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.

Mike Baron worked for the Boston Phoenix, Boston After Dark, and the Real Paper. He broke into comics with Nexus, his groundbreaking science fiction title co-created with illustrator Steve Rude. Baron has written Marvel's Punisher, DC's Batman, Deadman, and Flash. Nexus has garnered honors too numerous to mention, including Eisners for both creators. Baron has written Star Wars for Dark Horse, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter and Archer & Armstrong for Valiant, and has three issues of Legends of the Dark Knight in the works.

A prolific creator, Baron is at least partly responsible for The Badger, Ginger Fox, Spyke, Feud, and many other comic book titles. He currently has two new web comics up at Big Head Press. The Architect is a horror story based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Hook is rock and roll science fiction - think Farenheit 451 only instead of banning books they have banned music.

Baron lives in Colorado with his wife and dogs. He collects rocks.
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