McFarlane was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He graduated from William Aberhart High School. As a 17-year-old teenager, he discovered comic books, and became a fan of creators such as John Byrne, Jack Kirby, Frank Miller and George Pérez (as well as the writing of Alan Moore), but was especially drawn to the more atypical art of Michael Golden and Katsuhiro Ōtomo, creator of the manga Akira.
In the early-1980s, McFarlane attended Eastern Washington University on a baseball scholarship, and studied graphic art. He sought to play baseball professionally after graduation but suffered a career-ending ankle injury in his junior year. During his time at EWU, McFarlane worked at a comic book shop in Spokane, Washington. Drawings he did of Marvel and DC superheros were sold at local shops. McFarlane also attended the Alberta College of Art and Design.
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Famous quotes related to early life:
“... business training in early life should not be regarded solely as insurance against destitution in the case of an emergency. For from business experience women can gain, too, knowledge of the world and of human beings, which should be of immeasurable value to their marriage careers. Self-discipline, co-operation, adaptability, efficiency, economic management,if she learns these in her business life she is liable for many less heartbreaks and disappointments in her married life.”
—Hortense Odlum (1892?)