The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 by Gary Larson – Book Review

When I was a kid, I loved the comic strips and when my dad would finish the paper, I would grab it to head over to the comics. Especially on Sunday when there was a huge section of strips to read. You had Peanuts, Beatle Bailey, Family Circle and tons more. But as I got older, my humor got a little darker and I would race over to read Calvin & Hobbes and most especially The Far Side by Gary Larson. They were only one panel strips with humor that was so absurd at times that it made you think and then laugh. I don’t know if my parents got the humor, but I sure did.

Gary retired from the strip way back in 1994 going out in his prime. I guess he felt he might as well quit while he was ahead and boy was he. I think he was way ahead of his time as the humor to me was really subtle and advance and not like anything out there at all. So, when he called it quits, it made me a little sad as a childhood memory was being taken away and lost forever.

The Far Side ran for over 15 years and by the end was running in over 1,900 newspapers….do kids today know what a newspaper is…doubtful. And the series was so popular, he sold a series of books including a set of the comics. Those books have sold 45 million copies. Gary Larson was a rock star!! I will admit, I didn’t buy all these books because when I started feeling nostalgic for the series, there were too many to buy. Then my prayers were answered and a complete series was released. In August 2003, my wish came true and ‘The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994’ was finally released and I could get them all in one set.

Well, almost one set. The collection was massive. I mean huge, massive and larger than life as I always felt the comic strip was. The set weighs a ton…okay, maybe just a few pounds, but it ain’t light. It comes in 2 volumes. The first covering the years 1980-1986 and the second covering 1987-1994. Each book was hard back and they both came in a beautiful Far Side pictured box as shown above and below

The Far Side debuted on January 1, 1980 in The Chronicle…that’s right…only one paper. It to grow to 4 papers by 1982 and then started seeing some traction. By 1983, it was in 80 papers and around 200 by 1985. Not the fastest start but popularity was growing. He started out at 5 cartoons a week, then it grew to 6 then by 1987, he was doing 7 a week. I think he developed burnout as he took some time off from October 1989 all the way to January 1990. When he got back, he negotiated to only do 5 a week and his circulation was growing as I said above he ended up in 1,900 newspapers. When he finally quit, he stated it was due to “simple fatigue”. The last one posted on January 1, 1995.

Volume 1 1980-1986:

The set kicks off with a Foreword done by the mighty Steve Martin. And you get an introduction written by Jake Morrisey and then the Preface was written by Gary Larson himself. What follows is 644 pages of beautifully crafted single pane comic strips. Sometimes you get one a page and other times you get 4 and in the order of the series. Chapters are broken down in to years and each year has words from the author before the comics start. It also looks like original art for each year to kick off the section. It is all simply stunning.

I hope I don’t get in trouble for posting the strips, but it is to show you what you are getting in this magnificent set. Here are a couple shots from Volume 1…

Volume 2: 1987-1994:

The second volume picks up with 1987 and you get 602 pages of cartoons in this one. Including an Appendix with 13 additional cartoons that were never released in a syndicated newspaper and were for his book Lost Chapter and Worse which was published in 1996. What you will also find throughout the book are letters from fans as you have to remember, back in those days, there was no internet to post things you liked or disliked about the comics, not like today.

And here are a few more pictures to show for this volume. Larson used to be funny about people posting and he would send cease & desist notices, but this is a review so I am hoping I am covered…

And there you have it. This is a stunning collection and with great insight from the author and a purely nostalgic blast from the past. If you are a fan of these comics, this is all you need in the collection. You will not be disappointed, but you might want to work out before you get it so you can lift these massively, beautiful books. If your humor is a little twisted, a little left of center and even a little dark then this book is for you!! My Overall Score is a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars…it don’t get better than this!!


25 thoughts on “The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 by Gary Larson – Book Review

  1. I think I remember him saying he quit before he wrote something that offended too many people.

    I don’t really get the newspaper but it seems like there hasn’t been new stuff that’s as beloved as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side.

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          1. Happy Easter & Passover weekend to those out there who celebrate. If anyone wants to check out 5+ hrs of my show from last week here’s the link. It bounced around from a bevy of 80s hard rock to local new music (NY/NJ), punk rock block, more recent hard stuff & miscellaneous here & there with my occasional RnR babbling, lol. Playlists available if anyone should ever want to see. Take care all…


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  2. What a great looking set. Much like Calvin and Hobbes I’d dedicatedly collected the individual collections when they were available so never thought to get these, tempting as they are. Always a delight to dip into and pass on

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a cool set. I admit not always understanding his comics. The ones I did understand were hilarious.

    I have a Dilbert book like that. It might be a collectible now, given what has happened in the last month or so. I miss Dogbert’s tech support.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Haaa, that is awesome…Downstairs in my basement I have probably 3 or 4 of the soft cover small Larson books from probably mid to late 80s. And also a couple of the bigger Calvin & Hobbes soft cover books…Birds of a feather huh, lol…As a matter of fact I’m getting those books off the shelf today & bringing them up to the “coffee table”. My wife will be like, “what are these doing here?” Lol…Thx John


  5. I very vaguely recall him quitting the strip, didn’t really ever know why. It sort of coincides with when I quit reading them, which was just a bit later in ’95. This one was always a highlight of reading that section, this looks like a very nice collection.


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