Tentacle Tuesday Masters: The Far Side of Gary Larson, Pt. 2

« Octopuses have a lot in common with other species that are known to thrive in cities—not only can they use human-made structures for shelter, but they’re highly adaptable and good at problem solving. So maybe we’re justified in adding to our list of neighbours, next to the raccoon at the sliding glass patio door and the coyote in the halo of the street lamp, the octopus casting its appraising eye from under the sunken hull of a rowboat. » |source|

Octopuses in a mundane, urban setting? Address yourself to Gary Larson!

As promised a couple of weeks ago, we’re back with another Larson-copia of tentacles! Pt. 1 can be found here. Again, thanks to co-admin RG for all the scanning and colouring work.

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If you think we’re somewhat stretching the definition of “tentacle”, I think the husband’s, err, feet definitely qualify.

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Incidentally, one the world’s largest sea creatures is the lion’s mane jellyfish, whose tentacles are the longest of them all (they can attain lengths up to 37 metres or 120 feet).

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Letting us know what we’re in for straight away, even the cover of the fourth Far Side collection features a tentacle.

∼ ds

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: The Far Side of Gary Larson

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When I was in college, most of my professors could easily be divided into two categories: those who had good taste in comics, and those who did not. I don’t know who launched this tradition (is this something that’s universal to all post-highschool educators?), but somehow the majority of teachers were fond of clipping particularly pleasing items from newspapers and (usually messily) scotch-taping them to their office door. This usually included some brief newspaper articles, and definitely a cartoon or two.

I have to admit that I had a soft spot for panels that clearly had spent the last decade (or three) in that spot, and were little more than yellowed, warped, sometimes downright indecipherable relics of yesteryear. However, of greater interest were office doors tended as carefully as an prize-winning garden, proudly displaying a frequently renewed wall of cartoons, meticulously positioned and impeccably pasted onto the door’s surface. 

I was lucky enough to know one professor who was passionate about Bizarro, and another one who harboured a similar fire for Gary Larson‘s The Far Side. At the time, I didn’t know that Larson had retired in 1995, and that new work of his was no longer published in newspapers. I was in college in 2004. Did the professor in question hoard large archives of cut-out The Far Side strips (these weren’t photocopies), and just cycle through them? Was there, in her office, some portal to an alternate reality? That mystery shall only deepen over time. I can only state that I would make sure to swing by first thing in the morning to enjoy that day’s offering.

Today we present you with a fairly complete collection* of Gary Larson tentacles. I give my gratitude to co-admin RG for his “eagle eye” – he spent an hour or two going through his paperback collections of the strip (and giggling maniacally) to spot anything cephalopodian. He then scanned ’em (and added colour frames, because that’s the kind of man he is), so this post has honestly been more work for him than for me.

*It turns out there’s quite a lot of them, so this shall be a two-part post.

Larson has been notoriously opposed to having his strips posted online by fans, but in December 2019, he has decided to start a The Far Side website, featuring a random selection of cartoons, some weekly selections organized by theme, and the occasional doodle or sketch. I have absolutely no wish to disrespect the opinion of the author, but I hope that now it’s okay to share our excitement about so much tentacle goodness with our readers. Besides, tentacles or not, most of these are hilarious and surreal, a combination that’s dear to my heart.

Without further ado…

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« Controversy never seemed too far away from me, especially during my first year of syndication. I truly thought my career may have ended a number of times. I remember one I did of a couple dogs that were playing this game, where they were smacking around a cat hanging from a long rope attached to a pole. I called it “Tethercat.” To me, and I assume my editor, it didn’t cross any line because this was just a game dogs might play. But that one got people stirred up. Especially cat people. I’ll forever be grateful to fans, who in those early days often rescued “The Far Side” from cancellation, or campaigned to get it reinstated. » 〈source

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« Among the massive fan base that The Far Side would eventually develop, interestingly scientists and academics were among the first to take to the comic, despite Larson’s frequent jabs at this very same group. The strip also had a tangible impact on the world of paleontology. In an 1982 comic, a group of cavemen are in lecture hall being shown a slide of a dinosaur. The caveman instructor is pointing to the spiky tail of a Stegosaurus while saying, “Now this end is called the thagomizer…after the late Thag Simmons.” As it turned out, in real life, no one had actually given that part of the Stegosaurus’ tail a name. Despite Larson’s fudging of the facts (in actuality, dinosaurs and humans missed each other by more than 140 million years), paleontologists adopted “thagomizer” as the official name of the spikes on a Stegosaurus. » 〈source

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And, in glorious colour…

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While there are cheap and abundant paperback collections of The Far Side in every self-respecting bookstore, in 2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing released a beautifully designed 3-volume The Complete Far Side. Oh, and it weights 20 pounds. For bonus value, some letters written to the newspapers by befuddled or angry readers are included. Few of us may feel the need to possess such a grand coffee table book (I’ve been pondering that myself ever since it got published), but its very existence is a lovely testament to the enduring nature of Gary Larson’s world.

±≠ ds

P.S. Those teachers with bad taste in comics I mentioned? They had Garfield and Cathy on their doors…

Phew, That Was Close!

« Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back. » — Marcus Aurelius

The other day, I chanced upon a Rick Geary piece about tangos with the Angel of death, which returned my mind to a time, when I was but six years of age, and that my parents had gone holidaying, leaving me in the care of some old friends. At their home, I recall perusing some back issues of that evergreen Reader’s Digest (the French-Canadian edition, called Sélection du Reader’s Digest), wherein I encountered some memorable articles, including one about the miraculous survival of people who tumbled from great heights*, unencumbered with parachutes, and another that grimly recounted the calamitous landslide that one night engulfed a village, Saint-Jean-Vianney, just a few kilometres from my hometown.

Ah, but human memory is notoriously fallible and self-deceiving. So I deemed it prudent to inquire whether the events were truly as recollected. A quick call to my folks confirmed that yes, they did toddle off to Europe for three weeks in November of that year (I think my parents are delighted when I quiz them about such matters). The landslide took place in May, so that fits too.

As the close shave lends itself well to comics, I’ve gathered a potpourri of short pieces on the topic. Tighten your seatbelts, we’re in for a rough ride!

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A presumably factual two-pager from New Heroic Comics no. 70 (Jan. 1952, Famous Funnies), featuring artwork by no less an eminence than the great Harry Peter (according to Ger Apeldoorn, which is good enough for me). The whole ‘salt of the earth’ thing rings pretty hokey, but one has to appreciate that this account of selfless heroism wasn’t whitewashed.

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This post’s springboard, originally published in Dark Horse Presents no. 82 (Feb. 1994, Dark Horse). From Heavy Metal to National Lampoon, with High Times and The American Bystander in between,  I’ve yet to encounter a publication wherein Mr. Geary’s work failed to rise to the very top with its patented palette of fanciful perspective, sunny understatement and psychological verisimilitude. 
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An airborne entry from Gordon Johnston‘s Ripley’s Believe It or Not-style syndicated strip ‘It Happened in Canada‘ (1967-81). However, the Wikipedia listing of historical tornadoes in Canada fails to turn up one such whirlwind in 1823. Perhaps it happened in Kansas instead.

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Pesty baby brother saves the day! Another entry from New Heroic Comics no. 70 (Jan. 1952, Famous Funnies), artist unknown. Astoundingly, a little research (I wouldn’t want to pry further) indicates that a Donald P. Kiselyk, now 73, still resides in New Jersey. Doing the math, he would have been born in 1947, which fits perfectly). I wonder whether he recollects his hour of four-colour glory…
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Another It Happened in Canada entry. Looks legit, too, though it seems Johnston didn’t nail the spelling: the resilient gent’s moniker is Myllyla. According to Wikipedia, « At 9:57 in the morning, an avalanche of snow buried the Leduc Camp in British Columbia, killing 27 copper miners working for the Newmont Mining Corporation workers and destroying several buildings. Another 42 of the 68 people buried were rescued on the same day, while a carpenter, Einar Myllyla, was saved three days later from the ruins of a collapsed building. “To their everlasting credit”, author Jay Robert Nash would write later, “rescuers refused to abandon their search until every man in the camp had been accounted for. »
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Obviously, I couldn’t leave out this Gary Larson classic.

Keep your arms and legs in the vehicle, don’t tease the wild animals, wear your life jacket, look to both sides before crossing the road, and don’t forget to floss. Oh, and call your mother more often; she misses you.

-RG

*the fellow whose tale stayed with me was most likely Lt. I.M. Chisov, « … a Russian airman whose Ilyushin IL-4 bomber was attacked by German fighters in January of 1942. Falling nearly 22,000 feet, he hit the edge of a snow-covered ravine and rolled to the bottom. He was badly hurt but survived. »

Tentacle Tuesday Takes a Turn for the Domestic

You might think that tentacles are just something that happens to other people, to the intrepid swashbucklers and globetrotters of this world. But watch out! No matter how dull your job and how stodgy your lifestyle, no-one is safe on a Tentacle Tuesday.

Let’s say you’ve embarked on a normal working day in a bustling city. No ravenous tentacle will be able to reach you as long as you stick to main streets, you think. Right? Wrong.

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One would think New Yorkers would be immune to being fazed by *anything* found in NYC sewers. Cartoon by Charles Addams.

All right, let’s play it safe, call in sick and stay home.

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Mother Goose and Grimm is a syndicated comic strip written and drawn by Mike Peters, published both in newspapers and online. Syndicated in 1984, it’s still going strong. Spoofs of modern culture, screwball comedy and dogs on blind dates, it’s all in there. Jan. 23, 2015.

Dang! How about going to a conference, instead?

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Comic habitués will easily recognize the talented pen of Gary Larson, and identify this as a Far Side strip.

Sigh, I give up.

As today’s Tentacle Tuesday happens to coincide with Halloween (can this day get any better?), I’ll leave you with an image that gleefully combines both:

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 I don’t know how Little Lotta manages to control all these tentacles when she only has two hands – maybe she’s in symbiosis with an octopus? This is Little Lotta in Foodland no. 27, August 1971 (okay, so it’s a masquerade party, not a Halloween one – cut me a little slack!), cover (as usual) by Warren Kremer.

~ ds