issued by the Print Mint), Gilbert created his most famous strip, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in 1968, and a spin-off strip, Fat Freddy's Cat in 1969, when he also co-founded Rip Off Press.
Shelton currently lives in France, between Burgundy and Paris. His most recent work, in collaboration with French cartoonist Pic, is Not Quite Dead, which appeared in Rip Off Comix #25 and in six Not Quite Dead comic books. A new Wonder Wart-Hog story appeared in Zap Comix #15 (2005), as well as The Complete Zap boxed set (2014) which contained Zap #16; and a new story of his Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers appeared in Zap #16, as well. The Freak Brothers' antics are reportedly being turned into a Broadway musical, after stalled stop-motion animated film plans (viewing available on YouTube as "Grass Roots").
It is also in Paris that Gilbert Shelton became part of a rhythm and blues group, The Blum Brothers, playing regularly at the Jockomo, a New Orleans-styled bar in the 11th arrondissement. He contributed alongside fellow cartoonist musician Bruno Blum, who produced a (so far unreleased) full album of the band featuring Shelton on vocals and piano. Like several other bars on Rue St. Maur, since September 2008 the Jockomo had to cease hosting live music due to neighbors' complaints.
- Estren, Mark. A History of Underground Comics: 20th Anniversary Edition (Ronin Publishing, 2012), p. 54.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gilbert Shelton.|
- "Gilbert Shelton Interview" (187). (Online excerpts) The Comics Journal. May 1996. Archived from the original on March 4, 2000.
- Elam, Elliot (February 15, 2013). "Gilbert Shelton in Conversation". The Comics Journal (302). Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- "Me and Gilbert Shelton: A Memoir," by Ramsey Wiggins, The Rag Blog, March 8, 2010.
- "Cartoonist and Underground Comix Artist Gilbert Shelton" on Rag Radio, interviewed by Thorne Dreyer, March 9, 2010.
- Video Interview with Gilbert Shelton on oc-tv.net
- The Hog of Steel, a complete bibliography of Wonder Wart-Hog.
- UT Texas Ranger Magazine archive
- Best of Creative Computing, Volume 2 cover art