This week’s face off pits two of the greatest comic strips of the recent era against one another: FoxTrot vs. The Far Side. Both very funny, both with loyal followings and a stellar run of success, but today only one can emerge victorious. The loser of course shall go down in ignominious defeat – relegated to the scrap heap of Comics shame – next to The Lockhorns, or Cathy.
“There can be only one!” — All the Highlander movies
Bill Amend’s comic strip has had quite an impressive run, being a widely distributed 7-days-a-week comic from 1988 to 2007. (Since 2007 FoxTrot has been printed only on Sundays).
I have to give FoxTrot some points for being geek chic way before it was cool. The strip’s most memorable protagonist – the nerdy but sassy, tech-savvy 10-year-old Jason Fox – is a relatable portrait of an awkward lad trying to navigate adolescence with the help of computers, D + D and his pet iguana. For those of us who were a bit dorky and coming of age in the 90s, Jason was one of us. Amend’s impressive background in Physics and Computer-nerdom lent a certain authenticity to the lad. The strip had much more going for it than just Jason however.
FoxTrot has always done a nice job of addressing issues of the day without getting too heavy, while still managing to deliver a chuckle by the last panel. The comic strip shows the foibles and triumphs of an average American family: two stressed out, kinda lame but overall decent parents, three kids, two of whom are pretty dumb, while the other is a weirdo.
For those who haven’t read FoxTrot and need a sitcom beacon, it shares some similarities with The Middle (nerdy little brother, ditzy middle daughter, dumb jock older brother) and I’m gonna say Step by Step. Jason and his meat-head brother Peter’s relationship is similar to Step by Step’s dorky blonde kid with red glasses and his older step-brother: quintessential 90s dumb guy J.T. (No offense to Cody who was very dumb as well).
All in all, FoxTrot is a great, consistently funny American comic strip that still appears worldwide every week. A pretty impressive resume.
The Far Side
Gary Larson’s The Far Side ran from 1980-95. The single-panel comic strip with a unique brand of absurd, often dark humor has won legions of devoted fans the world over and has resulted in a slew of The Far Side books becoming bestsellers. While not as immediately accessible as say FoxTrot, Garfield or Beetle Bailey, the quirky comic still managed to become wildly and enduringly popular.
The Far Side was ahead of its time really. The schleppy, overweight, bespectacled characters featured in scenarios ranging from the afterlife to the everyday mundane offered something totally different than pretty much everything else The Sunday Comics had to offer at the time. Whereas FoxTrot offered straightforward lighthearted family hijinx, The Far Side was more subversive (yet often thought provoking). Sort of like The Middle vs. The Simpsons.
As Amend used his academic background to his advantage, Larson’s penchant for biology surely led him to feature lots of animals in his Comic – to great effect. Animals talking about mundane things like humans do? Always funny.
Larson has won plenty of critical praise for his work. Apparently he was a recipient of the prestigious Reuben Award; which sounds pretty delicious to me. I’ve never won any sort of cured meats prize. That has to be elite.
But is it enough to overcome the delightful FoxTrot?
This is tough. I LOVED FoxTrot when I was a kid, and it’s still going, whereas The Far Side went out like a boss in 1995. Man life is full of tough decisions…
Without further ado, today’s winner, by the SLIMMEST of margins, is…
THE FAR SIDE!!!!
Honestly I was leaning FoxTrot at the outset but I just looked at this page of classic Far Side comics and it really swayed me.
So a big congrats to all The Far Side fans out there! A thrilling victory over a very worthy opponent!
Bonus Comics Question: Did/do you have a certain order in which you read The Sunday Comics?
For me it was 1. Garfield 2. FoxTrot 3. Wizard of Id 4. The Far Side 5. Beetle Bailey 6. Hagar the Horrible 7. Peanuts and then everything else.