|Born||May 31, 1940|
|The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers|
Fat Freddy's Cat
Not Quite Dead
|Collaborators||Dave Sheridan, Paul Mavrides, Pic|
|Awards||Inkpot Award, 1978|
Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame, 2012
Gilbert Shelton (born May 31, 1940) is an American cartoonist and a key member of the underground comix movement. He is the creator of the iconic underground characters The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy's Cat, and Wonder Wart-Hog.
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. Early work of his was published in Warren Publishing's Help! 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. That same year, he published (in zine form) Frank Stack's The Adventures of Jesus, one of the first underground comix; Stack wrote and drew the comic strip under the name Foolbert Sturgeon.
Shelton 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 Pat Brown (another UT alum) was studying at 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.
The period of 1965–1968 was an itinerant one for Shelton: he moved to New York to work for the underground East Village Other, and to Los Angeles to work for the Los Angeles Free Press. 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 world of underground comix.
That same year, Millar Publishing Company, who had been publishing regular Wonder Wart-Hog stories since 1966, published two issues of Wonder Wart-Hog. 140,000 copies of each were printed, but distributors did not pick up the magazine, and only 40,000 of each were sold.
In 1968 Shelton self-published Feds 'n' Heads, a collection of strips first published in the Austin underground paper The Rag (Feds 'n' Head was later re-issued multiple times by the Print Mint), Feds 'n' Heads featured Wonder Wart-Hog and what became his most famous strip, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Shelton created a spin-off strip, Fat Freddy's Cat in 1969, when he also co-founded Rip Off Press with three fellow "expatriate" Texans: Fred Todd, Dave Moriaty, and cartoonist Jack Jackson.
Shelton was also a regular contributor to Zap Comix and other underground titles, including Bijou Funnies, Yellow Dog, Arcade, The Rip Off Review of Western Culture, and Anarchy Comics
In 1971, his cartoon called Set My Chickens Free, published in issue 1 of the Bijou Funnies comic, was published on page 128 of Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, illustrating its third section, "Liberate!"
He designed the cover art for the 1973 album Doug Sahm and Band, as well as The Grateful Dead's 1978 album, Shakedown Street.
He also illustrated the cover of the early classic computer magazine compilation The Best of Creative Computing Volume 2 in 1977.
His most recent work, in collaboration with French cartoonist Pic, is Not Quite Dead, which appeared in Rip Off Comix #25 (Rip Off Press, Winter 1989) and in six Not Quite Dead comic books. A new Wonder Wart-Hog story appeared in Zap Comix #15 (Last Gasp, 2005), as well as The Complete Zap boxed set (Fantagraphics, 2014) which contained Zap #16; and a new Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers story appeared in Zap #16 as well. The Freak Brothers' antics are reportedly being turned into a Broadway musical, after a stop motion animated film, titled Grass Roots, fell through.. An animated series called "Freak Brothers" featuring the voices of Pete Davidson, John Goodman, and Woody Harrelson premiered on the streaming service Tubi in 2021.
Fifty Freakin' Years with the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers was published in 2017, containing new strips by Shelton, as well as his written introduction.
In 1966 Shelton formed the Gilbert Shelton Ensemble and released a 45 record on ESP Records, "If I Was A Hells Angel" b/w "Southern Stock Car Man" backed by members of Austin psychedelic-rock band The Conqueroo, Tom Bright, Bob Brown and Ed Guinn.
In 1969, the words from his strip called Set My Chickens Free, published in issue 1 of the Bijou Funnies comic, were set to music by The Hub City Movers as The Chicken Song (rereleased in 1983 as Set Your Chickens Free).
In his 1975 album Grasshopper (and 1976 single Cosmic Joke), David Carradine used the words in Chicken Song.
In 1994, Merle Haggard used them in his studio album 1994 as Set My Chickens Free.
Since moving to France, Shelton has become part of a rhythm and blues group, the Blum Brothers, featuring Shelton on vocals and piano. The band features fellow cartoonist musician Bruno Blum on vocals and guitar. A Blum-produced album was recorded but not released. The Blum Brothers played at the Jockomo, a New Orleans-style bar in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.
Shelton and his wife, literary agent Lora Fountain, left San Francisco in 1979. They were residents of Barcelona, (Catalonia, Spain) in 1980–1981, and moved to France in 1984.