Along with Bill Watterson, Larsen is one of the best cartoonist in this era. To stand out in a crowded field is truly an achievement but to sit on top of the pile is to achieve greatness. This is what Larsen has done. His art and writing is a sublime concoction of ridiculously sane insights into human behavior. Larsen’s books should be required reading for politicians before they pass laws. Perhaps our world would function a little better.
Larson (born August 14, 1950) is the creator of The Far Side, a single-panel cartoon series that was syndicated internationally to newspapers for 15 years. The series ended with Larson’s retirement on January 1, 1995. His 23 books of collected cartoons have combined sales of more than 45 million copies.
Larson grew up in University Place, Washington, in suburban Tacoma. His parents are Verner, a car salesman, and Doris, a secretary. He is a graduate of Curtis Senior High School in University Place. He graduated fromWashington State University in Pullman with a degree in communications.
Larson credits his older brother, Dan, for his “paranoid” sense of humor. Dan pulled countless pranks on Gary, taking advantage of his phobia of monsters under the bed by waiting in the closet for the right moment to pounce. He is also credited for nurturing Gary’s love of science. They caught animals in Puget Sound and placed them in terrariums in the basement, even making a small desert ecosystem. Dan Larson died of a myocardial infarctionin 1989.
According to Larson in his anthology, The Prehistory of the Far Side, he was working in a music store when he took a few days off, after finally realizing how much he hated his job. During that time, he decided to try cartooning and drew six cartoons and submitted them to Pacific Search (now Pacific Northwest Magazine), a Seattle-based magazine. After contributing to another local Seattle paper, in 1979 Larson submitted his work to The Seattle Times. Under the title Nature’s Way, his work was published weekly next to the Junior Jumble.
To supplement his income, Larson worked for the Humane Society. Larson soon decided he could increase his income from cartooning by selling his strip to another newspaper. Taking his vacation in San Francisco, Larson pitched his work to the San Francisco Chronicle. To Larson’s surprise, the Chronicle bought the strip and promoted it for syndication, renaming it The Far Side. This occurred a week before The Seattle Times dropped Nature’s Way.
In The Complete Far Side, Larson says that his greatest disappointment in life occurred when he was at a luncheon and sat across from cartoonist Charles Addams, creator of The Addams Family. Larson was not able to think of a single thing to say to him, and deeply regretted the missed opportunity.
Since retiring from the Far Side, Larson has occasionally done some cartooning work, such as magazine illustrations and promotional artwork for Far Side merchandise.
In 1998 Larson published his first post-Far Side book, There’s a Hair in My Dirt!: A Worm’s Story, an illustrated story with the Far Side mindset.