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…
« 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〉
« 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〉
And, in glorious colour…
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.
P.S. Those teachers with bad taste in comics I mentioned? They had Garfield and Cathy on their doors…