The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in The Idiots Abroad, by Gilbert Shelton and Paul Mavrides

Idiots Abroad cvr

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in The Idiots Abroad initially appeared as Freak Brothers Nos 8-10 from 1984-7 and was gathered into a single volume published in 1987.  It is a long rambling picaresque tale describing what happens when Fat Freddy, Freewheelin’ Franklin and Phineas decide that, rather than skulk around the sleazy parts of town buying drugs, it would be more cost-effective to go to Bogotá to score them at source.  They don’t stop to consider that there may be risks involved in such a hare-brained scheme, and naturally it doesn’t work out as planned.

Followed secretly by Norbert the Nark, they are separated at the airport, going in wildly different directions.  Ironically none ever manages to reach Bogotá  as they travel through increasingly improbable situations.  Fat Freddy gets drunk and hooks up with what he thinks are Scottish football hooligans but who turn out to be international terrorists in possession of a nuclear bomb disguised as a football.  On the run he finds himself in the middle of a May Day parade in Moscow and is eventually sold into slavery in North Africa.  Phineas gets on the wrong plane, goes to Mecca, founds his own religion/personality cult, Fundaligionism, and quickly becomes the richest person in the world.  Franklin actually goes in the right direction but finds himself in a survivalist cult hiding out in a South American volcano.  He escapes both them and an army death squad, blags his way onto a luxury liner, only to be captured by pirates.  He becomes their serf before being sold into slavery to Arabs in exchange for a decent cook.  Amazingly he finds himself chained to a wall next to a somewhat slimmer Freddy.

The three are eventually reunited when Phineas buys Franklin and Freddy and sends them on an advanced educational crash course to enable them to attain their freedom (they have mostly forgotten the contents by the end of their adventure).  The disparate narrative threads come together in a plot by all the world’s colonels, who are in a colonels’ trade union, to seize power and institute a global military dictatorship led by them with Phineas as their stooge.  After madcap exploits too numerous to mention everything is wrapped up when the Freak Brothers are rescued by a pilot who is still on an LSD trip from Vietnam and he flies them home (nearly) in a microlight, while a change of currency instantly renders Phineas’s fortune worthless.  Despite a hostile world full of danger and wickedness the innocents abroad have come through – as usual – unscathed, if drugless.  Meanwhile obsessed Norbert keeps watch on the old US embassy in Bogotá waiting for their arrival, stymied, without the Freak Brothers even realising it, simply by virtue of their disorganised countercultural unpredictability.

That would be a cosy ending, but there is a frame set in the offices of Rip Off Press which discloses that the stories are actually written by a Computoon 8000 computer, and it is by programming this machine that the trio have been scattered around the globe to teach them about life in the real world.  At the end when the Freak Brothers visit Rip Off Press they find that the office is being run by the computer, now with legs and called ‘Computer Boy’.  Shelton has retired to a citrus farm in Greenland, somewhat misled by the name, while Mavrides has gone to live on a dinosaur ranch in the Mesozoic Era.  Equilibrium seemed to have been restored for the Furry Freak Brothers after their international ramblings, but Computer Boy now produces the comics by filming small Freak Brother robots in a dolls’ house, and the final frames suggest that the robots are now the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.  So where are the ‘real’ ones?  And what about the humans?  Perhaps Shelton never went to Greenland (after all, the Computoon 8000 arranged the purchase of the land), and as for moving to the Mesozoic, that’s a little farfetched even for a Freak Brothers story; possibly Computer Boy engineered its own coup, disposing firstly of the Rip Off proprietors, and now the Freak Brothers themselves.  Or it could be that Shelton and his collaborators are telling us that within the System we are all robots – even those who hedonistically think they have successfully escaped it.  Heavy, man.






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