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excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 9
Rip Off Comix #1
Back Cover
Back Cover
(click for larger image)

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freak brothers
Freak Brothers
1st Printing / February 1977 / 52 pages / Rip Off Press
The first several issues of Rip Off Comix feature many strips that had been printed before or that had been sold to alternative and college newspapers through the Rip Off Press cartoon syndicate, which made it pretty easy to put together a comic book every six months or so. But the anthology also includes quite a bit of original comic stories along with the reused material, especially from Gilbert Shelton.

Rip Off Press knew what sold best, so Rip Off Comix #1 smartly leads off with a Freak Brothers adventure, "The Parakeet That Outwitted the D.E.A." It's one of the Furry Freaks more popular stories, featuring a talking parakeet who is actually Fat Freddy's Uncle Artie, but Artie was changed into a parakeet by his wife, who is a witch. Freddy has to go out and get bird food and a measuring scale to feed the parakeet, and ends up getting followed by three agents from the D.E.A. (Drug Enforcement Agency, kids) back to his apartment. A drug bust seems sure to follow, but Uncle Artie takes charge of the situation and before long he also gets revenge on his witch of a wife.

Like many Freak Brothers adventures, "The Parakeet That Outwitted the D.E.A." is a pretty farfetched tale, but absurdity has always been a key element in Gilbert Shelton's sense of humor. "Idiots Abroad" was about as absurd as it gets, yet it's also one of the greatest stories Shelton ever produced. The "Parakeet" story was subsequently reprinted in 1980 in Freak Brothers #6. I believe the story was originally created for this comic, as it is copyrighted 1977 and the comic came out in February of '77. At 16 pages long, I would also presume it was too long to have been distributed by the Rip Off Press syndicate. But I could be wrong.

Rip Off Comix #1 provides several shorter strips that were syndicate material or published elsewhere or both (like Ted Richards' E.Z. Wolf, which has several strips here that originally appeared in the Berkeley Barb and were also syndicated). Bill Griffith contributes strips from his "Griffith Observatory" series, which were syndicated, printed in Rip Off Comix, and later compiled into their own comic book. Justin Green and Frank Stack also provided notable comics.

The debut issue of Rip Off Comix concludes with Shelton's nine-page "Wonder Wart-Hog Goes On Welfare!" which also appears to have been produced expressly for the comic book. It's a funny story about Philbert Desanex getting fired from his newspaper job and he has to get in line to get on welfare, leading to one conflict after another and a classic Wart-Hog misconception about food stamps.
There are three printings of this comic book. The 1st printing (unknown copies) has a 75-cent cover price. The 2nd printing (unknown copies) has a $1.00 cover price. The 3rd printing (unknown copies) has a $1.25 cover price. Given the popularity of the Freak Brothers, I'd guess the 1st printing had 10,000+ copies and the reprintings had 5,000 copies.
Gilbert Shelton - 1, 3-18 (art), 26, 32, 42-52
Ted Richards - 1, 23-25, 27-30, 33, 35, 37-39
Frank Stack - 1, 19-22
Dave Sheridan - 1, 41
Bill Griffith - 2, 31, 40
Joe Brown - 3-18 (script)
Justin Green - 34, 36