Gary Larson calls The Complete Far Side, the massive two-volume collection of his Far Side cartoons, an "18-pound hernia giver." Sure to give any coffee table a solid workout, the handsome and heavy 1,272-page "legacy book" is a must for fervent fans; over 4,300 single-panel comics with more than half in color and 1,100 that have not appeared in any book form before (the popular--and far less weighty--paperback collections).
Set in rough chronological order, the comics share pages with occasional letters from fans, detractors, editors, folks made famous by a particular cartoon, and those begging for explanations. Though few explanations are provided (Larson personally supplies merely one, plus a single apology), this collection helps answer the inevitable "how do you think up these things" conundrum. Before each year's cartoons, Larson provides insight with essays about his childhood, various travels, occupational hazards, and his official rules for dealing with bedtime monsters (which often turned out to be his older brother). Most wonderful is the first essay on how the comic started. (His longtime editor Jake Morrissey's long introduction is a must read on The Far Side's story).
Despite no central characters, it's easy to spot patterns in Larson's wild and wacky cartoons. Animals, insects, and inanimate objects often exhibit all-too-human impulses. Larson's subjects are often in scenes of peril--disasters, visits to hell, and perhaps a hundred cartoons set on a one-palm tree deserted island. It is what Larson's fertile imagination mined from those situations that created fans and enemies for 14 years. (Larson retired at his peak and then went into jazz music). The comics are not indexed (how could they be--first lines? listings of cartoons with cows?); finding a favorite requires a great memory for its publication date. Best simply to peruse the pages of this beautiful collection in which you will certainly find more than a few new chuckles before landing on your beloved Larson sketch. --Doug Thomas
From Publishers Weekly
Lumpy cows and dinosaurs, nerds wearing glasses and women with big hair abound in this hefty two-volume slipcased compilation of Larson's twisted and beloved single-panel comic. Complete with every syndicated Far Side cartoon arranged chronologically by year of publication, in addition to 19 that were created after Larson's retirement in 1995, this deluxe set features chapter introductions by Larson as well as letters from fans and puzzled readers ("Help!... [This comic] has stumped not only me but the entire office"). Readers will be amused by the insightfully funny and nostalgic chapter introductions that offer a peek into the cartoon genius's mind, such as the intro to 1982 that illustrates what Larson calls the "ohpleaseohplease syndrome" an obsession he shares with biologists and naturalists (and his brother) to acquire a lizard or another creature, if only briefly, and to "drink it in" before it escapes into its own world. Comedian/author Martin provides a foreword that captures the offbeat and candid humor underlying each comic, as he sorrowfully reports that "many of the scenes depicted in this book are actually false." Readers may not be stunned by this revelation, but they will surely enjoy flipping through the slick, full-colored pages of this mammoth treasury, a lavish (and heavy!) collector's item that is the perfect gift for Far Side fans. Just make sure they say "ohpleaseohplease."
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