Especially since the internet made it possible for a thousand flowers to bloom, it’s no problem finding a cartoonist whose work you can recognize at a glance. Jim Davis, Randall Munroe, and Scott Adams all come to mind here.
In all of those cases, it’s not just a question of drawing style, but also the type of humor each specializes in, as well as how each joke is presented. Some people, for instance, don’t find Peanuts remotely funny – they just don’t get it – while the very similar Calvin and Hobbes cracks them up.
Like those classics, the work of Gary Larson isn’t just in the big leagues, but more like in a league of its own. His particular brand of deadpan, gentle yet sometimes biting absurdism, must have inspired thousands of budding cartoonists over the years, yet The Far Side continues to stand alone in its particular niche.
Not everyone will appreciate this kind of humor. Some of his cartoons, most of which are just a single panel with a caption, will leave you with the feeling that they’re almost-funny: it’s weird enough to tell you it’s a joke and you know you’re amused, but you don’t quite get it and you can’t really explain why.
Also, although he rarely touches on politics or social issues, a few people will probably find something to be offended about (several “letters to the editor” are included among the sketches, often complaining about the strangest and most insignificant things).
The Far Side ran for one and a half decades and was syndicated in nearly 2,000 newspapers in total. This collection – which is, by the way, a monster, with the hardcover version weighing a full 20 pounds – brings together all of these cartoons in one place, along with a few short essays by the author that are at least as funny.
Although probably intended as a coffee table book, you might well find yourself saying “Just one more page” all the way through to 3am. It is that much fun to read, although rarely in a laugh-out-loud way.