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Dave Approved: Larson

Posted on Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Dave!Very few comic strips can approach the scary genius that is The Far Side by Gary Larson. You either "get it" and love it or "don't get it" and hate it, but either way you can't deny that they guy is entertaining. For me, Larson is more than entertainment, he's a way of looking at life. For that reason, I was pretty devastated when he decided to discontinue his "Off The Wall" daily calendars in 2002 (almost worse than when he retired the strip in 1997!).

Then, almost as if it were an attempt to make up for it, in late 2003 Larson released a hefty 2-volume set of every cartoon created for the series, including 1100 that had never appeared in any previous books...

Far Side

The beauty of this collection is not only the fact that you get every Far Side written, but that they are reproduced chronologically, so you can watch the evolution of the strip. From this perspective it's surprising how quickly Larson managed to hit his stride. In just over a year everything clicked and there was no turning back. As if that weren't enough, interspersed amongst the funnies are stories, notes, and letters that add to the exploration of the Far Side universe.

Along with my highest recommendation there are also a few minor gripes. First of all, the books are uncomfortably heavy. If you're not using a reading table the size and weight quickly becomes a burden. Why they couldn't have made four volumes (or even three!) so that people could more easily handle them is a mystery. Second, I appreciate the fact that many of the strips are reproduced in their colorized iterations, but it's sometimes disruptive to the flow of the book the way the stips bounce back and forth between color and black & white.

So there you have it. The $100 price tag may seem excessive but it's a real bargain considering the quality of the printing and all the material you get. Rumor is that Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes, my favorite strip of all time, is getting the deluxe set treatment next and I can't wait.

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