I somehow found myself thinking about Gary Larson this morning while walking the dogs. Those of you too young to know who he is, he was the author and illustrator for The Far Side, a syndicated single-panel cartoon that was the funniest intentional toon ever to grace the pages of a newspaper. Had a wit that was sharper than a box full of razor blades and a really crooked way of looking at the world.
The Far Side ran for nearly fifteen years, made Larson rich, and tired of the deadlines, he shut it down in the mid-nineties. He didn't want to phone it in, and better to go out on top, he said.
Got to love that about the man.
Back when TFS was running in just the Seattle paper–I disremember if it was the P.I. or The Seattle Times, but both of which I was reading in those days, Larson put some of his originals up at a Norwescon art show, selling them for something like fifteen bucks each.
I saw one.
I didn't buy it.
This is a tragedy right up there with my grandma throwing out my comic book collections with half a dozen first editions, from Scrooge McDuck to Fantastic Four and Spider Man ...
The Far Side was hilarious, fans all had their favorites, and half the science labs in the world had them stuck up on walls and specimen fridges. It's hard to narrow it down, there were so many great ones. The three I remember liking a lot were 1) "Blah-blah Ginger," in which a split panel showed a guy yelling at his dog, and the only word she gets is her name; 2) A device worn by a scientist that translates what dogs say, and what they all say, all the time, is "Hey! Hey! Hey!" and 3) Tonto standing outside an outhouse saying, "Kemosabe! The music's starting, the music's starting!" That last one put me on the floor when I first saw it. So clever. And meaningless to anybody who wasn't of an age to have seen the old Lone Ranger TV series.
Larson was a passing good jazz guitarist, and after he retired, he pursued it, apparently able to take lessons from world-class players, and good enough sit around and jam with them.
Last report I could find, he was living more or less anonymously in Seattle, very low profile, and enjoying his life.
Good for him.