Floyd Farland, Citizen of the Future

Publisher: Eclipse Books
Published: Fall 1987
Format: B&W, 50 pages, 17x26 cm, squarebound
ISBN: 0-913035-21-1

Out of print

Floyd Farland was originally serialized as a weekly strip in The Daily Texan (the campus newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin) beginning the summer of 1986 and ending in the spring of 1987. It was somewhat rewritten/redrawn for the Eclipse publication, but the origins as a weekly strip is readily apparent from reading the book.

Floyd Farland is Ware's first major published work. It shows a promising artist taking his first tentative steps, but if it wasn't for the special circumstances of the US comics industry in 1987 (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had just become a huge success and all companies were pushing as much black and white crap as they could to participate in the B&W investor's boom/bust) I doubt it would have been published.

The story is as follows: Floyd Farland lives in a world where «a sly totalitarian state is able to make the common man think, do, or desire anything...» Everybody, it seems, is involved in the overthrow of this state (including the state itself, of course) -- except Floyd Farland. This makes him very suspect, and he is taken as an underground leader, imprisoned, tortured, escapes, hailed as savior, nearly killed, and arrested again.

The book reads like Orwell's 1984 filtered through Gilliam's Brazil, with a callous, «ironic» and cynical approach to the characters. The story has awkward shifts in mood, severe structural problems and an ending that seems to point to Ware simply being tired of doing the strip. Nevertheless, the book is largely enjoyable. There are some funny jokes, and while the story line is largely clichéd, some elements are both original and surprising.

The art is also a mixed blessing. The use of bold black lines together with text set in Futura gives the book a naked, unembellished look. The refusal to draw outlines around the figures (or use any form of cross-hatch shading) is daring, and works beautifully when Ware is drawing people standing around or talking to each other, which is what he does most of the time. When things happen, though, it can be nearly impossible to tell what's going on, but since there's not much happening, this isn't a major obstacle.

If I were to damn the book with faint praises, I'd say the book is far, far more interesting than most of the comics being published today. This isn't saying much, though.

In the back of the book there's an «about the author» page written by Ware's mother that's quite amusing, and also a «from the author» page written by Ware. The story runs for 41 pages.

Is «Floyd Farland, Citizen of the Future» worth seeking out? Probably not. You'd also have grave problems finding the book -- Eclipse Books, who published it, have gone out of business, and I don't think they printed that many copies in the first place. (I have no idea how many they did print, though.) Furthermore, it has been reported (although I don't know the veracity of this) that Ware is actively seeking out copies, buying them, and destroying them. While it is understandable that he might be embarrassed by this (literally, I think) sophomoric work, it does show a young, promising, obviously talented artist doing his best, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

The Acme Novelty Warehouse.