Gilbert Shelton attended university in Austin, TX, where he became editor of the student magazine, The Texas Ranger. This was to prove Shelton’s last “real job.” For in 1967, after contributing to various underground comix with his earliest character, Wonder Wart-Hog, and designing posters for rock concerts, Shelton created the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. In 1969 he and some friends from Texas moved to San Francisco to set up Rip Off Press from which Freak Brothers strips were soon syndicated, borrowed (or stolen!) by a host of American underground newspapers and magazines. Shelton currently lives in Paris, France, with his wife and three cats.
Editor: Gilbert Shelton • Introduction: Paul Buhle • Foreword: Jay Kinney
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 64
Subjects: Art-Comics / History-U.S., 1960s
“Underground comix,” an artistic expression of rambunctious rebellion in the Vietnam War era, were exploding in 1969 when Radical America, a journal affiliated with Students for a Democratic Society, published a memorable comic art edition. Its principal artist and editor, Gilbert Shelton, whose Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers would be enjoyed in many editions across the world, brought to the project his Texas pals Frank Stack and Jack Jackson. Also on hand, among others, were Chicago comics innovators Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson. Together, these and other contributors issued a veritable artistic manifesto: a new vernacular art had arrived!
A half century after its original appearance, Radical America Komiks retains its rebellious spirit and its rollicking humor. Dopey but also militantly antimilitarist, the comics in this reprinted volume speak to the ideas, sentiments, and artistic experiments of a generation.
Longtime underground artist Jay Kinney, coeditor of the satirical series Young Lust and Anarchy Comics, adds a foreword, and Radical America editor Paul Buhle offers an extensive introduction to the saga of comic art, radical and otherwise.
“Radical America Komiks was the funniest issue of that whole series of New Left magazines because it included the best cartoonists in the underground. Gilbert Shelton, master humorist, creator of the Furry Freak Brothers, edited the extra-thick comic book as one of the earliest projects at his fledgling company Rip Off Press. Nothing like funnies to liven up political discussions.”
—Patrick Rosenkranz, author of Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution
“Radical America Komiks is a treasury of Austin’s radical artists from the 1960s and ’70s, especially Gilbert Shelton, truly a global figure of comix innovation.”
—Thorne Dreyer, founding editor of The Rag
“Radical America Komiks not only provides an unparalleled sense of how leftist politics and avant-garde narrative art intersected at the end of the sixties, it anticipates many of the innovations and tropes we associate with the alternative comics movement of the 1980s and 1990s.”
—Kent Worcester, coeditor of Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium
“There is a certain irony that Radical America Komiks is likely to be one of the best-remembered parts of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). That the visual and the satirical turn out to have a longer shelf life than the polemical would perplex, and more, the members of SDS who encountered the wonderful comix drawn and assembled by Gilbert Shelton. Viva comics, no matter how it is spelled!”
—James Danky, Underground Classics Illustrated
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Komiks from the Underground: the Radicalism of Gilbert Shelton
By Louis Proyect
January 25th, 2019
By a happy coincidence, I received a review copy of “Radical America Komiks” from PM Press on the very day my review of Allen Young’s autobiography appeared on CounterPunch. Allen Young worked for Liberation News Service (LNS), a radical version of the Associated Press that forwarded articles to SDS chapters around the country, while Radical America was an official SDS publication launched by Paul Buhle meant to raise awareness on the left about the long history of anti-capitalist resistance in the USA. Unlike the old left, LNS and Radical America absorbed the counter-culture of the period. The one-off publication of Radical America Komiks in 1969 was arguably the most fully developed expression of this cross-fertilization and as such we are grateful to PM Press for publishing a replica of the ground-breaking comic book.