The Far Side
From Academic Kids
The Far Side is a popular one-panel comic created by Gary Larson. Its humor is often based on uncomfortable social situations, improbable events, an anthropocentric view of the world, logical fallacies, impending bizarre disasters, or the search for meaning in life. Unusual for a daily comic strip, it contained no regularly recurring characters.
Around the world, The Far Side is perhaps better known for the compilation books and merchandise (especially calendars, T-shirts and mugs) than it is for its original incarnation as a daily newspaper feature.
It is difficult to find many Far Side cartoons online since Larson (and/or his publishers and lawyers) have been very effective at persuading people to not infringe on his copyright. There is a widely distributed letter (http://www.portmann.com/farside/) online, attributed to Gary Larson, in which he explains the "emotional cost" to him of people displaying his cartoons on their websites, and asks them to stop doing so.
Far Side cartoons, though diverse in their humor, often rely on certain familiar situations. These include:
- Life on the farm, featuring the antics of farmers and their animals, especially cows and chickens
- Castaways on a deserted island
- Cavemen and dinosaurs
- Scientists in labs
- Aliens from outer space
- Life in hell
Far Side cartoons are also known for similarities that appear throughout the series:
- Many of the characters are overweight.
- A majority of the characters wear glasses; most notably, the women almost always wear horn-rimmed glasses. In situations with non-human characters, the glasses usually indicate the character's gender.
- When no glasses are worn, the eyes usually consist of a simple line.
- The women usually have a beehive haircut.
- There are always doilies on couches and living room chairs.
- There are usually framed photos of the character's species hanging on the wall of the living room or dining room.
The recurring caption Trouble brewing appeared on a few cartoons throughout the series, as "trouble brewing" was always a fundamental aspect of Larson's humor. This theme was used for the 2005 release of the Far Side calendar, with situations like:
- Ed's Dingo Farm next door to Doreen's Daycare
- Crutchfield's Crocodile Farm next door to Anderson's Sky-Diving School
- A falconer meeting next to the 12th Annual Teacup Poodle Fanciers Picnic
- An angry mob leaving a migraine headaches center towards a marching band school, with the caption The dam breaks, which seems to be one iota further than Trouble Brewing.
Larson's sense of humor, while original, can also be confusing, as in a comic dubbed "Cow Tools", which was widely misunderstood. Another famous example requires the reader to know obscure facts about sea life, a comic that was misunderstood by a marine-biologist friend of Larson's.
He also occasionally drew cartoons commenting on celebrities or current events, although these are rare.
Gary Larson has produced 22 Far Side books, all of which made it to the New York Times bestseller list. The cartoons were first collected in small books (see list below), and some were then republished in larger "best-of" collections (The Far Side Galleries). Additional "best-of" collections were published, such as The Prehistory of The Far Side, culminating in the final, most complete publication, The Complete Far Side.
The small collections:
- The Far Side (1982)
- Beyond The Far Side (1983)
- In Search Of The Far Side (1984)
- Bride Of The Far Side (1985)
- Valley Of The Far Side (1985)
- It Came From The Far Side (1986)
- Hound Of The Far Side (1987)
- The Far Side Observer (1988)
- Night of the Crash Test Dummies (1988)
- Wildlife Preserves (1989)
- Wiener Dog Art (1990)
- Unnatural Selections (1991)
- Cows Of Our Planet (1992)
- The Chickens Are Restless (1993)
- The Curse of Madame "C" (1994)
- Last Chapter And Worse (1996) — this last collection was published after the end of the strip
The five Far Side Galleries are the most popular of the books, each of them collecting together the best cartoons from three smaller books, along with a humorous foreword by a celebrity fan, e.g. Stephen King, Robin Williams, or Jane Goodall (who herself was the subject of a controversial Far Side cartoon).
In 1991, The Prehistory Of The Far Side was published to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the strip. In this book, Gary Larson discussed the development of The Far Side, the public's reaction to it, and presented a selection of his personal favorites from the cartoon's history, as well as previously unpublished sketches and strips rejected by his editor.
In 2003, The Complete Far Side was released, which contains nearly every Far Side comic ever published. (The collection is missing parody art pieces from Wiener Dog Art and some The Prehistory Of The Far Side material) The set featured two volumes (1980-1986 and 1987-1994), a foreword by Steve Martin, and an introduction by Larson's long-time editor Jake Morrisey. The first-edition hardcover boxed set weighs nineteen and a half pounds (8.8 kilograms).
- Gary Larson's The Far Side (official site) (http://www.thefarside.com/)
- Toonopedia entry on The Far Side (http://www.toonopedia.com/farside.htm)