There’s so much wonderful humor and insightfulness and pop culture awareness in these cartoons, and looking back through them, I really just how much The Far Side is one of my humor and culture touchstones. There were plenty of brand new cartoons here that I either never read before or am reading for the first time in 30 years. But then there will a whole section where I recall in detail not only reading before but the contexts in which I read these as a kid. I also remember demanding my parents help me understand some of the jokes that are made (especially through allusion). For example, I was born in 1981 and was reading these in the late 1980s. They were written about the same time and Gary Larson is my parents’ age. So a random reference to an early 1970s tv commercial is pretty oblique for me. Now I still had to look up many (the one I am referencing is “Karl Malden in his basement” where he’s taking money out of a stolen wallet and tossing the empty wallet on a pile of others — I know Karl Malden from Streetcar and Patton, but not these commecrials!).
So in reading through this collection I had really hoped to be able to toss these on the shelf of my classroom library, and I might still, but man, there’s two throughlines of cartoons that are just not worth it: cannibals (which of course borrow heavily from racist iconography of Polynesia) and Native Americans (which are clearly mostly based in Western-genre tropes).
It’s a shame too.