In the final installment of The Far Side—the wildly popular single-panel comic created by Gary Larson and syndicated in hundreds of newspapers between 1980 and 1995—the bespectacled cartoonist wakes up from a Wizard of Oz-like dream. “There were monsters and stupid-looking things and animals could talk and some of it was confusing,” Larson’s speech bubble says, which is a pretty apt summary of the entire series.
Larson is now fully awake again after the launch of his first official website yesterday, where a daily dose of cartoons from the archives will be posted alongside unseen doodles from the artist’s sketchbook. And starting January 1, 2020, new Far Side comics will be published at random to mark the 40th anniversary of the series.
The launch will likely prove to be a nostalgic moment for millennials, many of whom grew up looking for The Far Side in their parents’ home-delivered newspapers, or had tear-off sheet calendars where they could enjoy one absurd cartoon per day.
The website marks the first time that authorized images of the cartoons are available online. “Back [when I discontinued the series], the Internet was a cute little Internet-ling, its cold, digital eyes just starting to open,” Larson wrote in an open letter to his new audience, published on the website in September. “The first website (I just looked this up) debuted only a couple years prior to my retirement, Google came along several years later, and Facebook was launched a full decade after I had drawn my last cow. Meaning, like most of my generation, I was pretty much clueless about this new technology that was on the rise.”
Larson never connected the dots between his cartoons and the emergent technology. Comfortable at his desk with an electric pencil sharpener and a pad of paper, he thought to himself: “What did the Internet have to do with me? Cue the scary music.”
But as Larson says he’s discovered, the internet is not that scary. He’s still ambivalent about being part of the online universe (which he equates to a type of black hole), but the cartoonist is pleased with two of its specific features: graphics and security. Computer screens are far more advanced now than when he retired The Far Side back in 1995, and can show better visual details. The website is also a secure space for him to post authorized images of his series, so that hopefully people stop posting amateur (and illegal) scans of tear-off sheets from one of the 77 million Far Side calendars sold back in its heyday.
Once a bit of an online curmudgeon, Larson has now come around. “Let this website become your place to stop by for a smile,” he writes. “A laugh, or a good ol’ fashioned recoiling.”
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