Iconic comic strip The Far Side launched its official website today, which debuted with a selection of classic cartoons, doodles from creator Gary Larson’s sketchbooks, and a letter from the cartoonist himself. Despite the strip’s cultural ubiquity in the form of books, calendars, and posters, the official website marks the first time the comic has ever been authorized to be available online. To mark the 40th anniversary of the strip, which was syndicated from 1980 to 1995, thefarside.com will periodically post new comics from Larson in 2020.
Larson’s letter explains his understandable hesitation to embrace the internet, mainly over issues of copyright infringement. “[Y]ears ago, when I slowly started realizing I had a second publisher and distributor of my work, known as Anyone With a Scanner & Associates, I did find it unsettling enough to write an open letter to ‘whom it may concern,’ explaining — best as I could — why I preferred that the people doing this would kindly refrain,” Larson writes. Most of these websites, run by Far Side fans, complied with requests to take the comics down. But now the cartoonist says trying to take control over his comics has been “an uphill slog,” and he hopes that giving the comics an official digital home will “help temper the impulses of the infringement-inclined.”
“Back then, the Internet was a cute little Internet-ling, its cold, digital eyes just starting to open.”
High-tech improvements in security and graphics have also been another push for Larson to join the online world. Though he still has some reservations about the internet — “If they wanted to, I’m sure the Russians could get inside this thing and start messing with my captions. (I know they’re thinking about it!)” — Larson told The New York Times that he recently got a tablet, and that he’s been having fun drawing again.
“I hope all the reasons I’ve given here help explain why I’m so late to this party,” Larson writes. “But I’m finally here. And I could use a drink.”