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freak brothers 8 1st
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 9
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers #8
The Idiots Abroad, Part One
1st Printing / 1984 / 36 pages / Rip Off Press
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After more than a decade of producing traditional Freak Brothers comics, Gilbert Shelton and his collaborator Paul Mavrides were ready to take the boys out for a very non-traditional story. The result is a trilogy of comic books encompassing one epic tale, subtitled The Idiots Abroad. The break from tradition was underscored by producing the entire trilogy in full color, a first for the Freak Brothers comic book franchise.

The first 19 pages of The Idiots Abroad appeared in two chapters in the 11th and 12th issues of Rip Off Comix in 1982 and '83, but then that anthology series took its own four-year hiatus due to financial issues. The chapters were reprinted here in issue #8 along with 13 pages of new material to round out part one of the trilogy. The adventure begins with the Freak Brothers sitting around their flat, wanting to score some pot. Nothing new there, but by the second panel Fat Freddy suggests that they travel down to Columbia to buy the pot direct from the growers and save a ton of money. By the end of page one, the Freak Brothers have packed their bags and are heading out to the airport to fly to Bogota, Columbia.

This being early '80s, the competitive aftermath of airline deregulation in the late '70s has caused all major airlines to go bankrupt, leaving the Freak Brothers to scramble for flights with charter planes and obscure foreign airlines. In fact, Franklin can only find two tickets to Columbia for sale on different airlines, so the boys agree to split up and reconvene at the American embassy in Bogota the next day.

Naturally, the Freak Brothers manage to screw up everything, as Fat Freddy gets drunk and ends up on a plane with international terrorists carrying a nuclear bomb to Glasgow, Scotland; Phineas is diverted by a security guard onto a plane full of Arabs headed to Mecca, Saudi Arabia; and Franklin hitches a ride on a plane he thinks is headed to Columbia but actually lands in some remote mountains in unmapped Central America.

From this point, part one of the story primarily follows the misadventures of Fat Freddy and especially Freewheelin' Franklin. Franklin is almost killed by reactionary government soldiers in the mountains before he escapes in a Cadillac and drives hellbent until arriving at a coastal port, where he boards a luxury liner headed to Columbia. Unfortunately, the ship is later seized by pirates, who abduct Franklin for, believe it or not, his reading skills. Over time, Franklin adapts to living on board with the pirates and actually enjoys his new life, since pirates are notorious for keeping plenty of weed on hand.

The story leaves Franklin on the pirate ship to peek in on the fate of Phineas. The pointy-beaked Brother, who first believes he is on a plane to Columbia, comes to realize he is flying with Arabs on their way to Mecca. He becomes scared out of his mind about getting busted and executed by Moslems once they land. The plane finally touches down and Phineas is tossed out on the tarmac to make his way to airport customs.

Meanwhile, Fat Freddy's plane is landing in Scotland, where military forces are about to surround the terrorists and their bomb. But Freddy escapes with the bomb, which he thinks is a soccer ball, by bull rushing through the airport like a football fullback. He later learns what was really going on from a news broadcast and hides with the bomb in an abandoned castle near Loch Ness. A spider later scares him out of the castle, but he leaves behind the bomb, which rolls down an embankment into Loch Ness.

After the bomb slips into the legendary Scottish lake, part one of The Idiots Abroad concludes with the classic "to be continued...." Nowhere in the book is there any indication of how many parts of the story there are, or when they will be published. The inside front and back covers provide only an amusing side story about Shelton and Mavrides in the palatial offices of Rip Off Press, where Mavrides instantly concocts the script for The Idiots Abroad with a computer named the Computoon 8000.

Part one of The Idiots Abroad gets off to a rollicking good start, but there's no doubt this is a very different Freak Brothers story. There's only a smattering of references to drugs and the characters are obviously exploring new worlds and taking on challenges unlike any they have encountered before. I think it takes a bit of acclimation for the traditional Freak Brothers fan to get involved with the story, which includes so many minor characters and sub-plots that it's easy to get overwhelmed, or at least a little lost in the confusion. It helps to read the story more than once to comprehend and appreciate the complexity of the advanture.

The artwork, as always, is exceptional and includes some impressive panels that take full advantage of color rendering. The thankless task of building the color separations was achieved by Guy Colwell, who also did color work for part two and a few pages in part three. I can't be sure who is responsible for coloring the line art and when or where Colwell's contributions had a direct impact on the color decisions or color palette, but many of the pages are beautifully rendered in a magnificent spectrum of subtle hues.
There are five printings of this comic book, all by Rip Off Press. It is currently unknown how many copies were produced during any of the printings. The first three printings of the comic book (up to the printing with a $2.95 cover price) featured full-color interior artwork. For the last two printings, the color artwork was converted and printed in black-and-white. The print editions are easy to tell apart, since each one has a distinct cover price, which are identified below:
1st printing: $2.00 cover price.
2nd printing: $2.25 cover price.
3rd printing: $2.95 cover price.
4th printing: $3.25 cover price.
5th printing: $3.95 cover price.


Gilbert Shelton - 1-36 (collaboration)
Paul Mavrides - 1-36 (collaboration)
Guy Colwell - 1, 3-34, 36 (color separations)