From 1980 to 1995, Far Side Comics, Gary Trudeau’s surrealist single-panel comics, ran in thousands of newspapers around the country. They began almost the archetype of the syndicated comic, and books of the collected panels sold around the world. He retired his series when he felt he could no longer keep it fresh, and since then has lived a quiet and fairly anonymous life, except for publishing a children’s book in 1998 and voicing himself in the Simpsons in 2010. “Cartoonists are expected to be anonymous,” he said to Time Magazine once, declining to have his picture published by them.
Only in 2019 did Larson bring his collected works to the internet after years of using legal take-downs to keep it off of it. And there has been no new content from him in over a decade, until just very recently. “So a few years ago — finally fed up with my once-loyal but now reliably traitorous pen — I decided to try a digital tablet,” wrote Larson on his site. “I knew nothing about these devices but hoped it would just get me through my annual Christmas card ordeal. I got one, fired it up, and lo and behold, something totally unexpected happened: Within moments, I was having fun drawing again. I was stunned at all the tools the thing offered, all the creative potential it contained. I simply had no idea how far these things had evolved… I’m just exploring, experimenting and trying stuff.”
He’s very clear that his new pieces are not a revival of The Far Side. In fact, the New Stuff page on his site only boasts three pictures. But Larson’s art is such a part of American day to day life, even now a generation after his retirement, that it’s a bright spark of joy to see new work by his hand.
Image CC BY-SA 2.5, by Greg Williams in cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation. Image has been cropped.