Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy birthday, Gary Larson

It's Gary Larson's 60th birthday today.

Larson, who did the comic panel, "The Far Side", for 15 years, is still reaping the rewards of his twisted imagination. "Far Side" products continue to sell. No one else wrote or drew jokes like Larson, and they are still being appreciated.

I have an unused 1988 desktop calendar by Larson. I tried to sell it on eBay a few years ago and got no takers. If 1988 ever comes around again I'll try again.

My favorite book of Larson's is PreHistory Of The Far Side. If you've ever wondered what goes into the creative process this is a great book. Most fun are the panels that were misunderstood by readers, had captions switched, or were otherwise disasters. I also like the back cover, with its fake class picture. It's kind of scary, but that Larson figure in the middle row looks like me in sixth grade.

It's hard to be funny occasionally, much less 365 days a year for 15 years, but I think Larson came as close as anyone.

"The Far Side" Copyright © 2010 FarWorks, Inc.

Larson's people are vigilant about tracking down images on the Internet. My suggestion if you want to see more of "The Far Side" is buy his books, calendars, or one of the multitudes of other licensed products. Here's a letter that has circulated around the Internet purportedly sent by Larson to folks violating his copyrights. Nice letter, but he does make his point:


I'm walking a fine line here.

On the one hand, I confess to finding it quite flattering that some of my fans have created web sites 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.

What impact this unauthorized use has had (and is having) in tangible terms is, naturally, of great concern to my publishers and therefore to me -- but it's not the focus of this letter. My effort here is to try and speak to the intangible impact, the emotional cost to me, personally, of seeing my work collected, digitized, and offered up in cyberspace beyond my control.

Years ago I was having lunch one day with the cartoonist Richard Guindon, and the subject came up how neither one of us ever solicited or accepted ideas from others. But, until Richard summed it up quite neatly, I never really understood my own aversions to doing this: ''It's like having someone else write in your diary," he said. And how true that statement rang with me . In effect, we drew cartoons that we hoped would be entertaining or, at the very least, not boring; but regardless, they would always come from an intensely personal, and therefore original perspective.

To attempt to be "funny" is a very scary, risk-laden proposition. (Ask any stand-up comic who has ever "bombed" on stage.) But if there was ever an axiom to follow in this business, it would be this: be honest to yourself and -- most important -- respect your audience.

So, in a nutshell (probably an unfortunate choice of words for me), I only ask that this respect be returned, and the way for anyone to do that is to please, please refrain from putting The Far Side out on the Internet. These cartoons are my "children," of sorts, and like a parent, I'm concerned about where they go at night without telling me. And, seeing them at someone's web site is like getting the call at 2:00 a.m. that goes, "Uh, Dad, you're not going to like this much, but guess where I am."

I hope my explanation helps you to understand the importance this has for me, personally, and why I'm making this request.

Please send my "kids" home. I'll be eternally grateful.

Most respectfully,

Gary Larson


DEMiller said...

I didn't know Larson was so territorial. I thought he shunned lawyers. I don't really go along with him on this. As a Judge once said, "The Genie is out of the bottle". Everything is on the internet, but that doesn't make it bad. As for "your comics being your children", I saw B. Kilban in person in the 80s and he said that Larson was stealing his ideas. "Failure is an orphan, but success has many Fathers."

El Postino said...

I didn't know that Kliban claimed Larson ripped him off. That's very interesting.

Larson's people stalking the Internet looking for Far Side cartoons brings up the question, does putting an image on the Internet hurt its sales as a coffee cup or t-shirt? I think it hurts only if you put the image on a t-shirt or coffee cup and don't pay the artist. If I pirated Larson's cartoons and make products from them I could understand him suing, but using one or two of his cartoons as illustrations for a blog seems like fair use, especially if I'm not charging anyone to see them. I'd be promoting Larson rather than ripping him off.

Sam Gross is apparently someone who guards his cartoons against Internet use, too.

SuzeM said...

Any chance you still have the 1988 calendar? My dad is a big fan, and every year, I scout around for old Off-The-Wall calendars, so I'm looking ahead for the next several years. Thanks! Susan

Postino said...

SuzeM, sorry, not for sale.

Jesse said...

Good post...Is the Farside calendar still for sale. If you still have it I would be interested.