August 3, 2008
CR Sunday Preview: “Last Gig in Shnagrlig,” by Gilbert Shelton and Pic
One of the surviving masters of the underground comix era, Gilbert Shelton
is frequently acknowledged as one of the great living cartoonists and a key figure in the late 20th Century re-invigoration of comics for adults. He is best known as the creator of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
, Wonder Wart-Hog
and Fat Freddy's Cat
. One of the anchors of the Austin, Texas underground publishing scene and as such one of the connecting forces between college humor publications and underground comix, Shelton also enjoyed time in the once-influential automotive cartooning world and in the making of poster art for rock acts in San Francisco during that scene's explosive late 1960s. His fingerprints can be found on nearly ever humor comic done in the last four decades.
In contrast to the transgressive comics made by many of his peers, Shelton's best works deal in satirical comedy that initially comes across as more manic than biting, using time-honored tools of exaggeration and masking to inject their corrosive message near the heart of their targets where a more blunt assault might be recognized as such earlier on and resisted as such. He's one of those cartoonists you can enjoy when you have no idea what's being talked about, for his gifts with character design and story construction. His admirable career includes his being a co-founder of Rip Off Press
, the long-running publisher for his work in North America. The Freak Brothers are currently celebrating their 40th year and are due for yet another major rediscovery, perhaps in comics form, perhaps in a film adaptation, maybe in both.
Shelton's latest, "Last Gig in Shnagrlig," will debut over the next three issues of Fantagraphics' MOME
anthology, the forthcoming #13 through #15. In the 48-page comic done in collaboration with the French cartoonist Pic, Shelton's current creative partner on the "Not Quite Dead" characters, the US government plans a takeover of a third-world country in order to plunder its natural resources. Unfortunately, things have gone so poorly in Iraq that they need to have a reason to invade this new locale, and so they set forth to manufacture one. They decide to send in the world's worst rock band to destabilize matters to the point that the military has to sweep in and set things right, hoovering up the country's assets behind them. Then, as they say, hilarity ensues
Co-Editor Eric Reynolds says he's not only happy to work with a great cartoonist, but that he believes Shelton is particularly under-read by today's generation of cartoonists, some of whom publish in the Fantagraphics anthology, as well as by that magazine's perceived audience.
Please click here for a sneak at four pages from the first installment.
posted 8:00 am PST
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