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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994
Format: HardcoverChange
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458 of 468 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The first thing you notice about The Complete Far Side is its weight. This is a heavy item. (...) Even the slipcase is made of some super-industrial-strength cardboard, because a regular thickness just wouldn't be up to the task of housing the two absolutely massive bound volumes within.
You really can't imagine how big and heavy this thing is. Get a rough estimate in your mind. Now double it. Good, you're getting close. (...)P>The second thing you notice is quality. Everything from the full-color pages (even when the comics are in black-and-white) to the cloth binding with gold embossing, to the full-color plates decorating the outside of the slipcase shouts "We are the nicest-looking books you will ever own."<P(...) So, you may want to buy it in a bookstore where you can ensure your copy is perfect).
Even if the contents were the Detroit Yellow Pages, these books would still be a pleasure just to look at and feel. Fortunately, the contents are a long way better than the Yellow Pages. And that brings us to the third thing you'll notice: the absolute, pure, unalloyed genius of Gary Larson. You get every Far Side ever published along with a heap that never have been. Lots of old comics I remembered as being in black and white, are redone in color here. Plus you get several meaty essays by Gary Larson himself, that add even more context to the Far Side phenomenon.
But the best part of The Complete Far Side may not even be Larson's work -- rather, it's the exhaustive documentation of people's reaction to it. Every time some nutjob with too much time on his hands wrote an angry letter to the newspaper complaining about a Far Side, that letter is reproduced here next to the panel in question. Often, the syndicate's response is included as well.
People who complain that they've already read, and bought, many of the comics in this compendium are missing the point. This is the book equivalent of a DVD Ultimate Edition. No, it's better than that. This is more than a bunch of comics; it's a historical record of an artist's life's work and the impact it had on the world around him. This is a work of art that you will keep in your family and hand down through the generations, unless you sell it on Ebay in a few years for five times its current price. It's the highest-quality version possible of one of the highest-quality comics ever created.
Ultimately, I can say only this: the Complete Far Side belongs in the collection of anyone who loves books. Or humor itself. Or weiner dogs. Cows. Primates. Scientists. Insects. Grannies in those pointy glasses. Dinosaurs...
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611 of 638 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In terms of content, this is *nearly* the ultimate collection of Gary Larson's wonderful Far Side comics (why do all the good cartoonists like Larson and Watterson retire early, while banal ones like Jim Davis [Garfield] go on ad nauseum?).
Books are very well made, like good art history volumes, with thoughtful notes included between each section (divided by years), and the paper and ink quality is excellent.
However, while this collection features all of the Far Side comics published since inception (and a few more never before seen by the public), it leaves out Larson's hilarious Farsidian take on classic art pieces as featured in the superb "Weiner Dog Art" collection from the 90's. Also, and I suppose this would have made what are already two massive tomes even more unruly to handle, it leaves out all of "Prehistory of the Far Side" material.
So just make sure you get "Weiner Dog Art" and "Prehistory", and then with this collection you'll have the ultimate Far Side opus.
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95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Attention all Far Side fans! It may have been nearly nine years since Gary Larson hung up his famous pen and eraser, however you can continue to get your "fix" of the Far Side for a very long time to come with this outstanding collection.
I was impressed that the publisher of this volume has taken the time to put together a nearly comprehensive collection of every Far Side cartoon ever published (well over 4,000 in total). The cartoons are printed on very finely milled paper, the books are beautifully bound, and they are even placed inside a very nicely done slipcase. Not only will you enjoy reading these classic cartoons, they will look terrific on your bookshelf!
Just be warned, they are very heavy - each volume has to weigh 20 pounds a piece.
You cannot afford to pass this collection up - do not let the price scare you away - you will not be disappointed!
Happy reading!
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2004
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Because Gary Larson's "The Far Side" cartoons didn't appear in my newspaper, I never saw them as they came out. Instead, I'd see them tacked to office cubicle walls, or on greeting cards, or desktop calendars, or coffee mugs -- in short, all over the place. It didn't take me long to become a big Larson fan.

When I first came across "The Complete Far Side" a year ago, in a local book store, it was set up on the kind of display stand normally reserved for encyclopedias, major dictionaries, and other scholarly works of that sort. As I reverently turned the pages, laughing at just about everything I saw, my hands got really sweaty. ("Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease!") It was mighty pricey. It was HUGE. Where am I going to PUT this thing??? No, I really can't .... and I'd walk away, looking back longingly.

So I thought about it for a full year, watching sales come and go, and the books disappear for a time, only to reappear, and finally I broke down and ordered them from Amazon. The shipment box comes with a prominent "warning, heavy contents" sticker. Larson calls it an "18-pound hernia giver". Page "xxi" in Volume One shows a full-page cartoon of the books being assembled with a crane. You get the idea.

And I still had to figure out where to put them. They won't fit on any of my bookshelves. They're much too big for the coffee table. Under my bed? The monsters would eat them, and the crunching would keep me awake. Finally I hit upon the ideal solution: I slung them onto my dresser, between my "Compact Oxford Dictionary" and the filing cabinet.

Interesting note: the two-volume microprint dictionary comes in its own display case, complete with magnifying glass, and turns out to be EXACTLY the same height and depth as "The Complete Far Side". So they look really nice together.

The display case itself is very attractive, with a picture of cooks hunting flying cows on one side, and a "family portrait" of some of Larson's stock characters on the other side: the Neanderthal, the nerdy-looking boy, the mad scientist, the woman with horn-rimmed glasses, a snake, and a praying mantis, to name just a few. The cover of Volume One has a portrait looking like a parody of Queen Elizabeth I or a contemporary, in a stately dress; Volume Two has the same portrait, this time of a cow. Inside the covers of each book are sketches of "Cow Town", sort of what the seedy part of town might look like in a bovine-dominated civilization.

And then there are the cartoons themselves. They're arranged roughly in chronological order. At the start of each year is an essay written by Larson, describing various fascinating aspects of his formative years along with how he came up with some of his ideas. Right before each essay is a two-page panoramic cartoon with the year emblazoned on it. For instance, 1981 has "When Cows Ruled the Earth", one of my favorites.

Interspersed with the daily cartoons are various letters, ranging from the puzzled ("What does the Cow Tools cartoon mean???") to the admiring, to the utterly outraged ("Gary Larson is sick, sick, sick!!!") And then there was the infamous 1987 "Jane Goodall Tramp" cartoon, which, as it turns out, Dr. Goodall enjoyed a great deal. It can be a great honor to find oneself in a "Far Side" cartoon.

True, Larson's cartoons aren't for everyone. Some of them are pretty outrageous, like the one of the alligator being shooed out of the nursery ("Heaven knows how he keeps getting in here, Betty, but you better count 'em"), or the one where the doctors are testing babies for static cling. Any number of animal and human characters throughout the years meet their untimely demise in various bizarre and creepy ways, be it the man-eating mailbox, the giant Venus flytrap disguised as a swing set, or the cows waiting not-so-patiently in line at Anderson's meat-packing plant. ("Hey! You! ... No cutting in!")

As time permits, usually at bedtime, I've been leafing through the books page by page, with note paper handy, writing down the page number and date of any cartoon that strikes my fancy, from my favorite classics to ones I've seen for the very first time. A significant number of them are in color, including hundreds which Larson went back and redid, all the way back to 1980 -- the first year of publication. The color ones tend to be the best, as the details stand out better. As Larson gets more and more comfortable with drawing the cartoons, they tend to get funnier. As a result, I have three pages of notes for Volume One, and twice that many for Volume Two.

There are only two things I wish the books had. The first is, admittedly, unrealistic: an index by cartoon caption and another by topic (cows, chickens, cave men, aliens, etc.) But, they'd probably have to be micro-printed to fit in a two-volume work, so never mind.

My second wish is more doable, and in fact does come with the Oxford: pull tabs, for coaxing the volumes out of the box. As it is, the operation consists of sliding the case to the front of the dresser, tipping it forward ... ever ... so ... gingerly, and trying to catch the books before they fall onto my foot and break a toe or something.

But these are minor quibbles. If you're at all a fan of "The Far Side", and have the money and the room, you'll want these books. They're great for endless hours of entertainment.

My one warning: don't try to read these while you're recovering from abdominal surgery. It will hurt.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Check out this video review if you want to see with your own eyes what exactly you're getting when you buy the Complete Far Side!
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the Holy Grail for Far Side fans; a two-volume, leatherbound, slipcase edition of every single Far Side strip ever produced, including ones that were never anthologized. It carries a hefty price tag, but this should not be an issue for a true Larson fan; the price of admission pales in comparison to the endless amount of humor and satisfaction that one will get time and time again. The Far Side never gets old, and it's like having a long-lost friend come back.
The pages are thick and glossy and extremely well-bound; it's like an encyclopedia, only with a lot more relevant information and more interesting pictures. Organized chronologically and with a two-page cartoon introducing the year, the Complete Far Side shows the progression of Larson's humor and the transformation of the public reaction to his cartoons (this is done with various letters from editors and such, though not in a way that mimics The Pre-History of the Far Side). Some of the strips are presented in color, something that will perhaps be seen as a disappointment to some, but to the majority it is nothing short of a bonus; most of these that are in color have been previously anthologized in black and white.
I personally find Steve Martin's introduction to be a brilliant homage to Gary Larson, and the comments from Larson's editor prove to be tongue-in-cheek moments where one who truly "gets" The Far Side can laugh at the ignorant masses.
This is the centerpiece of my library now, and while it is somewhat bulky, when it's in your lap or on the table, the ten pounds per book seems irrelevant when you realize the sheer scope of what you have in your hands.
And if you ever visit the Midvale School for the Gifted...pull, don't push.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
An earlier reviewer claims that this book will not be reprinted. I called Andrews McMeel Publishing and they say they have already started a new run and will continue to reprint the book as long as there is a demand for it.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
At over 19 pounds in weight and containing some of the funniest cartoons ever drawn, this book can be a real side-splitter.
More than half of the cartoons have been colorized, and they actually look very good done this way, so even if you have all the individual books there are still good reasons to get this compilation (including the ~1100 or so strips that have not previously been collected I believe).
There are three or four panels per page typically, and a couple page intoduction to each chapter (year) by the author.
Steve Martin's short introduction isn't all that funny in my opinion.
For any Larson fan, this certainly is a must-have work.
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69 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I didn't know that this book was coming out. I saw it in a book store and balked at the price tag, but was rescued when I received it as a gift. Now that I have seen it I can honestly say that it is worth far more than the list price. This is simply the greatest compendium of comics ever.
The books are beautifully bound, and the set is VERY heavy (remember to lift with your legs, not with your back) and very large. That brings me to my only complaint about the set, which is that at a bit over 14 inches tall, the books will not sit in most standard bookcase shelves, so I have to figure out someplace else to put them now. It is a small price to pay for all of Larson's brilliance (and Cow Tools, too)!
The books are very well printed and many of the panels are in color (even some of the original black and white panels) which to me adds to the beauty of the books, although I understand some purists have objected to the 'colorization.' To those people I say 'get a life.' This is how Larson wanted them and I totally agree. I couldn't be happier with the set!
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58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Gary Larson and Steve Martin in one volume? Get it, whatever the price.
Both authors polish their words until they shine; until they sound so familiar that they ease into your ear, yet literally contain such astonishing content that you can't contain your laughter.
Larson, I think, is more a wordsmith than a cartoonist. How many of his cartoons are just literal depictions of a verbal pun? And how many quite funny cartoons become gems though their perfect captions? ("Latte, Jed?", or the incomparable "She's lookin' good, Vern..." stick in my memory)
Larson uses the rhythms and patterns of normal speech to lull us into a false sense of security, then subverts our interpretation of of the sentence with a surprising image. A true master of uniting the verbal and the visual.
Why did he choose the world of natural science so often for his subject matter? Maybe nature is plastic, fluid, and playful (as he shows in his visuals) whereas the way we use language nowadays, sadly, is not.
Shrug off your sticker shock (didn't Larson do a cartoon about that phrase once?) and get it.
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