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far out west
solid writing
skilled art
historical bonus 3
total score 7
Far Out West

Only Printing / 1975 / 36 pages / Performing Arts Social Society
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This is another one of those underground comic books that has a history and background that's far more interesting than the comic book itself, although the comic book does provide illumination on that history. Far Out West came out in 1975 (or possibly early '76) and was written and drawn by Eve "Even Eve" Furchgott, a founding member of the Kerista commune in Haight-Ashbury. The comic was one of several publications the commune produced (including free newspapers Utopian Eye and The Node) to spread their life philosophy through San Francisco and simultaneously recruit new candidates for the commune.

Far Out West presents one long story starring Polly Morfus, a 21-year-old woman seeking just the right "trip" that leads to the one "righteous high." In this case, the righteous high is not drug related at all, but more akin to the best choice for living one's life. A '70s-era supercomputer (as featured on the front cover art) serves as her guide and delivers the rules for achieving the righteous high, which Polly then pursues by opening a number of doors that lead to various "trips" or life pathways. Ultimately, she chooses to live in a "committed commune," though her decision is not a popular one with just about anybody.

The pacing of the story gets bogged down a bit and the artwork is about as vanilla as it can get, but it's still an interesting read because of the life choices Polly doesn't make and because hippie-style communal living has all but disappeared in modern society. But for Eve Furchgott, it was a way of life for two decades.

The Kerista commune was formed in 1971 and lasted until 1991, when its members began to insist that the charismatic leader of the group, John "Bud" Presmont, abided by the same rules that the rest of the commune lived by. Presmont was the original founder of the Kerista scene; a middle-aged man who found his calling in the hippie subculture in the '60s and created a philosophy of life that attracted younger men and women like bees to flowers. The commune quickly grew to 25 people, birthed babies, started a small business, and people came and went over the years, but Presmont (transparently depicted in the comic book) was the clear guru of the group and therefore had almost absolute control of the commune. When his members, or family, finally demanded a change in the dynamic, Presmont (nearly 69 years old at the time) left the commune and a month later the commune dissolved.

Furchgott briefly lived in a smaller commune after Kerista broke up, but has lived exclusively with her husband Tom Winegar in Hawaii for the past 15+ years. Together, they maintain a Kerista website that provides a history of the commune, various Kerista documents and plenty of insight about their lifestyle two decades after its dissolution. Presmont passed away in 2009 at the ripe old age of 86 and Kerista ex-members are now in their 40s or older, but the site presents both sides of the story, warts and all, to anyone willing to learn more about one of the more fascinating and longer-lived communes from the hippie era.
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.

Eve Furchgott