A Fabulous, Furry Fungus Friday!

« No wonder psychedelics are threatening to an authoritarian religious hierarchy. You don’t need faith to benefit from a psychedelic experience, let alone a priest or even a shaman to interpret it. What you need is courage to drink the brew, eat the mushroom, or whatever it is, and then to pay attention, and make of it what you will. Suddenly, the tools for direct contact with the transcendent other (whether you call it God or something else) is taken from the hands of an anointed elite and given to the individual seeker. » — Dennis McKenna

Sensing that I’ve been neglecting Underground Comix in our coverage, I thought I’d close out the year with a thematic pairing of a favourite comestible with a beloved cartoonist (and his collaborators).

That’s a pretty fanciful mushroom patch there, boys. I doubt that mushrooms would grow much, if at all, in the blazing prairie sun… let alone that neatly. Artistic licence, then! This is The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 5 (May 1977, Rip Off Press). Cover by Gilbert Shelton and Dave Sheridan.
An old girlfriend of mine once echoed Fat Freddy’s bonehead sentiment: “Ew… mushrooms grow in shit!“, presumably unaware of the role manure has always played in agriculture. She went on to marry a succession of Frenchmen, and given their nation’s appreciation of fungi, I hope she was smart enough to not express out loud that bit of… wisdom.

By the way, Phineas is right, as usual. Here’s more info on the relationship between mushrooms and cow flop, and an ‘easy guide to picking‘…

One Pizza With Mushrooms to Go! first saw print in The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 4 (November 1975, Rip Off Press). This is Shelton and Sheridan’s original cover art, which fetched a handsome 43,000 dollars and change when it was auctioned off in 2016.
Ah, roommates. One again, Fat Freddy undoes Phineas’ careful efforts. This reminder of the importance of sterilisation in mushroom cultivation comes courtesy of Messrs. Shelton and Paul Mavrides. It appeared in The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 12 (1992, Rip Off Press).
Talk about a roomful of cartooning genius. Meet Mavrides and Shelton and feel your senses reel!

Honestly, it’s been, for many of us, the kind of year when mutant psychedelic fungus overrunning one’s city would come as a pretty good bit of news. Let’s hope for something even better for 2022!

For more Gilbert Shelton on WOT?, just follow this link!


Behold… the Great Shnozzola!

« That’s the conditions that prevail! » — Jimmy Durante

Today, we salute noted vaudevillian, piano player, comedian, singer, film and radio star, raconteur and unlikely comics legend James Francis “Jimmy” Durante, born on this day, February 10, in 1893 (as it was a Friday, the family presumably fasted or had fish for dinner). He truly was a master of all media, as you’ll witness.

This early bit of biography appeared in Juke Box Comics no. 4 (Sept. 1948, Eastern Color); it was illustrated by Ed Moore. Hear Cantor and Durante reminisce about their early days on this 1947 episode of The Jimmy Durante Show.
A passing mention of old Jimmy, from Nyoka the Jungle Girl no. 24 (Oct. 1948, Fawcett). Writer and artist unknown.
An early cover by Dick Ayers (1924-2014), this is Jimmy Durante Comics no. 1 (Oct. 1948, Magazine Enterprises).
The second and final issue of Jimmy Durante Comics (Winter 1948-49, Magazine Enterprises).
Mr. Durante rates a smashing musical appearance in this Rube Goldberg Device daily strip (Apr. 14, 1951, King Features Syndicate)… by Rube Goldberg, naturally.
And here’s the Shnozzola in the midst of a carnal melée of his fellow Old Hollywood legends (can you name them all, cinephiles?) This is Bill Griffith‘s cover for The Tiajuana Bible Revival Volume Two: Under the Stars in Hollywood (1977, Hooker, California: Paramounds Prod.). This was « An anthology reprinting 1930’s Tijuana Bibles, some of which were obscene parodies of popular newspaper comic strips of the day. Others made use of characters based on popular movie stars and sports stars of the day, such as Mae West and Joe Louis, sometimes with names thinly changed. Before the war, almost all the stories were humorous and frequently were cartoon versions of well-known dirty jokes that had been making the rounds for decades. » [ source ]
Pointillist-satirist Drew Friedman‘s immortal Jimmy Durante Boffs Young Starlets first saw print in National Lampoon vol. 2 no. 78 (Jan. 1985).
Durante briefly pops up (with the Checkered Demon!) in the second half of a truly all-star underground comix jam involving R. Crumb, Steve Clay Wilson (1941-2021… he left us just three days ago, aged 79… RIP), Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin, Robert Williams and Gilbert Shelton. It appeared in Zap Comix no. 12 (1989, Last Gasp). Cartoonists are generally fond of the Schnozzola, but Underground cartoonists are just mad about him.
And finally, on a gentler note… here’s a clearly affectionate caricature (a preliminary sketch) of the esteemed Signor Durante (aw, he’s blushing!) by the amazing Sam Berman (crayon on onionskin paper, 1947). Berman (1907-1995) was, deservedly, quite a big deal in his day; as the erudite Drew Friedman told Print Magazine in his quality of co-curator of the 12 Legendary Caricaturists You’ve (probably) Never Heard Of exhibition at NYC’s Society of Illustrators, Berman « was indeed famous and celebrated in his day. Beginning his career in the late 1930s, he created iconic sculpted caricature covers for Esquire featuring their new mascot “Esky” (created by Berman) for an entire year. He created the sculpted caricatures of the leading actors (Fredric March, Carole Lombard, etc.) for the opening titles of the 1937 classic screwball comedy Nothing Sacred, did huge amounts of work for all the top magazines and newspapers of the day, including for Mark Hellinger’s popular column, created close to 60 amazing full-color portraits for the 1947 booklet The NBC Parade of Stars, drew children’s books, and arguably his most famous creation, the opening caricature of Jackie Gleason rising over Brooklyn for “The Honeymooners,” although he was never credited on the show for drawing that image, nor in any books. He then inexplicably went into map-making and faded quietly into obscurity. »

To wrap things up, here’s Jimmy D. and Frankie S. duetting in Russian. And why not? Happy birthday, Jimmy, wherever you are (and do say hello to Mrs. Calabash!)


Joyeux anniversaire, Gilbert Shelton!

« … and now for some of that fun we promised you! Trained chihuahas! Car races! A couple of inspirational documentaries! And a quiz show! Hallelujahgobble! Hallelujahgobble! »

For my money, there’s no funnier man in comics, at least on such a consistent, sustained level, as the extraordinary Gilbert Shelton (born May 31st, 1940, in Houston, TX, which makes him 78 today). Sure, he’s slowed down some since 1959 (the year he foisted upon the world the Wonder Warthog), but the quality of his output has not decreased one iota (quite the contrary, in fact!) It may well be that the secret of his longevity lies in his choice of collaborators, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just another facet of his talent. I’ll (mostly) let the man’s work speak for itself. Brace yourselves for the ride, here we go!
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Yeah, that old hippie shit’s totally dated; this has nothing to do with American’s current socio-political situation. Well, it would be nice if Amtrak’s trains ran a bit closer to schedule. This ran as the back cover of « Wonder Wart-Hog and the Nurds of November: Gilbert Shelton’s Exciting Cartoon Novel of Election-Year Politics, International Nuclear Terror, Professional Football, Science Fiction, Motorcycle and Auto Racing, Pestilence, Famine, Economic Collapse and Romantic Love. » (1980, Rip Off Press)
The Brothers’ none-too-effective nemesis Norbert the Nark in the spotlight. From The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 12 (1992, Rip Off Press).
Fat Freddy’s such a good little Suzie Homemaker. Another piece from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 12 (1992, Rip Off Press). FatFreddyCatCameoAFatFreddyScat1A
The toilet-training method reportedly works, but it helps to have more than one toilet available. From Fat Freddy’s Cat no. 7 (1993, Rip Off Press)
Shelton’s most recent major creation, circa 1988-89, is Not Quite Dead, “the world’s oldest and least successful Rock ‘n’ Roll band”. So far, we’ve been treated to six issues, and the latest, “Last Gig in Shnagrlig” (2009), is quite the epic! A fruitful collaboration with French bédéiste Denis Lelièvre, alias Pic. These vignettes hail from Not Quite Dead no. 5 (2005, Knockabout)
Aw, ain’t he adorable, and don’t you just wanna slip the birthday boy a big ol’ sloppy smooch? Photo by Christophe Prébois.
Speaking of collaborators, though it’s none of their birthdays, let’s give a salty salute to Shelton compadres-in-crime Tony Bell, Joe E. Brown Jr., Dave Sheridan, Paul Mavrides and Pic. Did I forget anyone? -RG

« ’cause the power you’re supplying… »

It pays to be kind to your cat, particularly if said feline happens to be more than your match. Between dimwit Fat Freddy Freekowtski and F. Frederick Skitty, esq., it’s clearly no contest.


This electrifyin’ strip first saw print in Rip Off Comix no. 23 (Rip Off Press, Summer 1989). Script and art by Gilbert Shelton.

A closer look at the wily furball, cover detail from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 6 (Rip Off Press, 1980)