10 Funniest Far Side Comics Where Everybody Dies


Gary Larson’s The Far Side is known for its surreal humor and morbid perspective, including several comics where no human is left standing. Whether taken out by aliens, animals, or their own hubris, humans are just another animal trying to get by in an often hostile world. The people of The Far Side are prone to apocalyptic levels of foolishness, often reflecting the (hopefully) less lethal foibles of the strip’s millions of fans.
Here are the 10 best The Far Side comics where – for a truly impressive variety of reasons – no human makes it out alive. Some are iconic, some underappreciated, but in each case, Larson leaves no room for doubt that his human characters aren’t long for this world.
10 Oh, Gross!
In a joke reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the entire Earth is smooshed on an alien windshield, as an unfathomably vast vehicle makes its way across the galaxy. Larson has a keen interest in nature that has always infused The Far Side’s humor, and often depicts animals behaving in human ways, and vice versa. Here, humanity takes on the significance of an insect on the cosmic scale – a joke tinged with cosmic horror, perfect for someone who has had multiple species of insect named in their honor by fans.
9 Insect Apocalypse
Turnabout is fair play, and this time it’s actual insects paying the price for mankind’s nuclear hubris. In the comic, a ring of happy insects dance in a circle holding hands, like something out of an early Disney cartoon (indeed, Larson penned plenty of comics taking on the House of Mouse.) In the distance, humanity topples itself, unable to achieve the same kind of harmony that’s happening in the foreground. This is one of the rare The Far Side comics without a caption to drive the point home, and demonstrates Larson’s mastery of using a single panel to tell a story that’s all about chronology – what just happened, or what’s about to.
8 Bear Puppet Show
The Far Side’s original run lasted for sixteen years, published in newspapers around the country (and eventually, around the world.) For much of that time, it was subject to exacting editorial standards – in The Pre-History of The Far Side, Larson reveals that any scatological reference – even depicting an outhouse – was a guarantee that a comic would be rejected as insufficiently family friendly. In that closely monitored environment, it’s pretty surprising to see a Far Side comic where a bear plays with human remains.
As an animal-lover, Larson returns many times to the relationship between hunters and their quarry, often showing the humans coming off worse – the rifle among the bones in this comic suggests that while the bear might have had the element of surprise, Bob and Jim were out looking for prey of their own. Again, this comic shows Larson’s keen sense of time – the joke relies on the reader’s dawning understanding of a prior moment that gives this pile of bones new context.
7 Dragon
While not as intrinsic to The Far Side as cavemen, cowboys, or the surprisingly sinister giant squid, dragons and knights recur in Larson’s comics as a classic rivalry. The knights rarely triumph in Larson’s strips, but here the gallant hero has truly bitten off more than he can chew, especially as smoke already begins to rise from the dragon’s nostril. Larson’s use of ‘color’ in this monochrome comic is particularly impressive – stark white picks out the knight and smoke, giving the reader a chance to make the same mistake of scale, before drawing their attention to the single cracked eye of the huge beast. A few trees give a sense of how truly huge the monster is, while the stalagmite-like teeth and horn help sell the knight’s mistake as reasonable (though no less unfortunate for it.)
6 Time Machine
One of the most famous The Far Side comics, this strip is another single-panel story which relies on establishing the context of the moments just prior to the image shown. The time machine’s design is perfeclty pitched – riffing on the famous machine from 1960’s The Time Machine, while still managing to resemble a dryer enough that no-one could blame the soon-to-be-consumed cleaner for her error. The Far Side sells how little time the character has left on Earth with an uncharacteristic burst of excess – one T-Rex would have sold the joke, but three separate dinosaurs in the panel make it clear that there’s no happy ending here.
Related: Far Side’s Most Confusing Comic Has an Incredibly Simple Explanation
5 Wings Fall Off
A purely silly comic, the idea of a plane including a ‘Wings Fall Off’ switch plays with the weirdly overpopulated options on airplane arm rests. This is arguably a Far Side comic which would be stronger if it skipped the caption and let the reader do all the work, although the guarantee of a “disaster” in the near future at least leaves the reader in no doubt as to Ted’s fate.
4 Circus
In another comic where bears triumph over humans, a circus animal realizes that the muzzle stopping it from savaging its ‘trainer’ can be easily removed. Circuses abusing animals for entertainment was still common during Larson’s original The Far Side run – a fact which actually did lead to several grisly situations like the one implied here. The blithely happy trainer in the background and the bear’s matter-of-fact phrasing help sell this as the innocent moment of realization before a bloodbath – another example of Larson’s command of implying moments in the past and future.
3 Vultures
The Far Side loves stranding people in the desert, to the point where comic fans colloquially refer to the tiny desert islands that often appear in the funny pages as ‘Far Side islands.’ Here, a poor wanderer is just in sight of an oasis, even as an unfathomably strong and resourceful vulture has other ideas. The bizarre nature of this comic belies a few touches of added cruelty – Larson includes an extra sand dune in the distance to emphasize how far the wanderer has come, and there’s no actual reason the vulture needs to nail its prey before he reaches the water. After all, a piano to the head would be just as successful even if it came after the wanderer reached the oasis.
2 Alien Leader
In another cosmic misunderstanding, friendly Roy “dooms the entire Earth to annihilation.” Indeed, anyone looking for continuity between Larson’s surreal strips could imagine this as the precursor to the nuclear apocalypse in #2. Larson often embraces archetypes in favor of clarity, so it’s fun to see a more idiosyncratic alien than his usual green blobs. The extra saucers in the sky drive home just how huge of a mistake Roy is making here but – like Ted’s airplane button – there’s also the underlying implication that there’s really no other way this encounter could have gone.
1 Missile
Among the most iconic The Far Side comics, this strip shows one scientist about to alarm another at the worst possible moment. It’s a perfect single panel that sums up a lot of what The Far Side is about and what it does uniquely well, with the terrible consequences lurking just a few seconds in the future. Ultimately, in the world of The Far Side, it’s far funnier to see humans cause their own end, rather than succumbing to nature or intergalactic aggression, as the inherent haplessness of the species is easily their defining trait, at least as written by Larson. In this case, a little of that playful disdain spills over to the audience, who are expected to need the word ‘MISSILE’ printed on the side of the weapon to understand the stakes of the moment.
While often remembered as family friendly fare, The Far Side has a nihilistic streak that comes from viewing humans as just another type of animal. Whether grabbing an alien invader by the head, yelling insults into the nostril of a dragon, or blowing themselves to pieces as a prank, The Far Sidetends towards the expectation that one way or another, there’s nothing more dangerous to humanity’s long-term wellbeing than humanity itself.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here