For reasons I am currently unable to explain or even understand, I loved Garfield as a kid. I loved the comics, the cartoons, the merchandise, everything. It wasn't even that I found him that funny, I was just enamored with his whole universe. I couldn't get enough Garfield, and every time I looked at a piece of it, I felt enraptured in something far bigger than myself. I don't know why, I guess the character designs are just incredibly appealing.
I don't mean to imply that Garfield is good, by any means. It is awful. It is openly and unabashedly unfunny. The jokes get recycled constantly, the punch lines are predictable, and they always go for the incredibly low hanging fruit. I'm talking dragging in the dirt low. But even now, when I am super critical of the whole mess, I still find every single visual aspect totally appealing. Garfield's silly little round body, John's excruciating blandness, Odie looking nothing like a dog, Nermal looking so disgustingly cute it makes me hate myself. What is it about these comics that look so good around a product that feels so bad?
Well, maybe there is a secret to this whole Garfield craze. I decided to look into why we love Garfield, and while I never found an answer (I have to assume it is a form of Necromancy at this point) I did uncover an alarming number of secrets our favorite rotund fuzzball is hiding. So grab your favorite Pooky teddy bear, because some of these secrets get a little weird.
30 Suspiciously Missing
Garfield, as a franchise, is a merchandising giant, and will shell out almost anything to gain a little more cash. So I found it surprising that for a long time, there were some titles missing from the Garfield website. The animated television special Bullets and Babes was suspiciously omitted from the library, as what the collected series known as Garfield: His 9 Lives. That second book is actually pretty controversial, for reasons we will talk about elsewhere in this article, but that first one seemed innocuous enough.
It's a cute little Garfield crime caper.
In the story, Garfield wanders into a closet in his home, bored out of his mind. There he begins playing pretend as the detective Sam Spayed. What happens after is a very Garfield-esque retelling of a classic detective film noire. Why it got dropped from the library for a time is anyone's guess, but lucky for all Garfield fans, it is currently back up on the website. I guess the desire to make more money finally won out.
29 GARFIELD, NO!
This is my favorite piece of Garfield trivia ever, because it goes so completely off the rails. In Garfield: His 9 Lives we are treated to nine different stories, drawn by different artists, telling how Garfield has come up into existence through the ages. Sometimes he's in the stone age, sometimes he gets sent up into space, as Garfield is wont to do.
But then things get really weird.
Garfield's seventh life is as a house-cat named Tigger. As he is happily doing cat stuff, he comes across a primordial, evil force (there's one in every home) which causes Tigger to revert back to his feral form. No explanation as to how this happens is ever given, and I love it. Then, to end on a high note, Tigger attacks his elderly owner. Her fate is ultimately left a mystery, but it is heavily implied she met a cat induced end.
28 It Was All A Dream
That is the comic in its' entirety, so I recommend you give it a read. If you didn't, I'll give you a quick recap: nothing is real and Garfield is slowly starving. Yes, in this Halloween special from 1989, Garfield wakes up to find his home not lived in for years. He hallucinates Jon and Odie for a moment, who hand him food, only for it to disappear out his cat fingers.
He understandably begins to freak out.
Unable to deal with the fact that his real life is awful, he enters a state of denial and just begins reliving his years with Jon. Is this Garfield's true fate, or was it a nightmare? I like to imagine that every comic since then has all been inside of Garfield's slowly withering mind, which explains why the jokes have become steadily less funny. It also explains why Jon puts up with all of his garbage.
27 That Sounds Familiar
Ever since Rick & Morty did a joke about it, it's pretty common knowledge that the same person who did the voice of Garfield, Lorenzo Music, also provided the voice of Peter Venkman on the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters. What most people don't know is that Bill Murray seemed to have it in for Lorenzo, for reasons that only make sense to the greens keeper from Caddyshack.
Murray has Music fired from Ghostbusters.
Reportedly, Bill Murray didn't watch the actual cartoon for a while, simply from having no interest. When he finally did watch an episode, he heard Lorenzo doing him and hated it, saying he "didn't want to sound like Garfield." Apparently, Bill made some calls and demanded that Lorenzo get replaced. All of the remaining seasons have Venkman being voiced by Dave Coulier, who played Joey on Full House, and more importantly, Animal on Muppet Babies.
26 A Tiny Mix Up
At this point, I'm next to certain that Bill Murray had it out for Lorenzo Music. Not only did he have him fired from The Real Ghostbusters because he didn't like his character being affiliated with the voice of Garfield, he went on to actually voice the fat cat in TWO live action movies. I don't blame you if you don't remember these misfires, as I repress most of my mental trauma too.
Apparently, Murray claims that he never actually intended to star in something so bad, but signed on when he saw the name of the person who wrote the movie. The live action Garfield was penned by a writer named Joel Cohen. Already you can see where this is going. Murray thought it was being written by critically acclaimed film writer and director Joel David Coen. Honestly, I'd sign up for a version of Garfield created by The Coen Brothers in a heartbeat.
25 That's Good Advice
When you've been around as long as Garfield has, you are bound to go through some redesigns. At the beginning of the comic, he walked on all fours (like a cat, can you imagine?) and was a lot fatter. Also, his head wasn't a weird bulb shape, and he had normal sized eyes. To say that I prefer his earlier character designs is an understatement, I think by the year 2089 Garfield is going to look like a giant orange eyeball that lords over all of us.
Jim Davis was struggling with sketches of Garfield, trying to figure out a way to make him bipedal, as he figured that would make the character more appealing to a wider audience. In walks Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, who casually suggest that he make Garfield's feet bigger, to make it easier for him to stand and to also make him look more cute/cartoon like. And that's why Garfield now looks like Snoopy.
Also, reportedly, Schulz hates Garfield.
24 Knock It Off
Original ideas can be really hard, you guys. It's so much easier if you just take somebody else's idea adn just tweak it a bit, like when you cheated on your Georgraphy homework in school. It's Geography, you're never going to use it, that's what maps are for. So Garfield didn't exactly steal an idea, so much as make a play on it for humorous effect, when they started running a segment of strips called Believe It... Or Don't.
The whole thing was to make fun of Ripley's Believe It Or Not by suggesting the insane things that happen inside the Garfield universe are totally unbelievable. That all came to an end when PAWS Inc., the company that runs the Garfield syndication, got a Cease and Desist order from the Robert Ripley Estate. I suppose they didn't like the idea of their name being attached to something that tacky, which is funny, considering their material.
23 Going Through Changes
In the comic strip, Garfield has a quasi-love interest by the name of Arlene. She svelte, pink and has a space in her teeth. She is also constantly exasperated with Garfield, who is too dumb or lazy to be a good boyfriend, although he does have his moments. She doesn't appear much, but she's appeared often enough that she has a clear cut character and design that audiences are used to.
When it came time to make a Saturday Morning Cartoon about Garfield, the producer's kept making suggestions about how to change her, to the point where Jim Davis revoked the right to use the character at all in the show. So they created a brand new character, Penelope, who embodied all of the changes the studio wanted done to Arlene. Personally, I prefer Arlene, because she is sassy and she isn't afraid to occasionally beat up Garfield for being a jerk.
22 The Only Real Motivator
Why people continue to love Garfield will forever remain a mystery, but what motivates someone to create such a middle of the road comic? Jim Davis has always been very upfront about why he created his characters, and why he designed them the way he did. And no, it isn't some kind of uplifting story where he was inspired by the antics of his childhood cat and his brain damaged dog.
Jim Davis created Garfield solely to make money.
He studied the market of comic books while he was developing Garfield, and noticed the intense popularity of Snoopy. So with the framework of the later years of Peanuts (when it stopped being funny and was just about Snoopy sleeping on a dog house) he developed a clear cut design of a cat that people would like. He loves lasagna, he hates Mondays and he is fatter than he needs to be. So basically, he's a mirror.
21 What Never Was
Before Bill Murray sucker punched us in the childhood with his live action abomination, there was supposed to be a full length animated movie about Garfield way back in 1988. This was pretty much at his peak, so it might have actually been pretty good and not just coasting by on its' own laurels. Investing in anything Garfield was essentially printing money, so why wouldn't this cartoon get made?
Because Jim Davis tried something new.
Jim wanted to tell a story where Garfield was trying to warn the world about an impending flood, like a feline Noah. There are little details onto what the script actually contained, so I have zero answers for you as to why Garfield had this knowledge above everyone else. What I do know is that the script was deemed too dark for a cartoon (with the imminent drowning of hundreds of people) so the studio had to pass.
20 Finding Inspiration
There is a fairly persistent rumor that Garfield is named after James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States. If you think it is unlikely that Jim Davis named Garfield after an obscure assassinated President, you would be right. Davis actually named Garfield after his own grandfather, James A. Garfield Davis, who actually was named after that President.
The similarities don't end there.
Apparently Jim has a less than favorable opinion of his grandfather, which is why he named a detestable cat after him. By his own admission, his grandfather was a large, cantankerous glutton. Jim went on to turn those same, awful personality traits into a multi-million dollar industry. Keep that in mind next time you are around your grandfather and find him being just the worst person ever. Just take notes and turn him into a mean, cartoon bullfrog or something who loves cannolis, I don't know.
19 Odd Inspirations
I always thought that the last name of "Arbuckle" was an odd one, to the point where it was kind of distracting. I guess all of the character's have weird names in this strip, so why focus on Jon? Because it's my article. Jim Davis grabbed the name Arbuckle from an old 1950's mascot that used to sell coffee. He has never given an explanation as to why that name stuck with him.
Odie, on the other hand, is actually named after another one of Davis' creations. Early in his career, Jim created a village idiot character for a series of ads for a car dealership. When he created another dimwit, the dog addition to the Garfield strip, he thought of idiots he knew. He couldn't imagine a more idiotic name than Odie, and the rest is cartoon history. Now I feel bad for anyone who got saddled with that horrendous name before Garfield got so famous.
18 By Any Other Name
Garfield is Garfield pretty much all over the world. He looks like a Garfield. There's no need to change it, it's a proper name. It's a ridiculous name for a cat, and that is half of his idiot, orange charm. And for the most art, every country around the world agrees, with all of the other syndications leaving his name as Garfield, and just translating the "jokes."
All but three countries.
For whatever reason, the Nordic countries do not like calling their favorite cartoon cat Garfield. Instead, in Sweden for example, he is called Gustav. Which is still a silly name for a cat, I suppose, but you have to wonder what made these countries think that Garfield was so offensive to read. The other two countries, in case you were wondering, are Norway and Finland. If you happen to know what he is called in those countries, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
17 The Stolen Spotlight
Jon Arbuckle is ostensibly Garfield's owner, and is something of a dimwitted oaf. He is unlucky at everything, bland and easily manipulated. He get's bossed around by a cat that he outweighs by 15 pounds. He is nothing more than an animated punching bag, there to be ridiculed, a barely sentient punch line. From the very beginning, it has been painfully clear that he is the second banana to Garfield, and apparently, that is the dynamic everyone wants to see.
It's hard to imagine Jon any other way.
It turns out that when Jim Davis first came up with the idea for the comic, he actually wanted Jon to be the main star. He thought that there were already enough comics about dog owners, and that a comic should focus on a cat owner instead. His editors liked part of the comic, but instead, told Jim to focus on the cat instead.
16 Not All Ideas Are Great
Jim Davis will be making money off of Garfield until he is a skeleton, so you'd think that everything he touches turns to gold. He actually has a pretty out there sense of humor, and until he decided to put that aside to make money, he thought bugs were the funniest thing ever. That's why, before he became famous, he worked on a failure of a comic strip called Gnorm Gnat.
Gnorm was rejected by multiple papers throughout its' run, and only ever received publication in Jim's home state of Indiana. His editors would tell him that his art was good, and his jokes were funny, but that nobody wanted to read a comic strip about bugs. Wait, people were telling him that his comics were funny? That doesn't sound like the Jim Davis I know. Perhaps it's a good thing Gnorm was such a hated comic strip, otherwise we might have a giant Gnat balloon at the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
15 The Final Goodbye
When an artist or writer is creating the final strip, usually when it has become canceled, they will give their beloved characters a ceremonial and dignified send-off. This is not the approach that Jim Davis went for when he wrapped up writing for Gnorm Gnat, but he did write it in a way that ensured everyone knew that the strip was over and that Gnorm would never be coming back.
He wrote Gnorm getting stepped on.
Yes, as a grand scale gesture to let both his fans and himself know that it was time to move away from his unfunny strip (and on to another unfunny one) he had the lead character get squished under someone's foot. In an era where every show and franchise under the sun get's rebooted, that's a good way to make sure your property stays canceled. Also, fun tidbit, the reflection in Gnorm's eyes as he is about to be flattened hints that it is the character of Garfield doing the deed.
14 Where To Send Your Fan (Or Hate) Mail
It has never been very important to the plot to establish where Garfield lives. He lives in a house and occasionally terrorizes a birdbath. Those are not area specific things, so who would care where the heck Garfield lives? You poor naive fool, or course Garfield fans care where he lives. They care about everything. They care about whether his blanket is polyester or wool. They care what breed Odie is. They care what type of shampoo Jon uses (trick question, he uses a bar of soap on his hair, because he is a gross nerd.)
He lives in Muncie, Indiana.
This wasn't that hard to figure out. This is Jim Davis' hometown, so it was a safe bet that he would set the strip there, since that's just what cartoonists do. Anyways, be sure to check out Muncie, I'm sure they have a Garfield museum, these kind of towns always do.
13 Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery
Since Garfield is pretty much universally agreed upon as being drastically unfunny, some enterprising individuals took it upon themselves to spruce it up. Enter Garfield Minus Garfield which attempts to make the dreariness of Jon Arbuckle's life more comedic (and dark) by removing Garfield from the equation. What results is that it looks like Jon is slowly losing his mind and talking to himself, ad infinitum.
It's both surreal and beautiful to read.
If you wanted to see a more live action spoof of Garfield you could also check out Lasagna Cat which is so weird it circles around and becomes kind of good. Yes, it has full sized humans acting out some of the least funny strips that ever graced the comic section. And then they take that premise and make a music video out of it. I don't know how you are still reading this article and not looking at it.
12 One Regret
Jim Davis is the king of a cartoon empire, and rakes in millions of dollars from Garfield merchandise. Over the years, his company has thrown everything at the wall to see what would stick, and apparently, he only ever regretted one thing. One thing. Out of the millions of sassy t-shirts and painfully bland mugs he has forced the world to endure, he only regrets a single piece of merchandise ever.
He only regrets making Zombie Garfield.
We are in the middle of a zombie craze, for better or worse, so PAWS Inc. thought they would capitalize on it by releasing their own take. They were no strangers to releasing the rare horror themed item, as is evidenced by all the Garfield Halloween specials. But for whatever reason, this one piece left Jim with an empty feeling, something no other item had done to him. Which says a lot about the zombie fad, if you ask me.
11 We All Had One
The Garfield "Stuck On You" bit of merch was immensely popular. You'll still see them stuck to the window in cars of very lonely and sad people who are much closer to Jon Arbuckle than they realize. So, as popular as this toy is, it's funny that their creation was a complete mistake. Originally, Jim Davis wanted Velcro on Garfield's paws, so that he could stick to curtains, much like an ill-behaved cat.
There was a mix-up and the manufacturer.
When Jim received them he said, "If this thing is still stuck to this window after three days, we will sell them." Apparently they were very high-quality suction cups, so Davis gave the go-ahead to start selling them to distributors. Apparently, he didn't even begin to assume that people might actually hang them inside their cars. The numbers on how many car accidents have been caused by Garfield have yet to be tallied.
10 That'll Buy A Lot Of Lasagna
For many properties, a huge chunk of where their revenue comes from is actually merchandising. When you are only selling a paper a few panels of recycled jokes, you can't rely on only that to pad you paycheque (well, Garfield probably could, but bare with me.) And there have been a lot of Garfield things made over the years, so you'd have to think that it can amount to a lot. I once bought a Garfield piggy bank, and I'm not nearly half as obsessed as some of the fans out there.
Merchandise can pull in up to a billion dollars annually.
A billion. That's more money than some countries make. Sure, it fluctuates downwards and upwards, and they are on a bit of a downturn as of late, but you managed to parlay a lazy cat making jokes about Monday's into a billion dollar industry. I wish I had learned how to draw.
9 It Depends Where You Start
I never really wondered, but apparently, there is a backstory as to why Garfield can't stop eating lasagna. Apparently, he was born in an Italian restaurant, and that was one of the first foods he ate as a kitten. I have to assume he wasn't nearly as cute as Nermal, since he was no don't always covered in tomato sauce. They never talk about why he was born there, or why he wasn't removed, but apparently, that's where he spent his formative first few days.
He destroyed the business.
The story goes on to state that he ate all of their supplies, eating them literally out of house and home. The business crashed with zero inventory, and the business went under. My question is how did a kitten overpower the entire staff of a restaurant to the point where they couldn't even stop Garfield from eating everything in the kitchen?
8 A Disappointed Father
We all disappoint our parents, sometimes by getting a silly haircut, sometimes by dating a Goth girl, sometimes by writing for a video game website. But your parents tend to only voice their disappointments to you, but when other people ask, they say you are the most talented being in the cosmos and could obliterate other children with your mind. This should especially be true when you are famous, with your parents, when interviewed, claiming to like your art.
Jim Davis' dad claims to prefer Beetle Bailey.
I've never read much Beetle Bailey so I can't speak much for its' content. Maybe it is better, it isn't like Garfield didn't set a bar so low it punctured Earth's mantle. I just mean, come on, dude, support your kid a bit. Lie, for goodness sake. I'm sure Jim is still sending you money hand over fist from the bazillion dollars he made. Is Beetle Bailey sending you that kind of money?
7 So You Say It's Your Birthday
I'm one of those kinds of people who aren't a big fan of their birthday. I always tell myself it isn't a big deal and that I'm not excited, but around the two days away point, I end up excited. And then it really is nothing, I had no reason to be excited and I get all gloomy like an entitled brat. Maybe if I was as popular and cool as Garfield I might have a reason to actually get excited.
They celebrate it every year.
Every June 19th, the comic strip will be dedicated to celebrating Garfield's birthday. They have been doing this every year since the very first comic, which was published on June 19, 1978, obviously. That means we have had 40 years of Garfield, which should also make him incredibly long-lived for a cat. Maybe he has figured out that lasagna is actually a superfood.
6 That's... Actually Pretty Funny
OK, I know I've been giving Garfield a hard time about not being funny, but that is legitimately a funny joke. Nermal admits that she is keeping thin and small by stunting her growth with bad habits! This is a kitten themed expose on the dark side of modeling, and the extremes we go to in order to adhere to society's insane beauty standards!
Maybe it isn't that deep, but I still genuinely laughed at this. Nermal is the kitten of the group, and she has admitted multiple times that she is far from a natural beauty. In a comic strip where it's rare to find an actual joke to make you smile and not just go "sure" you can always rely on Nermal to do something so weirdly shocking it actually elicits a laugh. And her name is Nermal, which is to perfect combination of bizarre and adorable. Say it with me. Nermal.
5 What Do You Do For Money?
Jon Arbuckle is supposed to make you relate to him while simultaneously feel grateful that you aren't him. His cat hates him, his dog is brainless, his love life is laughable, and he dresses like a dweeb. For this reason, his career is almost always left ambiguous. is he having money problems, or is he flush with cash, but still a loser? By never answering this, you get to fill in the blanks yourself.
Still, fans hate having to do any mental legwork themselves (ambiguity is not the friend of the unenlightened masses) so they repeatedly ask the question of "What does Jon do for a living?" If they had simply been dedicated fans (like myself, sadly) they would have known that in the very first comic strip, Jon flat out tells the audience what his job is. And of course, Jim Davis decided to make the central human in the strip a cartoonist.
4 A Switch In Owners
Odie is the lovable and idiotic addition to the Garfield roster. He is so empty headed that in a world where we can hear the thoughts of intelligent animals, Odie remains entirely silent. Despite all that, we still love him, and are entirely glad that Jon bought him to antagonize Garfield (or at least get pushed off a table by him.)
But that's not quite right, is it? Odie isn't actually Jon's dog, a fact that has been lost over the years (it's been over 30 years of this comic, the little details are bound to get lost.) Originally, Odie joined the Arbuckle household when Jon took on the roommate Lyman, and then the dog just kind of kept hanging around. He seems happy though, so we guess he enjoys his new home as much as his last one, even despite the perpetual abuse from Garfield. Ignorance is bliss, after all.
3 Before Kickstarter
Garfield is so popular in this day and age, it seems like it just comes free with every newspaper. You don't merit your own balloon in a parade without being the biggest thing since sliced bread. I think that if a paper were to ever threaten to cut Garfield from syndication, Garfield would appear out of the cartoon dimension and simply buy up the entire newspaper. You would get rid of actual news stories or even the horoscopes before you would think of cutting out Garfield.
In fact, one newspaper did threaten to cut Garfield once, and instantly regretted it. The Chicago Sun-Times got rid of the strip (due to budgetary concerns, not because it lacked jokes, oddly) and people went ballistic. A huge phone call and snail mail campaign began to bombard their offices. They quickly relented, bowing before the awesome might of their one and only true master.
2 A World Of Orange
Like I said before, I love Garfield's design, and something about his run in the 80s and 90s I still find mesmerizing, but that doesn't mean I'm blind to how relentlessly stupid the strip is. Against all odds, though, people all over the world can't seem to get enough of him, so here we are, in a world where almost every corner of the globe has experienced Garfield in some capacity.
It is the world's most syndicated comic strip.
Much like The Big Bang Theory being the most popular show on television right now, it would seem that the most benign things with the most vibrant color patterns are the things that appeal to the widest audience. I'm not saying that I expect daily comic strips to win Pulitzer's or anything, I'm just always surprised at what comes out on top. Although I'm the idiot that goes to see every Marvel movie, so I guess I'm part of the problem.
1 Where'd He End Up?
So if Odie belongs to Lyman, and Odie still lives with Jon Arbuckle, that must mean that Lyman must still be in the picture, right? Afraid not. Lyman wasn't a very funny addition to the strip, so they neatly did away with him, but instead of wasting panel space explaining where a whiny dope disappeared to, he just kind of vanished. There have been a lot of theories about where he went, and even some versions of Garfield gong to far as to have him return, but for a long time it was a mystery.
After all, why would he leave Odie behind. Dedicated Garfield fans (which exist, apparently) needed to have answers, and began to pester Jim Davis about it. Apparently at one convention, when confronted with Lyman's disappearance, Jim jokingly replied "don't look in Jon's basement." I guess Jon really wanted to keep Odie to himself, at any cost.