RETURN FROM THE FAR SIDE
"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." Fred Rogers
A few months ago, the cryptic
picture above was posted on TheFarSide.com website. To the experienced eye,
it appeared that Gary Larson was about to bring some of our favorite characters
out of cold storage.
If you're not familiar with his
work, Gary's cartoons are known for highlighting the absurdities of everyday
life and focusing on bizarre perspectives of animals. The single-panel drawings
were often surreal and ridiculous. They always made me wonder what kind of
warped mind this guy had.
Gary published a daily syndicated cartoon starting in 1980, but apparently all that wackiness and off-beat humor became too much for one brain. He stopped publishing completely in 1995, due to the constant pressure of meeting a daily deadline. It was a sad occasion for many of us.
Last year, to the delight of his
followers, Gary announced a new website on which he offered a steady drip,
drip, drip of his previous works, and copies of some of his earlier
sketchbooks. You can check out daily selections of past cartoons at www.thefarside.com. Here's what he looks like
A few weeks ago, Larson published
his first public cartoons since his retirement. The three new images evoke the
same humor as his earlier work, but he says they are "not a resurrection
of The Far Side daily cartoons."
Now, instead of a pencil or pen, he
is using a digital tablet: "I got one, fired it up, and lo and behold,
something totally unexpected happened: within moments, I was having fun drawing
again." He says he is looking forward to creating cartoons on his own
terms, taking advantage of not having an editor breathing down his neck and the
stress of the ticking clock.
For me, the jury's still out on
this new venture. I frankly wasn't all that impressed with his three new
I'm also curious to see whether the
updated and rejuvenated Gary Larson will be able to match his previous
creativity, or if that steady pressure back in the 80s and 90s actually helped
him produce better work. In my own experience, I sometimes benefit from the
push of deadlines and accountability, while at other times, too much load
becomes counterproductive and gets in the way of quality results. It will be
interesting to see how this plays out for Gary.
Gary's renaissance may also be instructive
for those who try retirement, only to discover that they have too much inside
them to completely hang up their cleats, their stethoscope, or their word
processor. Should these newly-minted retirees be considering alternative ways
to use their talents and their wisdom? Is there some middle ground between
full-time work and cold-turkey retirement? What lessons does Gary's comeback
journey hold for the rest of us?
There's so much to ponder as we
await his latest offerings. In the meantime, I want to celebrate Gary's return
by sharing a half-dozen of my personal favorites.