About 25 years ago, Gary Larson retired from drawing The Far Side, his famous single-panel cartoon that ran daily in newspapers from 1980 to 1995.

“Taketh down my cartoons and let this website become your place to stop by for a smile, a laugh, or a good ol’ fashioned recoiling.”
–Gary Larson

Now, in honor of the cartoon’s 40th anniversary, Larson is launching TheFarSide.com: a refuge for his classic cartoons, never-before-seen sketches, and brand new work.

On the site, Larson published a letter explaining why all these years later, his comics have found a home online:

“My cartoons have been taken and used to help sell everything from doughnuts to rodent control. At least I offer range,” the cartoonist wrote, speaking of his struggle with copyright infringement.

Gary Larson autographs copies of ‘Beyond the Far Side’ in 1983.
Denver Post/Getty Images

“Please, whoever you are, taketh down my cartoons and let this website become your place to stop by for a smile, a laugh, or a good ol’ fashioned recoiling.”

Delighting (and confusing) his fans

At one point The Far Side was so popular, it spawned a museum exhibit.

The California Academy of Sciences had so many of Larson’s cartoons taped to the wall, they decided to set up an exhibit called “The Far Side of Science” in 1985 (pictured above). It traveled the country, breaking records for attendance along the way.

But even for someone as beloved as Larson, not every joke was a hit. There was one in particular many fans didn’t understand. In fact, there were so many puzzled phone calls after one 1982 comic that Larson had to issue a press release explaining what it meant.

The comic in question depicted a cow standing over a collection tools, with the caption “Cow tools.” As Mark Mancini wrote for Mental Floss, the cartoon “was supposed to satirize the outdated anthropological belief that, of all creatures, only Homo sapiens makes tools.”

“The cartoon was meant to be an exercise in silliness,” Larson wrote. “I regret that my fondness for cows, combined with an overactive imagination, may have carried me beyond what is comprehensible to the average Far Side reader.”

Larson closed his recent letter by saying, “I hope all the reasons I’ve given here help explain why I’m so late to this party. But I’m finally here. And I could use a drink.”

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