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October 23, 1986 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-10-23
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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NormalMNan
Strange W it. , _ 9 11rJ r
Ijust draw until I reach that one
hideous moment," says Gary
Larson, the creator of "The Far
Side.""That's what I relate to." And
these days alot of people relate to

School of
dVery Hard
kKnocks

5 w slWest Point cadets take
to the hills in summer
The 60-foot balance beam shivers like a
wet puppy as West Pointer Allyn Lynd
PHOTOS BY SUDHia takes slow, nervous steps along its
Tanks for the memories: Rolling out the length, trying not to look down at the dark,
artillery (top); riding a wire trolley shiny waters of Lake Popolopan 30 feet
across the Popolopan (above); at ease below. "If he stops for just a second the
between battles (below left); power beam will really begin shaking," explains
lunch, military style (below right) senior cadet Ken Boehme, watching from
the sidelines. "But he's got to do it; he
knows it, too."

Larson's somewhat demented
single-panel cartoon feature.
More than 450 newspapers
run it, more than 4 million
copies of the 8 books that re-
print it have been sold, and
"Far Side" products have sold
famously-$10 million worth
in greating cards and posters
alone. Still, Larson seems to be
somewhat embarrassed by
the limelight. A slender man of
36, with thinning blond hair
and rimless glasses, he speaks
quietly and often punctuates
his remarks with a barely audi-
ble laugh. Is he shy? "Heh,
heh, heh. I would say so," he
says."I'm a little uncomfort-
able with all the attention."
Looking back, Larson's past
seems like an inevitable pro-
logue to what he does today.
First of all, he's been drawing
since he was a little kid in Ta-
coma, Wash. "I've always had
an active imagination," he
says. "In grade school'I could
really fly inside my head-not
unlike others-but I had trou-
ble reining it in." Then there's
his lifelong interest in biology:
"As a little kid I enjoyed going
down to the swamp and picking
up frogs and snakes and sala-
manders." Finally, there was
the nascent personality: "I
was a quiet kid. I wasn't extro-
verted or a class clown or any-
thing like that. I had a quite dry
sense of humor among close
friends." Add these elements
together and you get a low-key
cartoon with a heavy emphasis
on animals, drawn by a bache-
lor who shares his two-bedroom
home in Seattle with assorted

amphibians and reptiles and a
few choice animal skeletons.
But it wasn't until after
Larson earned a bachelor's de-
gree from Washington State,
and was working at the hu-
mane society in Seattle, that
he showed his work to a report-
er from The Seattle Times.
This led in 1979 to "Nature's
Way," a weekly feature that
Larson describes as "a very,
very Neanderthal version of
what Idonow." After a year the
cartoon was dropped because
readers found it distasteful,
and Larson took a vacation in
San Francisco, where he
walked into Chronicle Fea-
tures with his portfolio, unan-
nounced, and left town a week

later with a five-year contract.
Like other new cartoons, his
started slowly, but it is now
building steadily. "It's so fun-
ny all the time that it would be
hard not to attract an audi-
ence,"says Lee Salem, editorial
director of Universal Press
Syndicate, which now distrib-
utes the cartoon.
Larson professes not to
know why he's funny. "I just sit
down and get silly at the draw-
ing table," he explains. "I think
my humor runs the gamut
from being silly and corny to
things that are on the dark
side." Larson takes reality and
stands it on its ear, and the
contrast between the ordinari-

Larson and pal: 'm a little
uncomfortable with all the
attention, says the artist
ness of his visuals and the
startling twists of his imagina-
tion is hilarious. But what, in
Larson's mind, ties together
such varied offbeat subjects as
a cheetah that puts on sneakers
before chasing gazelles and a
pair of clowns gone bad who
lurk in an alley to pelt inno-
cent pedestrians with cream
pies? What is the common
thread? "I think it's there, but I
don't quite know what it is. I'd
hate to think it reflected on me.
Heh, heh, heh."
R ON GIV ENS

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