Born in 1940 in Houston, Texas, Gilbert Shelton began his career in comic art doing strips for Boy Scout publications when he was in the Explorer Scouts at school. After high school, he went to several colleges. He started out at Washington and Lee University and then Texas A&M before ending up attending the University of Texas at Austin. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences in 1961. Some of his cartoons were published in the University of Texas’ humor magazine, The Texas Ranger.
As soon as he could, Shelton moved to New York and got a job editing automotive magazines, where he could sneak “spot illustrations” of his drawings into print. The character of Wonder Wart-Hog, a parody of Superman in the form of a pig was his first brainchild.
Meanwhile, military action was ratcheting up in Vietnam. So to avoid the draft, Gilbert went back to the University of Texas in 1962 to enroll in graduate school and get a student deferment. The first two Wonder Wart-Hog stories appeared in Bacchanal, a short-lived college humor magazine, in the spring of 1962. Then he became editor of The Texas Ranger and published more Wonder Wart-Hog stories.
Thinking that he had found a safe haven, Shelton switched from graduate school to art school. After two years, he did end up getting drafted, but Army doctors declared him medically unfit after he admitted to taking LSD. It was during this period that he met and befriended Janis Joplin. From 1964 to 1965, he lived in Cleveland, Ohio, where he applied for a job at the American Greeting Card Company, Robert Crumb’s former employer, but was turned down, and returned to Texas yet again.
In 1967, Gilbert became the art director for a rock music venue in called the Vulcan Gas Company. He produced posters in the style of popular California poster artists such as Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso. During this period, he also worked on a strip entitled Feds 'n' Heads, published by Print Mint.
Then in the summer of 1968, he moved to San Francisco (the hub of “hippie” culture) with some other friends from Texas, set up Rip Off Press and THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS became an overnight national phenomenon through syndication in dozens of underground newspapers and magazines. A spin-off strip, Fat Freddy's Cat, appeared in 1969.
Paris, France, is now Shelton’s home. Recently, in collaboration with French cartoonist Pic, he produced Not Quite Dead, which appeared in Rip Off Comix #25 and in five Not Quite Dead comic books.