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One Panel To Rule Them All

Eric Burns has returned to the internets and posted a nice goodbye to arguably the first webcomic ever, Doctor Fun by David Farley. Farley recently ended Doctor Fun - 13 years after its debut.

I do want to quibble a bit with one thing Eric wrote though:

It's interesting to me how few of those descendants followed in its footsteps, though -- comic books and four panel comics were far more fertile ground for webcartoonists. Lots more people ripped off were influenced by Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts than The Far Side. Which saddens me, really, but I understand it. It's hard to bring the single panel funny. It's hard to have a strip without continuing characters, without even the barest vestiges of Story to hook jokes on, without even a second panel to allow for streamed execution. It's just plain hard, kids.

I don't disagree with how hard it is to do a single-panel comic but my sense is that there are more of them out there then perhaps Eric realizes. You also have to consider that because the web doesn't require a consistent format, you have a lot of webcomics that might do a one panel only sometimes - like a Boxjam's Doodle. Anyone want to help me out by pointing out some worthy descendants of The Far Side Doctor Fun?

I'll start with one of my favorites: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Haven't we been here before?

 Didn't Eric Burns make the whole Far Side influence point before and wasn't he offered a whole list of others that time too?

BifSniff Cartoons
A Weirdism That Works
A Weirdism That Works

Petting Zoo

Joshua Smeaton's picture

I did a comic called Petting Zoo that was heavily Far Side influenced. And yeah, it is really hard to be continually funny.

Check it out. Petting Zoo


SMBC is my favorite comic

Gianna's picture

I check SMBC daily, I can't say that I do that for any other comic.

There is a comic now abandoned that has some excellent one-panels, I found it browsing the last page of TWC to see what lives in there. I linked it on my page but that was a stupid idea because it only killed the guy's bandwidth until I removed the link, and he doesn't seem to have started updating again anyway.

There are 84 episodes of Billy, here's the link to the first:

-------- Gianna Masetti

Gianna Masetti

Inside the Box is definitely

Inside the Box is definitely along the same vein as The Far Side. Another one like that is Pork Wrench. Oh, and don't forget Savage Chickens.

 What I find interesting, though is that while there are webcomics out there which copy the style of Calvin and Hobbes or of Garfield or Peanuts and are pretty much just as good or better, there's really no single panel webcomic that comes close to the level of skill Gary Larson showed in the Far Side with random humor. I think it's just really hard.

Extra Life

Keith Quinn's picture


Oh, and don't forget Savage Chickens.[/quote]

Yeah, Savage Chickens is a great one. And let's not forget Extra Life by Scott Johnson.


Local Heroes at

Follow the periodic misadventures of the super-powered heroes of UNIONS Local 37.

Local Heroes ( Super-powered all-ages fun | Playtime Projects ( A dysfunctional children's show (strong language)

One Panel?

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Extra Life isn't a one panel comic, is it? At least the most recent one isn't...Â


Xaviar XerexesÂ

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

>>What I find interesting,

>>What I find interesting, though is that while there are webcomics out there which copy the style of Calvin and Hobbes or of Garfield or Peanuts and are pretty much just as good or better...

OK, I'll bite. What webcomics copy the style of Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts and are better?

I think it's called "Inside

I think it's called "Inside the Box."

It is just two a week, and after I burned through my archive's single-panels, I've found that lots of multi-panels can be easily reworked into one panels (especially because I shamelessly rip SMBC's style in some - where the panel has a joke, then the caption has another, stranger joke). So a lot of jokes are multi-panel on my web page, worked into a single panel in the paper. Sometimes if the single panel ends up stronger I dump the multi-panel altogether.

But I came back to disagree with something else Eric wrote, and I have trouble with his comment posting system. It's this: I don't know of many webcomics that follow in the Peanuts/Calvin mold either. Those were, while they contained "small" stories, by and large gag-a-day, often without any continuity.

These web readers seem to reward those who tell *long* involved narratives, and I guess it's a luxury newspaper comics don't have - it all goes back to the archives, how much you can develop a character without worrying about losing anybody, etc.

Isn't Eric's biggest torch for Something*Positive? Case in mother-lovin' point.

The Far Side had some

The Far Side had some recurring characters, too. Not by name, perhaps, but the kid with glasses, the woman with horn rimmed glasses, the cows...we knew who they were.

Also, The Far Side started out brilliant, but the later ones, where it's just an anthropomorphized animal in some human situation still doing things characteristic of that animal, are about as genius as Mark Russell, the musician/political satirist who takes real songs, but replaces the words with his own words, or the people who go around replacing patrons' regular coffee with an overwhelming sense of dread.

Thanks for the love indeed. I actually *have* to produce two one panels a week for Keen's newspaper gig.

I didn't know that...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Do you have to force yourself creatively to do the one-panels or do you find ideas that just lend themselves to it naturally.

Also, doesn't scrubbs have a one-panel comic for Keen too? Out of the Box


Xaviar XerexesÂ

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.


Thanks for the love.

There are a few single panel webcomics, but not that many. I think part of this may be because single panel comics are considered to be sort of old fashioned.

I think another issue is that single panels demand that you live or die on your joke every day. I think this may be harder for we webcartoonists because we have such direct interaction with our audience. I wonder if Gary Larson would've been able to go for 10 years if he'd received emails most days saying "today's wasn't your best."

Also, how has nobody mentioned Toothpaste for Dinner, Exploding Dog, or Married to the Sea yet???

There's also Bunny, BifSniff, Wanton Soup.

Don't forget some of the classics that have passed on, such as Professor Ashfield, and the Illustrious and Inimitable Parking Lot is Full.

No continuing characters?

bookofbiff's picture

I love SMBC as well and it does have some characters that appear more than once.

I have been doing my one panel comic "Biff" off an on for 15 years and it has only ever been about one continuing character. I guess the main difference is that it is rare for a one panel comic to have a story arc that continues over more than one panel.Â

A few more...

Fabricari's picture

You don't mind if the underclassmen pick off a few of the easy ones, right?

PC Weenies

GU ComicsÂ

Chopping BlockÂ

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison
Fabricari, Sexy, Violent, Cyberpunk Comic

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

I don't really know whether

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I don't really know whether Eric meant to rule out all one-panel strips with any recurring characters or not. If so you're really getting into the world of the pure gag where everything is self-contained in the strip. Â

Chopping Block is obviously not in that category b/c Butch is a recurring characters but on the other had would CB work if we pretended each one featured a different homicidal protagonist? Not sure but I think some of them would. In a one-panel strip there's a fine line between recurring character and recurring archetype/stereotype (there are a lot of scientists in the Far Side - I think Larson could have used a named, recurring scientist character without much change to the Far Side)


Xaviar XerexesÂ

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

SMBC is one of my favorites

djcoffman's picture

SMBC is one of my favorites too.. I don't read it nearly enough.