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2011-06-02 14:41:41
Last author: Nioniel
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The Prehistory of the Far Side Review


I’m not too sure if it is normal or not, but I didn’t get into reading comic books or graphic novels until I became an adult. I suppose that it is somewhat ironic that while other children my age back then were reading Spiderman and Calvin and Hobbes comics, that I was reading adult novels, especially murder mysteries and biographies. However, in the past year or two, I have managed to get several different comic books under my belt, including the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series continuation in graphic novel form, and, perhaps best of all, the Far Side collection almost completely read. 

It really amazed me how vast the Far Side collection is, and after having read every Far Side book that I could get my hands on, which weren’t as many as I would have liked to read, I came across The PreHistory of The Far Side, A 10th Anniversary Exhibit. When I found it in Barnes & Noble a few months back, I immediately purchased it without even flipping through it. When I got home and settled into begin to read it, I didn’t move from that spot until I had finished the book, front to back, and when I was done, I had a smile that lingered for hours.

The PreHistory of the Far Side begins with a brief forward by the author, Gary Larson, and this lays out what the book will basically be about and how it came into being. Larson addresses the thought that after ten years of having drawn the Far Side comics, that it had come time to reveal some of the background, “behind-the-scenes” experiences that lead him to come up with some of his more popular, as well as controversial, cartoon panels. Therefore, The PreHistory of the Far Side is a collection of sketches from Larson’s childhood years, a visual progression of the comic panels from their first development to their final, printed stages, and written commentary by the author on most panels as to what lead him to come up with the ideas as well as the revealing of any “inside” jokes that the reader may not otherwise be privy to. 

At first glance, The PreHistory of the Far Side seems to be a bit wordy, and contain more explanations of the comics than it does contain the actual comic panels themselves. However, should one be willing to invest the time into reading the accompanying paragraphs and/or short stories that go with said panels, the glimpse into Larson’s mind and the ability to see his creative genius work its way through the development of each panel is actually quite insightful as well as it is often just as funny as the panels themselves. 

The first panels in the book are not so much panels at all as much as they are full-page, colored drawings from Larson’s “childhood days,” which are drawn very much in a child’s form, and depict such images as his earliest memory of riding in a car on family vacations, where the child-Larson is clearly sitting in the trunk of the vehicle, as well as drawings of child-Larson playing games with his older brother, which depict Larson tied to a tree as his terrifying-looking elder brother attempts to light him on fire. Other sections of the book contain the very first image of a panel that Larson had drawn up, as well as the final image that was sent to print. It is quite amusing to be able to see the differences between the original idea as well as the original captions, and to see their progression into either a more hilarious version or else a more controversial one. Accompanying most of these pages are Larson’s thoughts on both the original and final panels, and why he changed the sketches and/or captions, as well as the public’s general response to the final, printed result. 

While many of the comic panels were not laugh-out-loud funny, most were at least moderately amusing, and several were so hilarious that I actually had to put the book down before I erupted into fall-on-the-floor laughter. This 288 page book is definitely worth picking up, especially if one is a Far Side enthusiast, and even if one is not, it is still a good read that, for most, should only take a few hours to get through. While many of the strips may not be understandable to young children who would normally read comics, this book is a great find for any adult who could use a bit of laughter in their life! 

/ [Nioniel]

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