Face Off! FoxTrot vs. Far Side, The

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

FoxTrot

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?

THE VERDICT

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.

***Check this one out on on Mental_Floss.***

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22 Comments

Filed under Face Off!

22 responses to “Face Off! FoxTrot vs. Far Side, The

  1. Anonymous

    anyone remember the Quigmans?

  2. gotta go with Far Side…love it!

  3. Dimwit

    The biggest problem is that this is pitting a strip against a panel. Different horses here. Larson couldn’t go for a build, it had to be right there or it didn’t work. Strips have time to construct something but also to lose our interest along the way. They also have the tendency to go meta and build during the week to get to the Sunday punchline. That hampers things on an individual basis because there might not be a punchline for any particular strip.
    To be fair it should be panel vs panel and strip vs strip. And yeah, Amend is decent but he can’t hold a candle to BB or BW.
    How would you rate Amend against Patsis? Yeah, I know, the strip doesn’t start with an F.

    • You’re right, this whole debate is a bit apples vs. oranges. It’s like pitting Arrested Development vs. Phineas + Ferb/Sponge Bob etc. Both brilliant on their own merits but in totally different ways. As for Pastis, I just read that he was an Insurance lawyer, which sounds awful. He also loses points for making fun of my beloved Garfield!

  4. Meri

    I pick Foxtrot. I still read the Foxtrot classics online and it is one of the few comics I still read every Sunday.

  5. Chrissy

    I was a huge foxtrot fan growing up….even bought all the comic books of the strip that were put out (they still sit proudly on my bookshelf). However, I would probably still vote Far Side….Fox Trot was funny and touching and silly even, but Far Side is damn near brilliant.

    • Well said. In fairness to FoxTrot, that was a bit of an unfair match up. The Far Side is a juggernaut, no doubt. Beetle Bailey might’ve been a closer race.

      • Spaceman Spiff

        I’d say Foxtrot, although it loses to The Far Side, easily beats Beetle Bailey. To be fair, however, that may be a result of BB lasting way past its sell-by date (which may be one of the reasons we have such fond memories of The Far Side/Calvin and Hobbes/Foxtrot–we never had to see the fourth or fifth decade of attempts to wring comedy out of Spaceman Spiff, particularly once the author has lost interest in it as an artform rather than a paycheck). Unfortunately, once comics like Beetle Bailey/Hagar/Marmaduke/Blondie et al. have managed to stake their claim to their few inches of newspaper space, they cling to it like grim death (and sometimes beyond), ensuring that fresh voices never see the light of day.

      • “…once comics like Beetle Bailey/Hagar/Marmaduke/Blondie et al. have managed to stake their claim to their few inches of newspaper space, they cling to it like grim death (and sometimes beyond), ensuring that fresh voices never see the light of day.” Very well stated. This is a such a big issue in life in general. Better to go out on top than to wear out your welcome. You need to know when to step aside and make room for the next guy. If Brett Favre would’ve stayed retired the first time, he would have gone out one of the all time greats. Go out on top, with dignity, like Seinfeld — then pass the torch to the next.

  6. Dimwit

    Sorry, not even close. Yeah, Foxtrot could be funny, but was usually banal. The Far Side was funny and could be either brilliant or just a WTF? moment at any time.
    Larson also has geek cred up the wazoo! He created a term (thagomizer) and has to species named after him. Amend isn’t even close for that.

    • Dimwit

      Sorry, I’m seem to have left a w somewhere. Maybe near the wazoo. Two! Two! Two! It’s twue! Thanks Maddie.

      • Points well taken. Larson’s geek cred is undeniable. Quincy the Iguana is heartbroken over this total lack of support! Surely someone out there picks FoxTrot in this battle???

  7. Man that’s a tough call. And both artists bailed when we needed them most.

  8. Pallesen

    Can we have a follow-up blog post with how terrible Family Circus is?

  9. The Far Side wins HANDS DOWN! No contest!!

  10. Foxtrot sucks, Far side rules. To be honest, I grew up with Andy Capp, BC, and Hagar the Horrible.

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