For years, there has been an official website for Gary Larson’s beloved comic strip The Far Side, but it only contained information on the published collections of the series. In the decades since the strip ended its 15-year run in 1995, Larson has been highly reticent to put any of it online and has been outright hostile to people uploading his comics. He was insistent that the only way to read the comic would be either through the books or whatever newspaper clippings fans had preserved. This past September, however, the antiquated site received a major redesign, with hints that the comic was preparing a return. And on Tuesday, December 17, a batch of classic strips was posted on the site — the first of many such updates.
Going forward, The Far Side will be posting a “Daily Dose” of different comics from throughout its run, as well as pairs of weekly collections of comics that share common themes. (One inaugural collection is “Hands Off My Bunsen Burner,” featuring comics about scientists at work.) There are also selections of sketches by Larson available to peruse. New strips and other material will also be periodically appearing, which is certainly the most exciting prospect for fans of the comic.
In a letter on the site, Larson explains two primary motivators for finally putting the strip online. First, he wants to take a new approach to corralling the sharing of his work on the internet: “Trying to exert some control over my cartoons has always been an uphill slog, and I’ve sometimes wondered if my absence from the web may have inadvertently fueled someone’s belief my cartoons were up for grabs. They’re not … So I’m hopeful this official website will help temper the impulses of the infringement-inclined.” The other is that the quality of web visuals has drastically increased since he initially dismissed it as a medium for his comics. (And indeed, the color comics posted so far look excellent on the site, far better than any fan scan.)
The Far Side is one of the canonical newspaper comics and easily stands out from peers like Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes for its singularly weird, often warped sense of humor. Its jokes are based on riffs on science and history, or playing on turns of phrase, or just finding anything that cows do inherently funny. As a perennially popular strip, it’s never been hard to find, but being legally available online could help a whole new audience discover its charms.