The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: The Idiots Abroad and Other Stories Graphic Novel Review

From Gilbert Shelton and Paul Mavrides. Published by Fantagraphics Books

An advance reader copy was provided by Edelweiss for review. 

When I first found my local comic book store I went in looking for superheroes and maybe some cartoon characters. I didn’t recognize the music, the references, or even the smell in the air as the staff and their friends came in and out of the building. I was raised to think that all drugs are bad and so are the people who partake. A short time later when I was of an age to try things out I didn’t develop a love for alcohol and cigarettes made me feel sick, thus my experimentation never went further. Thanks to outsiders sharing their opinion that comics are stupid, I didn’t like stupid fare. I can watch a smart stoner humor movie with something to say and a mirror on society but I can’t stand dumb stoner humor. Because of all of these opinions, I steered clear of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Despite being aware of them for 20-30 years I was misinformed that this is a dumb lazy stoner comic. This collection comes along in tandem with the new animated series, and seemed a perfect time to finally read some of their stories. 

To my shock, I could not have been more wrong, more surprised, and more entertained. 

This collection features the three brothers – Phineas, Freewheelin’ Franklin, and Fat Freddy – heading to Columbia. Except they don’t even make it onto the right airplane and all sorts of adventures and ridiculousness happens as all three are separated and just trying to find their way back. Short tales of their cat and new tales of publishing are worked in between the chapters. The Idiots Abroad story appeared in 3 consecutive but spaced out issues in 1984, 1985, and 1989. As the three brothers stumble their way across the globe there is no segment of society untouched by satire. 

The story is absolutely brilliant and hopefully collections like this and the cartoon raise awareness of the Freak Brothers. Every bit of the story is funny but also ridiculously smart. The type of tale that status quo keepers don’t want people to read. A story that opens eyes. Not only to underground comics, but to the world at large. This is a perfect example of what comics can do that other forms of literature can’t. The art seems simple at first, and a story of three stoners seems equally simplistic. However, from page one those ideas are gone. The story is immense and brilliantly plotted. Every corner of the earth is explored and then it all comes together in a logical but also batshit way at the end. The brothers may seem cartoonish but the craftsmanship that is in each and every panel looks to be a lifetime of work. 

I can’t remember the last time I was so wrong about a comic. The Freak Brothers deserve a place of history, of honor, that those of us comic readers raised on Wizard have never given them. This feels like I found a forgotten society which came before ones we’re all familiar with. Cartoon satire like South Park, the Simpsons, and more would not exist without the Freak Brothers paving the way. 

This title is currently scheduled to be released on April 19, 2022. If you’re at all like me and you’ve been ignorant of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, remedy that this spring and have your eyes opened.

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