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Seasonally appropriate sketch from his sketchbook.

§ At New York Comic Con this year there was a big booth for The Far Side, Gary Larsen’s much tacked to refrigerator doors absurdist comic strip. But why? Quizzing the people at at the booth got me only mysterious smiles.

But now we know. Although Larsen, now 69, has been retired since 1995, The Far Side is back as a website, and it may even feature some new doodles! Larsen explained more in a very rare interview at the NY Times:

Beginning Tuesday, the “Far Side” site will provide visitors with “The Daily Dose,” a random selection of past cartoons, along with a weekly set of strips arranged by theme. There will also be a look at doodles from the sketchbooks of Larson, who said: “I’m looking forward to slipping in some new things every so often.” (Previously, there was no content on the site.)

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The site has daily strips and even sections arranged by topic, including scientists and animals, like cows. In the interview, Larsen even tries to explain a bit about the notorious “Cow Tools” strip:

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“Cow Tools” is difficult to describe, so I don’t think I should attempt it here or it could turn into an essay. But the bottom line is that it was a massively confusing cartoon. When that came out, suddenly I found myself being called by reporters and doing interviews about a cartoon with the inane title, “Cow Tools.” I think one newspaper even held a contest to see if anyone could figure out what it meant. It got kind of wild.

But, in a weird way, this is how I first came to realize that there was something going on, and that there were other humans actually reading my cartoons. Cartooning is kind of a loner endeavor. You draw stuff, you mail it in, draw stuff, mail it in.

Clearly, The Far Side is just what we need today.

§ Evan Downing at Columbus Alive has the final, detailed profile of the late Tom Spurgeon. The memorial for Tom was held this past weekend in Columbus, and we’re told it was a gathering befitting the man and his memory. His great friend Gil Roth has the audio of his tribute. I still can’t believe Tom is gone. I keep thinking I should go to The Comics Reporter and see what he has to say about this or that development and then realize we’ll never know and that is so wrong.

§ Hooboy, a lot to catch up on. I won’t even try. Rob Salkowitz looks at The Biggest Comic Industry Trends of the Past Decade, and we agree with them all.

The biggest and most obvious evolution of the past 10 years has been the arrival of a new generation of comic readers, making their presence felt online, at conventions, and at the cash register.

§ Salkowitz again with The Best Graphic Novels of 2019.

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§ Cartoonist and teacher Ivan Brunetti has a new column at the Paris Review, Comics as System,  where he does a deep dive on various comics, starting with Mark Beyer’s classic of discomfort, Agony. Some very, very acute observations here. Bookmark!

Pictures and words, pictures as words, words as pictures, neither quite pictures nor words: comics are self-contained systems, worlds unto themselves, answering to no one. From one panel, to one page, to one sequence, to one story, to one book, each level of a comic holds a small universe, and each small universe folds out into a larger universe. These systems need basic parameters and a modicum of internal consistency so that they can function not unlike language, but they are also dynamic, fluid, unstable, imperfect, flexible, and open-ended … not unlike language. As we decode them, they reconstitute themselves in our brains as narrative (or poetry, or both). In any one panel, or the spread of two panels, or any given sequence, we glimpse the entire book in microcosm.

§ Best ofs, awards, etc. Hilary Chute and Ed Park weigh in with their best of 2019 at the NY Times. Aside; I  finally, finally caved and got a $1 a week digital sub to the Times. Their firewall was just too good and I need to support journalism.

§ The 2019 Publishers Weekly Critics Poll results are in and the winner is They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker. A worthy win, but check out the entire list of books mentioned.

§ You can go vote in the Broken Frontier Awards for 2019! I didn’t know a single one of the Breakout Talents so I got some reading to do.

§  Karama Horne weighs in at SyFy with The 12 Most Influential Indie Comics of the Decade, which are mostly Image, but not a stinker in the bunch. And Dana Fosythe has the Top 10 New Comics of 2019. 

In 2019, reexamination and reflection were major themes in some of the comic books we loved best. Whether it was a reimagining of the X-Men in House of X and Powers of X, or a look into the future of America in Undiscovered Country, or the themes of rebirth and reincarnation in Little Bird, each of these comic books struck a chord with us and expanded on the comic medium as a whole.

§ And i09’s best of list.

§ Say, who is toting up all the votes on all the best of lists? Is it you, Jamie Coville?

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§  Just how hot are graphic novels for kids? SO HOT that DC is putting out kids’ GNs with ALL NEW CHARACTERS. ORIGINAL IP. No Harley Quinn or Lightning Lad here! PW catches up with Michelle Wells, who is spearheading the effort, which actually seems to have a name: DC Books For Young Readers, because Zoom and INk were just too darned short:

In 2020, DC Books for Young Readers is releasing three middle-grade titles based on original intellectual property, marking the first time the imprint has published books not tied to its famous DC Comics superheroes.

“DC has an 80-year history with a wonderful array of characters,” said Michele Wells, v-p and executive editor, who heads up the Books for Young Readers program. “It was not a conscious decision to not use DC characters. We wanted to make sure we engaged with a younger readership in a new way, and as I was having discussions with authors and illustrators about what kinds of stories they wanted to tell and whether there would be a fit with DC, I realized that original IP was the best way to do it.”

 

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§ Simon Hanselmann has a comic in Playboy, ‘I’m Orville Peck,’ and it’s quite something!

§ Graeme McMillan looks at Marvel’s new audio storytelling efforts, which we also looked at here, in case you missed it.

Late last week, the company launched a new co-production with the serialized audiobook/ebook publisher Serial Box. Titled Thor: Metal Gods, it’s a fresh story about the God of Thunder, and a move into a whole new medium for Marvel’s superheroes. “We’re focused on more of an audiobook experience, where it’s typically a single person telling you a story rather than actors reading from a script,” explains Molly Barton, Serial Box’s cofounder and CEO. “That’s one of the oldest forms of audio entertainment: one person telling a group of people a story.”

§ Finally, you’ll soon be able to interact with your buddys in Pokémon Go, meaning you will now also be able to play Tamagotchi with your Pokémon. Let’s go, Lickitung!

 

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