PROVO — When Kerry Soper recalls getting his first collection of “The Far Side” comics when he was 13, he uses holy jargon.
“It was like a revelation. And I was converted,” Soper explained. “And I became almost like a missionary who wanted to share his work with other people.”
The Brigham Young University professor is still evangelizing. His new book, “Gary Larson and ‘The Far Side,’” analyzes the atypical themes, tone and aesthetics of the influential comic, which ran in newspapers nationwide from 1980-1995. It also examines Larson’s creative trajectory, his unique business decisions and his work’s significant cultural impact.
Soper’s reverence for “The Far Side” belies its decidedly irreverent spirit — or, as Soper describes it, its “philosophy of absurdism.” Larson’s work asserted that “we’re all just fools, flailing against the universe. And if you try to make sense of it, it’s going to bite back,” Soper said. Creationists and scientists, adults and children, humans and animals — Larson poked, prodded and mocked all of it.
“It was such an anomaly among all the other cartoons,” Soper added. “And because it has such a peculiar, morbid, deadpan tone, you have to spend some time with it before it resonates with you, before it feels comfortable.”
And if anyone has spent the time, it’s Soper. We asked him to pick a quintessential “Far Side” cartoon — one that captures Larson’s strange brilliance — and dissect its various parts. What makes a “Far Side” comic a “Far Side” comic? Soper broke down the big and little details of a “Far Side” classic: 1985’s “Luposlipaphobia.” Click on the numbers in the graphic below to see what Soper said.