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The Far Side returns

After 25 years, Gary Larson embraces digital to bring back the iconic comic strip.

Readers of a certain age will no doubt recall Gary Larson's The Far Side cartoons. They were everywhere during the 80s and early 90s. Always impressively imaginative and often incredibly funny, everyone who recalls his work (and, OGN Daily suggests, those that don't) will be delighted to hear that he's back.

Larson has just released new comics for The Far Side, the first strips since January 1995. While Larson cautions that this is “not a resurrection of The Far Side daily cartoons,” after 25 years of rereading our favorites, we’re so excited for new work that we’ll take anything he wants to share. Larson started to bring his comics online late last year.

The first of the new comics features bears, aliens, and taxidermy (all staples of The Far Side). The style is comfortably familiar, with two large exceptions: instead of watercolor, the new comics are done in digital brushstrokes that make the images feel more volumetric and vibrant than the original full-color cartoons. Also, the penned outlines, which exist in both the watercolor and black-and-white original comics, are almost entirely gone. The end result is images that evoke the feel of the old comics but are somehow a little less cartoony. The characters and elements all feel unified in the scene together.

Both the style changes and the comic’s return are due to the fact that Larson is now using a digital tablet. After years of frustration dealing with clogged pens and dried-up markers, Larson decided to give going digital a chance. “I was stunned at all the tools the thing offered, all the creative potential it contained. I simply had no idea how far these things had evolved,” Larson writes in an opening letter for New Stuff, the title for his new works. “Perhaps fittingly, the first thing I drew was a caveman.”

Larson isn’t the first cartoonist to trade in a pen for a stylus. The allure is pretty strong. Using a tablet opens up a wide variety of digital brushes and tools as well as the ability to work in layers for objects and coloring — options that didn’t exist when Larson’s series first ran. The range of styluses that exist to mimic pens and screen protectors that make it feel like drawing on paper allow for a smoother transition, too.

At the end of the letter, Larson asks readers to remember, “I’m just exploring, experimenting, and trying stuff.” And that is exciting. With a plethora of new tools at his disposal, we’re eager to see how they’ll be used to revive The Far Side, however infrequently Larson gets around to it.

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