Hip To Be Square.

Source: Goodreads

When I was a kid I read the newspaper comics section every Sunday while eating breakfast. The rest of the week I didn’t have time for it—if it was winter I was getting ready for school, if it was summer I was getting ready for the day’s excursions, and if it was Saturday I was too busy watching cartoons to read anything, and I only bothered with the Sunday comics because that was the only day they came in a special all-color section. I’d read through them and maybe laugh a little and not give them a lot of thought.

That changed with the introduction of a little cartoon called The Far Side, drawn by Gary Larson, whose birthday is today. I’d seen cartoons like it before, but never in the newspaper, and I started looking through newspapers for the comics sections during the week to find it. And I didn’t just start looking for The Far Side. A Far Side cartoon prompted me to look up Olduvai Gorge, and I got a kick out of Larson’s references to science, psychology, his anthropomorphic cows, ducks, and occasional slipping in of darker subjects like cannibalism.

Most newspaper comics were—and still are—aimed at kids and very general audiences. The Far Side was one of the few that took a more highbrow approach, that made it cool to be smart. Nowadays people are proud to let their geek flag fly. Being a nerd isn’t necessarily an insult or something to be ashamed of anymore, and I think The Far Side is partly responsible for that change.

Having said all that I won’t reproduce any Far Side cartoons here. Gary Larson has issued a statement asking that his cartoons not be spread via the web:

So, in a nutshell (probably an unfortunate choice of words for me), I only ask that this respect be returned, and the way for anyone to do that is to please, please refrain from putting The Far Side out on the Internet. These cartoons are my “children,” of sorts, and like a parent, I’m concerned about where they go at night without telling me. And, seeing them at someone’s web site is like getting the call at 2:00 a.m. that goes, “Uh, Dad, you’re not going to like this much, but guess where I am.”

I respect that. I also think about a hilarious bit he shared in The Prehistory Of The Far Side about the time a newspaper printed one of his cartoons next to Dennis The Menace but reversed the captions so in the Far Side a snake is saying, “Lucky thing I learned to make peanut butter sandwiches or we woulda starved to death by now.” And Dennis is saying, “Oh brother!…Not hamsters again!”

This was a huge improvement to Dennis The Menace and only made The Far Side slightly more surreal than usual, but I can see why he’d have concerns about his kids being passed around.

9 Comments

  1. mydangblog

    Gary Larson is a genius. The only calendars I’ve ever kept in my life are my Far Side calendars. I go through them every now and then to see what absurd thing I was doing during that cartoon month or week.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s perfect: you combined doing absurd things with Gary Larson’s absurd humor. Of course there are times when I wish we lived in The Far Side world. It seems less absurd than reality.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I love Gary Larson. I’m trying to let go of guilt about including one of his cartoons in one of my blog posts several years ago. The cartoon showed God as a cook in a kitchen, creating the earth. He had added lots of ingredients and he was now holding a shaker labelled “Jerks,” thinking: “Now to make it more interesting …”

    I guess using one of his cartoons shows what a jerk I am. I hope you found that interesting, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      To borrow a line from another great cartoon, Calvin & Hobbes, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. That is a great cartoon, though, and I’m sure Gary Larson wouldn’t mind you sharing it. Your blog is a place where his kids can be safe even at 2am.

      Reply
  3. Allison Everett

    I loved The Far Side. Like Ann, I feel sure I have used his work on my blog. One year at Christmas, my parents gave me the huge hard-bound compendium. So damn funny. Especially the stuff he includes about reactions to his work. The Wiffle Ball company, for example.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you for that–somehow I’d missed the Wiffle Ball Company’s response to The Far Side. That is hilarious. And I bet he’d be okay with some people sharing his work.

      Reply
  4. Arionis

    Also a Far Side lover here. I had the yearly calendars on my desk for a long time. One of my lunchtime rituals if I am doing office work for the day, is to read through my favorite comics in digital form now at http://www.gocomics.com. I have my staples, but my two favorite are Pearls Before Swine and Brewster Rockit.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Pearls Before Swine is brilliant. I need to look up Brewster Rockit now. Although I’m also a big fan of Ryan North’s dinosaur comics at http://qwantz.com/

      Reply
      1. Arionis

        Looks like I just added one to my staples. Thanks.

        Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: