Gary Larson's official website for the long-running newspaper comic The Far Side has been updated for the first time in almost twenty years, leading fans to suspect that the artist may be planning a return to the funny pages -- or at least the internet. Without actually saying that The Far Side is coming back, the site teases a "new era" for the comic, which will apparently also be made available online for the first time. Billing the comic as "uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen," the teaser is apparently new art that features a man with a blowtorch, rescuing cows, chickens, and unmistakably Larsonian humans from being trapped in a glacier.
The strip, which originally ran from 1980 to 1995, was not only a huge hit in the world of newspaper strips but became a cottage industry unto itself, with t-shirts, coffee mugs, greeting cards, and more. The New York Times reports that Larson's comic likely generated about $500 million in revenue -- and that's in '80s and '90s money.
Gary Larson's official website for The Far Side stayed virtually untouched since July 2000, a time capsule of the early web—until yesterday, when it got its first redesign in 19 years. https://t.co/u34YeMZI4H pic.twitter.com/JC775vOwfp— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) September 15, 2019
The paper of record also noted that part of the reason it is difficult to find many Far Side strips in wide circulation is that Larson once said that the cartoons were like his "children" and he became very defensive of their unauthorized use.
“I’m walking a fine line here,” Larson said in a letter to a particular website. “On the one hand, I confess to finding it quite flattering that some of my fans have created websites displaying and/or distributing my work on the Internet. And, on the other, I’m struggling to find the words that convincingly but sensitively persuade these Far Side enthusiasts to ‘cease and desist’ before they have to read these words from some lawyer.”
The comic had an absurdist bent and a single-panel format that served as the template for similar, later comics that continue to appear in the comics pages to this day. In an odd twist of fate, Larson ended his strip in 1995, the same year that Bill Watterson decided to close up shop on Calvin & Hobbes. While Watterson never merchandised his characters and has shown no real interest in returning to the comics form, Larson may be taking a page from another '80s comics-page luminary, Berkeley Breathed, whose Bloom County had spinoffs and then, eventually, a revival that was announced and first published on the internet (through Breathed's Facebook).