Garfield by Jim Davis

Garfield at Large
The cat.

For us as nippers in the early 1990s, our exposure to Jim Davis’ cartoon strips was an early introduction to the possibilities of humour.

We loved the works. Even, in 1995, naming our childhood cat after the eponymous central character. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane to learn a thing or two. Squawk!

Garfield

Davis grew up on a farm in Indiana during the early 1950s. There his family had 25 cats.

In the 1970s he worked for advertising agencies and contributed to a comic strip called Tumbleweeds.

After limited success with his early local newspaper cartoon Gnorm Gnat, he went with a cat for a second attempt.

It ran in 1976 called “Jon” (after the cat’s owner), but changed to Garfield in time for the June 1978 launch of the nationwide comic strips.

And it was immediately a smash hit. By 1981, it was in over 850 newspapers and raking in millions from merchandise.

The comic strips feature Garfield the cat, who’s an overweight and sardonic individual. The cat is an orange tabby with anthropomorphic qualities.

He’s very intelligent but a slob, as well as a glutton with a particular lust for lasagna. He’s portrayed as having a beer gut of sorts. And a smug grin.

His owner is the lovelorn and clumsy Jon Arbuckle, who spends most of his time trying to get a girlfriend. This bloke also has a lovable, but dumb, pet dog called Odie. The cat has a love/hate relationship with both.

The comic strips typically revolve around Jon saying something stupid, or Garfield yearning after lasagna, or Odie being dumb and annoying.

They run for several panels, ending with a sarcastic punchline of some sort (usually from the cat).

Although Davis also adapted the idea into full books—our favourite was a Christmas edition, where Odie tries to make Garfield a present.

Due to his low intelligence, he becomes upset that he can’t fashion a scratching post. Garfield sees his efforts from a distance and, when Odie falls asleep, swoops in to create the device for the dog. Who wakes up with delight to see it finally complete.

Along with Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield is one of the most iconic American comic strip characters. A real icon of sloth and laziness.

His hatred of Mondays particularly appealed him to knackered Americans heading into work reading newspapers each morning.

For us, as kids, we sure loved the dry sense of humour from the series. In fact, it inspired us towards our first bouts of creativity.

Yes, the world has Jim Davis to thank for getting our esteemed editor, Mr. Wapojif, into a creative frame of mind.

We remember doing fan fiction of sorts, creating two characters around the Garfield concept. A bee we called Norman and a spider.

Not being particularly artistic, they were all pretty shite. But there you go! It’s the effort that counts, eh? And we were also, like, 10 at the time.

Which is why we named our cat after the series, too. There he is below. He was a cool customer—a lovely cat. He lived from 1995-2008.

As for the Garfield comic books, we read and re-read them as kids and just totally became infatuated. Certainly, it hit a nerve for us early in life.

We had a huge collection. We remember the first one we randomly picked up off a bookshelf in a charity shop in Horwich. Oxfam or some such.

The slightly tattered black and white book was about 50p. And triggered off our craze.

Obviously, as adults, it’s not really for us anymore. But as Davis (at 74) still produces new books and comic strips, it’s a fine thing to introduce to your kids.

The Awful Film Adaptation

Garfield: The Movie his cinemas in 2004, with the choice of sardonic Bill Murray to play everyone’s favourite fat cat.

Despite an excellent casting decision, the film was universally panned as being awful.

Regardless, it was a smash hit all the same. It raked in $200 million! Although the 2006 sequel was quite as successful.

Although it should be noted one of America’s leading film critics, Roget Ebert, called the whole thing “charming”. However, most critics thought it was too kiddie.

Growing up, we preferred the Garfield and Friends TV show that ran from 1989 through to 1994.

This time the cat was voiced by voice actor Lorenzo Music in drôle fashion. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2001 aged 64.

We remember being mightily annoyed one day when live golf knocked the weekly episode off the air. That was a mortal blow.

The “and friends” bit was a segment for some of Davis’ other characters, from a less successful idea called Orson’s Farm.

But it was a hit! With well over 120 episodes, we remember enjoying it a great. With this show and the Garfield Magazine, and other books, we were pretty happy chappies as kids.

6 comments

  1. I do think that Garfield gets a little more hate than it deserves, but there’s no denying that it there really isn’t much to it; it is definitely no Calvin & Hobbes. Also, I have to say that even when I was a fan of the comic strip, I wasn’t too interested in seeing the live-action film when it came out. Even then, I knew that the live-action versions of animated stuff were, more often than not, recipes for disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aye, it’s rather harmless and simplistic when I look at it now. The character is even mildly obnoxious on reflection, with that smug grin and sarcastic attitude. And the beer belly is a bit disturbing, too.

      But I think it was very much an “of its time” type deal. Although the film should have been better, by the look of things. I’ve never seen it. Bill Murray hates it.

      Like

  2. Garfield was definitely a classic in its day. I haven’t seen the movies – I liked it, but not as much as I liked Asterix. Actually, I have two useless bits of trivia about Garfield: (1) There’s a road in southern Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, known as Garfield Road. It pre-dates the comic strip, but when the comic was at its height, the sign used to regularly disappear; and (2) Jason Yungbluth’s ‘Weapon Brown’ graphic novel included a giant creature known as a Garf, based on – well, no prizes for guessing. (As an aside, I never entirely understood why this American graphic novel, lampooning American comic-strip characters, also included a pretty obvious nod to Reg Smythe’s quintessentially English Andy Capp – I suppose it was syndicated in the States.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It definitely has ageing sensibilities now. But, man, I was crazy about it as a kid. Which I guess is the main appeal, although I’m surprised a lot of adults went for it. Must be the “I hate Mondays” appeal.

      Andy Capp is one I’m familiar with, but we had cartoons like Bananaman and Danger Mouse here. The latter always had high jinks set in snowy locations to save budget with all the use of white.

      And Garfield Road is crying out for a Garfield stuffed toy to be placed there, obviously.

      Liked by 1 person

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