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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/31/2008

The Morning Line: Gary Larson's Long Shadow

By Michael Cavna

Has any single-panel cartoon ever left a more mammoth footprint than "The Far Side"?

Cavorting cows. Hostage-taking deer. Punk porcupines. Beehived, cat-eyed dog owners. And of course, all those lab-coated scientists peering through Coke-bottle glasses.

BREVITY (UFS)Enlarge Comic

Gary Larson did not invent the animal/science cartoon. But he sure came to own it. Strips such as today's "Brevity," through no criminal fault of its own, cannot help but pale in long-shadowed comparison. Today's cartoon feels like Bio 101 compared with Larson's many inspired cell-dividing scenarios. Mitosis had never been so side-splitting.

This inevitable comparison is why, when drawing "Warped," I increasingly steered away from science gags. No matter how original the idea was, the mere scenario was enough to make the joke play like a rerun.

Perhaps time is finally shortening "Far Side's" shadow a bit. During the holiday shopping season, bookstores were seemingly filled with as many "Argyle Sweater" calendars as "Far Side" ones. Scott Hilburn's funny strip is nearly homage to Larson; and the newest generation of readers may not know their "Far Side."

Then again: The other day, I watched as a 9-year-old relative checked out "The Far Side Gallery" for the first time. She pointed at the plotting cows, the carrion party, the squabbling scientists. And she laughed so heartily that I was assured the strip's appeal won't diminish anytime soon.

Elsewhere 'round the page...


The ramifications in today's "Beetle Bailey" are so disturbing in so many ways. Must we now contend with the realization that Gizmo is amorously attached to his computer and, if so, how long till NBC's "Dateline" comes barging through the barracks door?

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (KFS / Marvel)Enlarge Comic

And "Spider-Man" demands bold-type attention in the days ahead. Is this mere ploy, or does Spidey have something genuinely "amazing" up his web-slinging sleeve? Stay tuned.

By Michael Cavna  | December 31, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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It's not printed among the comics in the 'dead-tree' editions of The Post; you'll find it in the 'web comics' selections on the website. But I want to nominate today's "9 Chickweed Lane" for a Riffie nonetheless. The strip is set in the NYC arts community and two major characters, Amos and Edda, are performing in a music competition. Check out how author Brooke McEldowney depicts their duet -- I almost needed a cold shower after reading it.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 31, 2008 7:03 AM | Report abuse

If Spiderman is introducing the "New Day" storyline to comic strip I may march on the post and demand they pull this lifeless nonsense. In a nutshell Spiderman shares his identity with the world the fallout to that is Aunt May is shot and her life is on the line. A super villian gives Spidey a choice: Save Aunt May but he has to give up Mary Jane and start all over. Of course he chooses Aunt May and Spiderman is reset. Stupid...

Posted by: Solnoir | December 31, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Gizmo may be into online porn. It's responsible for many PC and handheld game system sales.

Posted by: MSchafer | December 31, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

OMG, Solnoir is undoubtedly right and Spider-Man is going to become a feckless 20-something-year-old, no longer married to Mary Jane. Bah, bah, bah. I wonder why the corporate Marvel forced this as the strip readers are undoubtedly different from the comic readers and the movie, animation and Ultimate comic book Spider-Men are all in different places anyway.

Bah again.

Posted by: Mrhode | December 31, 2008 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Gregwiggins - that's a direct quotation of the way he showed them losing their virginity this fall. Go back a month or so and look for the arms.

Posted by: Mrhode | December 31, 2008 9:23 PM | Report abuse

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