Believe it or not, it wasn’t legally possible to read iconic comic strip The Far Side online until yesterday. Cartoonist Gary Larson forbade Web distribution of his classic newspaper strip and wrote an open letter to fans asking them not to post any of his cartoons. (It didn’t work.)
Running from 1980 through 1995, The Far Side was one of the most popular strips of its day, appearing in nearly two thousand newspapers at its peak. Conceived under the name Nature’s Way, the animal kingdom was a frequent subject of Larson satire, though he would often make fun of anything that crossed his mind. Cows in particular.
Larson would turn out to be the first member of the Trifecta of Newspaper Comics Defections in 1996, quitting The Far Side one day before New Years. Berkeley Breathed and Bill Watterson would follow before another year had passed, and the funnies never completely recovered from the loss. In 2015 Breathed discovered the modern invention of social media and used it to launch a reborn Bloom County, free of editor interference, cranky letters from old ladies, or what was once thought an unslayable dragon: deadlines.
Now it sounds like Larson has changed his mind about technology and may be following Breathed’s example. “I’m looking forward to slipping in some new things every so often,” he told the New York Times in a new interview. “Returning to the world of deadlines isn’t exactly on my to-do list.” The Far Side’s rebirth isn’t the gag-a-day factory it originally was, but rather, like Breathed, Larson will gift us with something whenever he feels the urge.
In the meantime, the new Far Side site will showcase a random selection of classic cartoons each day, just like one of those “Off-The-Wall” daily calendars that blanketed white-collar offices across America during the 90s. Welcome back, Gary, we missed you.