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Eric: The Doctor is... oh, I can't do it.

Doctor Fun

(From Doctor Fun. Click on the thumbnail for full sized significator!)

Let us sing a song of Fun, therefore. Doctor Fun in particular. A strip we haven't discussed, and yet a strip that needs... well, significant introduction.

It's a story you've heard before. A guy -- in this case, a guy named David Farley -- decided that he wanted to take his cartoons and put them up on the web, where anyone could read them whenever they wanted. You know. Webcomics. There's thousands of them.

Only, there's a difference, this time. You see, Doctor Fun started updating not in 2001 or 1999 or even 1996. No, Doctor Fun began on September 24, 1993. For point of reference, CERN's announcement that the World Wide Web -- still barely in its infancy -- would be eternally free to use without fees was in April of 1993. In terms of the Web's history, this goes back to the Paleolithic.

The Original Doctor Fun

The first Doctor Fun on the web was a spam joke that had nothing to do with junk e-mail and everything to do with processed meat. "Unproved Notions" was its title. "Clothes make the Spam." Yeah. One of if not the very first webcomics on the web, and it was a freaking pun. This was heralded as the first webcomic -- specifically, the first comic on the web proper (there were other electronic comics, mind. But the web was exciting and new). The influence of The Far Side was obvious and clearly intentional, and Doctor Fun leapt into happy gag-a-day strips.

Along the way, Doctor Fun ran into all the same things that webcomics later became known for. Farley got burned out here or there, and went on various hiatuses of various lengths. And of course, Doctor Fun's successors came along and blew their progenitor out of the water, at least in terms of readership. Strips like User Friendly or Kevin and Kell are seen as being among the earliest -- the strips that launched the movement. The headwaters.

But through it all, Doctor Fun kept coming back. It kept churning out. It got published, here and there. It got some notice. It got some recognition. It endured.

Well, over the course of the past thirteen years or so, Farley lost about two and a half years to hiatuses and life stuff. As a result, he just reached his 10th year of strips (520 weeks worth) last week.

And he's called it a day.

The Final Doctor Fun

Doctor Fun has ended. Specifically, and amusingly, it ended with the next unproven Notions strip -- which is that clothes make the peep. And with that, and with comparatively little fanfare, the first webcomic has passed on into the night. It is survived by several thousand descendants. 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.

And that's the thing about Doctor Fun. It managed to bring the Funny. Through an estimated twenty six hundred strips, it managed to make people smile.

And it wasn't a dick about it, either.

I'm going to miss Doctor Fun. If you're new to it, have fun! Dig through the archives. Snicker here or there. If you're an old hand, revisit it. Tomorrow's waiting for us, but it'll wait for a few minutes.

And with a little luck, David Farley will come back one of these days, with something new.

After all, I have it on good authority that clothes make the jam.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at June 12, 2006 1:04 PM


Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 12, 2006 2:12 PM

Okay, so who started eating apples in front of David Farley?

(Actually you don't know how hard it is not to do single panel gags until you enter a never-ending contest that disallows them.)

Comment from: Scarybug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 12, 2006 2:22 PM

Aww, sandness! I never made the full archive trawl, but I loved Doctor Fun whenever I read it.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 12, 2006 3:30 PM

Single-panel daily. Wow.

It's a rare day that I can come up with a comic that functions as a single-panel. I mean, by definition the Idiocy on the Internet strips are single-panel, but I find myself wanting to over-explain everything, which leads to a lot of multi-panel stuff.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 12, 2006 10:51 PM

To be fair, it's not like Gary Larson always restricted himself to a single panel. He sometimes sliced that puppy up if he needed it for a gag.

Not that he actually sliced any puppies up. Cows, maybe. Ducks? Almost certainly. But I don't think there were any sliced puppies.

I think the reason that there have been so few heirs to The Far Side is because it's really hard to think that way. It's walking into the absolute absurdity of life head on, in the face, and deciding to roll around in it. Sure, we all dabble here and there, but so few of us plunge right in.

And damn me if Farley isn't right. That peep is looking pretty snazzy.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 13, 2006 12:49 AM

Do clothes make the tasty, tasty biscuit?

Comment from: Sean Duggan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 14, 2006 7:48 AM

I'm really not sure what it says about me that I understood immediately that the "unpronouncable superhero middle name" comic was likely referring to T. Coraghessan Boyle... probably shows how much of a geek I am. Good to see you back in stride, Eric. Keep it up, eh?

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