Today's Bizarro is brought to you by Amateur Crime Fighters.
After this cartoon appeared in the paper last week, I received two emails. One was from a polite person wondering if I had seen a Far Side cartoon from the late 20th century with a similar joke, and one from an impolite person accusing me outright of stealing the old Far Side cartoon and thinking no one would notice.
As I politely explained to both, widely-read cartoonists like me don't steal from even more widely-read cartoonists like Larson. Why? Because I have an I.Q. above that of a houseplant. You could never hope to get away with it, and what is more embarrassing that being caught stealing?
In truth, this kind of thing happens to professional cartoonists all of the time. There are hundreds or thousands of us searching our brains every single day for jokes, a twist on fairy tales or popular culture or recent movies, a way to turn a common phrase into an unexpected meaning. It is only natural that more than one person comes up with the same idea from time to time. The cartoon above is not all that unique, really. You take the common phrase, "let sleeping dogs lie" and think of a new way to illustrate it, this is pretty much what you get. The sort of things a dog might lie about are even likely to be similar. It's just the way the human mind works.
Professional cartoonists will pretty much all concur on this. We've all unintentionally published gags similar to our colleagues, and all had others publish ones very similar to ours. It just goes with the job, none of us waste much time pointing fingers because it's only a matter of time before we are the seemingly guilty party.
As a person who has judged caption contests before, I can tell you from experience that this happens to non-cartoonists, as well. If you publish a given picture and ask people to caption it, no matter how many entries you get, around three quarters will be in the same couple of veins of thought. None of us is as unique as we'd like to think.
My apologies for not having memorized more Far Side cartoons back in the last century. If I had, I would not have published this one. But as far as I can tell, no harm was done. I appreciate the two readers who wrote to call this to my attention, although I appreciate the polite reader far more. One of the downsides of the Internet is that its anonymity often fills the cowardly with false courage and incivility. (Hence the need to moderate comments.)