Old Master Not Quite Dead
by Mike Baron
Gilbert Shelton is best known for the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Wonder Warthog. In a career spanning the breadth of underground comics, his craftsmanship and sense of timing have never failed. The Freak Brothers remain a classic of modern comic book humor. While socialists and hippies embraced the Freak Brothers for their revolutionary lifestyle, the humor itself was of the old-fashioned variety, relying on strong characterization and timing.
Shelton abandoned the Freak Brothers in the nineties. (A new strip appears here.) Most recently, he has been living in France and working on a strip about the "World's most experienced rock band, Not Quite Dead". There are five complete issues of the mag and it compares very well to his early classic work. In fact, Not Quite Dead enables Shelton to stretch his wings a bit - constantly coming up with plotlines and gags about dope can wear you down as Cheech and Chong discovered. In Not Quite Dead Shelton holds a special affection for Elephant Fingers, the guitarist who bears more than passing resemblance to Fat Freddy.
© 2006 Gilbert Shelton
The books consist of newspaper-sized strips, one-pagers, and longer adventures. The rock industry is a target-rich environment and Shelton doesn't waste his shots. It's all here: larcenous club owners, an indifferent agent, hostile crowds, bad equipment, agent rip-offs, biker gatherings, groupies. Of particular interest is a hilarious episode that deconstructs the "crossroads" legend inspired by Robert Johnson. Shelton has lost none of his chops or comic timing, although his collaborator Pic is picking up a lot of slack. Pic's style is different but complimentary - more undergroundy if such a thing is possible.
Together they dress the stage out to the suburbs and put to shame a lot of modern minimalist cartooning which is just plain lazy. The fifth issue is in color and features both the "Biker Bash" and the "Wedding Song", two extremes on the club band circuit.
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