|Floyd Farland-citizen of the future|
By Chris Ware
Eclipse Books, 1987
And, honestly, I don't think you should read it, either.
Now, to be clear, this is not a bad comic by Chris Ware standards, which are pretty stratospheric standards by any measure. He is this country's finest living cartoonist, after all (Jaime Hernandez would be #2 for those playing along at home). A bad Chris Ware comic - which I was fairly certain didn't exist because I had heretofore not seen one - would still be better than most comics out there, independent, mainstream, mini, web, whatever. Which is a fair assumption to make given Mr. Ware's proven track record of decidedly not sucking at what he does. Except Floyd Farland is a bad comic by basic comic book standards.
Now no-one is perfect, even Mr. Ware, and Floyd Farland is a good example of that. This is early Chris Ware, and when I say early, I mean REALLY early. Floyd Farland-citizen of the future (the hyphen, no space, no caps according to the indicia) was a one-page weekly strip that ran in The Daily Texan - the student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin - from summer 1986 to spring 1987, started when Ware was all of 18 years old. Acme Novelty Library is still six years away, and thankfully for the human race it is evident that he learned a significant amount about his craft and himself in that intervening time. Anyway, according to the backmatter by Ware, Floyd Farland the collected work was largely tweaked and edited and outright redrawn to make the the narrative flow better, a common Chris Ware modus operandi for much of the work that ends up in his graphic novels to this day. But I'd be damned to see how it would have made much of a difference because the book is a bloody mess.
|The page on the left is more emblematic of the pages in Floyd Farland. The page on the right isn't.|
The art also makes the narrative, such as it is, quite hard to follow. After some useless exposition about the setting ("The time is the future. Technology and overpopulation have gripped the genitalia of society."), we quickly meet the eponymous Floyd, a happy worker bee (certainly no Branford) content to be a cog in the machine. He goes to lunch with a friend who turns out to be a rebel of some kind and by page three after some mistaken identity or something, Floyd ends up in prison. There are many scenes of interrogation and propagandation and attempts at comical misunderstanding behind his alleged role as a bigwig in the rebellion (whatever that is) and when the story comes to a close 41 pages later there seems to be some kind of recursive-interpretive-somethingorother going on, some hint at something else happening that is hard to see through the terrible art.
It's hard to say that this work is irredeemable. He certainly tried. And he certainly failed, which is OK. It is a very bad comic book, sure, but there are worse out there being produced every day. And it presents an interesting study of an artist in his earliest possible years, a work and a creator not yet ready for the world at large.
In the backmatter of the comic are two essays, one, amazingly, (ostensibly) by Chris Ware's mom. She describes Ware's early-life attempts at art and closes with a hilarious anecdote about an early Ware piece of sorts. Then there is Ware's useless and oddly self-important essay about the genesis of the comic, closing with a very Ware-ian bit of self-deprication: "I hope [the comic] works. And if it doesn't, you can give it away to your little nephew as a coloring book. I wish him the best of luck."
If you can find a copy of this anywhere, I don't really suggest buying it (if anything, for Mr. Ware's sake).