When it comes to syndicated cartoons, two of my favorites are The Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes. Unfortunately both of them are no longer produced, so I have to depend on “Best Of” or “Gallery” collections of past cartoons to keep me in my usual humorous frame of mind. I have a couple of The Far Side Gallery books and several of the Calvin & Hobbes Collections sitting on my office bookshelf, but I really wished I had everything that Gary Larson and Bill Watterson ever drew for their respective creations.
So imagine my joy to discover the publication of The Complete Far Side, a two-volume, 1,250-page collection of over 4,300 single-panel comics with 1,100 that have not appeared in any book form before. Besides the inclusion of every cartoon he ever published, there are essays from Larson about his life, how the series came to be, where he got some of his more outrageous (weren’t they all outrageous?) ideas and even letters from fans. The panels are arranged in roughly chronological order and a little over half of them are in color.
Now I think, between the original publications in newspapers and the gallery books I have, that I have seen all of the 4,300 panels and picking out an absolute favorite would be difficult. But this is the one that stands out above all the others for me. When you look at this panel, your mind automatically finishes it for you. It’s almost as if Larson actually drew a multi-panel cartoon, but after the first panel he drew the rest right on your imagination. You can actually see that poodle running at full speed to it’s doggie door that it expects to swing open for it, but you see the dog hit the boarded up door at full throttle and bounce off or crumple in a heap, and you laugh out loud. Or at least I do.
Every. Time. I. Look. At. It.
I don’t even have to look at it, I can just think about it and I laugh. I’m laughing right now as I type this.Maybe that makes me a cruel person, but there must be a lot of us out here.
And this one is my second favorite. It also happens to be one of my friend Dave’s absolute favorites. We agreed a long time ago that it captured the two of us perfectly. We know that, if one of us saw someone aiming a gun at us, we would point to the other as if to say, “Him, shoot him, not me.” I mean, that’s what friends are for, right? There’s no point in me taking the bullet if I can get the hunter to shoot him instead. I need to keep living, keep eating honey, keep hibernating. So yeah, “Shoot him, not me.”
Anyway, this collection is one of my absolute favorites sitting on my bookshelf. If you like Larson, it’s probably one of yours as well.