Floating Cows, Animal Sex Toys, And A Sharp Jazz Trio
Written: Jan 30, 2003 (Updated Jan 30, 2003)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Interesting format, Showcases Larson's zany, dark humor, Varied collection of cartoons
Cons:Larson's humor may not appeal to all tastes
The Bottom Line: Pure black humor from a master of the genre
You don't have to have a sick sense of humor to appreciate Gary Larson's cartoons, but it sure helps. When Larson retired from syndication in 1995, many of his fans, including myself, were left with no alternative but to search out his comic genius in collections of his cartoon books such as The Far Side Gallery, Bride Of The Far Side and The Far Side Observer. Even though many of the cartoon collections are recycled many times over, Larson's wickedly twisted comic perspective has burned images on my mind that I will cherish forever.
Gary Larson's earlies interests were in the area of science, especially biology, which is evident in much of his humor. He was influenced early on by the cynical, irreverent humor of the 1960's classic MAD Magazine, which is still in publication. His first comic strip Nature's Way, has been described as a "Mesozoic Far Side." Larson's work gained popularity after he was offered a syndication contract by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1980. For the next 14 years, Larson was one of the most widely read and appreciated cartoonists of his era. At the time of his retirement from syndication, Larson's cartoons were appearing in more than 1,900 daily and Sunday newspapers worldwide.
Larson's humor is characterized by his tendency toward anthropomorphism, (giving human characteristic to animals or inanimate objects) hyperbole, and irony. Only the slightly offbeat personality, with a taste for dark humor, will fully appreciate Larson's brand of amusement. Some of his humor, in fact, is so arcane, that many intelligent people just simply don't get it. Those who appreciate Larson's humor are rewarded with calendars, coffee mugs, tee shirts and various other memorabilia to remind them of his rich legacy.
The Far Side Observer is built around the theme of a The National Inquirer, type newspaper as viewed from a non-human perspective. The cover features headlines such as Local Cow Sells Husband To Meat Processing Plant and Midgets At Picnic Carried Off By Giant Ants. The contents consist simply of 104 pages with one or two of Larson's comic panels on each page. I will do my best to capture the essence of a few of my favorite cartoons, which I'm sure many will find immediately recognizable, and that highlight Larson's unique talent.
Panel One: A frantically gesticulating Robinson Crusoe type character, is floating on a life boat with a cow drinking from a glass. The caption reads "Hey, that's milk! And you said you were all empty, you stinkin' liar!"
Panel Two: A family of dinosaurs is sitting around the breakfast table. One of the junior dinosaurs reaches into a cereal box that reads "Meaties," "Free Kid Inside." A milk carton type photo of a young boy adorns the cereal box. The caption reads "Randy!, Just sit down, eat your cereal, and look for that thing later."
Panel Three: One cow is excitedly looking on while his friend is blowing up an inflatable female cow with a box on the floor that reads A-1 Novelty company Inc. The caption reads "She's lookin' good Vern!"
Panel Four: A beaver is standing upright on his hind legs, with his flat tail at rest behind. He is glancing into a refrigerator with various sizes of wood stacked on separate shelves. He is obviously in a quandry with his front legs perched on either hip. "No caption."
Panel Five: An obviously pregnant female snake sits in an easy chair. Her husband has the side of his head pressed into her huge stomach. The caption reads "I hear 'em...Gee, there must be a hundred of the little guys squirmin' around in there!"
Panel Six: Takes us into the living room of a couple of crows. One is sitting on the couch reading the paper. The other one is answering the phone. The caption reads "Louis...phonecaw."
Panel Seven: Depicts a spoon and knife in an apartment, sitting at a table playing cards and smoking, while a fork is playing the piano. The caption reads "In the early days, living in their squalid apartment, all three shared dreams of success. In the end, however, Both Bob the Spoon and Ernie the Fork wound up in an old silverware drawer, and only Mac went on to fame and fortune."
Some of the humor may be lost in my feeble verbal translation, but these cartoons demonstrate Larson's gift for communicating humor through a single, evocative image that requires no further explanation, or a nonsensical image, that become fully appreciated with the addition of a brief, illuminating caption.
This collection is a simple, straightforward, presentation of some of Larson's best syndicated comics. It does tend to lend heavily toward the sensationalism suggested in the title and cover illustrations. Never known as a truly skilled artist, Larson's sketchy, black and white drawings add a certain absurd charm to his hilarious caricatures.
I highly recommend The Far Side Observer for those whose humor tends to lean a bit toward the macabre side. Not everyone will appreciate or understand this type of humor. For those who don't there's always Dagwood And Blondie.
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