Gary Larson was born on August 14, 1950 in Tacoma, Washington. His father sold cars for a living and his mother was a secretary.
At a young age, he developed a taste for drawing. Although his classmates often preferred to draw cars, tanks, and other machines, Gary preferred to draw animals. He never took any art classes and did not plan on a future in drawing cartoons.
Once he was in high school, he focused more on music and playing jazz music on his guitar. After graduating from high school, he went to Washington State University, where he majored in communication. Gary planned to do work in advertising and get rid of boring advertisements in favor of more amusing and interesting ones. While most of his coursework was related to that field, he also managed to take some science classes as well.
Gary graduated from college in 1972, but did not immediately pursue a career in advertising. Instead, he started a jazz band and worked in a music store during the day. Gary had grave doubts about his career in music, but continued pursuing it anyways.
In 1976, Gary revived his sorely neglected hobby of drawing and sketched a series of six cartoons. He submitted them to a local magazine and was surprised to hear that they wanted to buy them for $90. He then managed to convince another periodical to pay him $3 for each weekly cartoon. In 1979, he finally made his way into the Seattle Times, drawing a cartoon named "Nature's Way".
Gary was enjoying the publicity and money, but did not stop there. He drove down to San Francisco, where he waited in the reception area of the Chronicle for a full week before being interviewed. To his surprise, they wanted him to do a syndicated cartoon, entitled "The Far Side", every day in about thirty newspapers over the country. He returned home to find a letter from the Seattle Times saying that they had decided to drop his cartoon due to complaints about its dark humor.
The controversy continued as the cartoon gained more popularity and appeared in more newspapers. By 1983, the cartoon was being published in 80 papers, but the figure jumped to 200 in 1985. In spite of its popularity, many people still disliked it and the audience seemed split 50/50. At its peak, the cartoon was published in nearly 2,000 newspapers in 17 different languages.
When a new species of biting louse was discovered in 1985, it was named after Gary. The species, Strigiphilus garylarsoni is only found on owls and Gary later said that he was very honored.
In 1987, Gary married a woman named Toni Carmichel, who was an archeologist. In 1988, he took a vacation from drawing cartoons for about fourteen months. During this time, he traveled over the world, played guitar, and spent more time with his wife. When he returned to drawing the comic, he negotiated a contract where he would only have to draw five per week instead of seven.
On January 1, 1995, Gary decided to retire from his life of drawing cartoons. The Far Side legacy had stretched over 14 years and generated a loyal legion of fans, as well as several books filled with the drawings. It also inspired several other cartoonists to continue creating the same type of cartoon, producing series like "Rubes".
Although the cartoon was retired, Gary went on to make two animated movies, "Tales From the Far Side" and "Tales From the Far Side II". He also wrote a children's book entitled "There's a Hair in My Dirt: A Worm's Story", which proved to be popular.
Today, Gary is still enjoying his retirement and spending time with his family.