It's Garfield's 36th birthday! If we were going by the list of traditional anniversary gifts as complied by librarians at the Chicago Public Library (which is apparently the list of record), Garfield would unwrap a nice set of bone china for his special day. Hang in there another year, and you're due for a tasteful chunk of alabaster, big guy!
Since Garfield's first strip wasn't about him being born, then followed by years of him being a kitten, etc, technically, this "birthday" commemorates his first appearance in print. Of course, celebrating the event in those terms would cause an annual rending of the space/time continuum in the Garfield universe, since the characters would then have to acknowledge themselves as fictional players in a syndicated comic. As that last wheezing sentence proved, it's much simpler and enjoyable to say "birthday," and leave it at that.
In the eyes of generations of readers, Garfield stands as the shorthand for all comic strips-- it's the first one many people cite when they need an example of a comic strip (this probably comes up in my life more than yours), and his ubiquity as a licensed property is bested only by Peanuts, which is saying something, since, holy macaroni, Peanuts is good at licensing.
It's a testament to the skill of Jim Davis and all the good folks at Paws, Inc that such a seemingly mundane premise ("A man has a cat") has endured for so long and remained so consistent without having to bring in a bunch of tertiary characters to provide more grist for plots. Garfield pretty much hangs out around the house, pretty much around the kitchen counter, and is pretty much the same as he was 36 years ago: lazy, hungry and unflappable. Also, fat.
Garfield is fat like Homer Simpson is fat-- he has a rounded midsection, and everyone talks about how fat he is, but it's more a source for jokes at his expense than an obstacle for the character to overcome. I would maybe point out his disturbingly large feet if I had to highlight a single attribute worth noting. His profile has been wisely revised over the years from the original design (which I'll call "Garfield Prime"), to make him more mobile and relatable, since, while certainly more accurate in terms of "how to draw a morbidly obese house cat," Garfield Prime also falls into the category of "kind of gross and unappealing." I picture Garfield Prime as having a voice like a phlegmy George Wendt.
You don't make it 36 years in this industry with "gross and unappealing," unless you just sit at home drawing icky strips for yourself year after year that you never send to anyone, in which case, you're tangential to this industry at best. The most you can hope for is Henry Darger status, which is noble and all, but will never result in suction cup-footed characters stuck in back windows of Volvos. He might as well have never lived!
Anyway, birthdays are great, Garfield's great, and you're great for reading this far down. Please enjoy this generous helping of Garfield- and Garfield's birthday-related miscellany from years gone by, and help yourself to some cake.*
Oh, hello. Coming up later this week, we'll have a nice, big birthday blow-out for our pal Garfield, but as we're already in a birthday-celebratin' sort of mood, I thought it might be worth cheering for the first birthday of Garfield vs Garfield, a weird thing I made around this time last year. I even made this title banner, which never ended up running, because I'd already made, like, 40 strips, and didn't think it needed to take up any more space on the blog.
Now, thanks to the glory of hypertext, I can post it here, then link to the original three batches of Garfield vs Garfield strips by typing out the words "The first batch are here," "the second batch is here" and "the third here," and not care at all about my verb tenses, because I came to party, not copy edit.
Hey, look! Some highlights showed up fashionably late:
Want more? Really? Whatever, mack-- go click on those links, and fill your boots. Buckle up-- more Garfleid coming up later this week.
Flatter than the rest of the folded newspaper sections spread out on the kitchen table, the comics section was always waiting for me, every Sunday morning for as long as I can remember. Whatever was ahead-- church, a soccer game, a trip to the pool, yard work-- Sundays started off with a few quiet minutes studying the comics. If we were in a rush, as happened with increasing frequency the older I became and the more "sleeping in" revealed itself to be the smartest option of all, I'd steal a few minutes while my parents honked the horn in the driveway to hopscotch through my favorite strips, knowing I'd be back later to read the rest and scoff at how simple the "spot the difference" puzzle was.
Sunday mornings in my parents' house remain ritualized to this day, even in my absence: if I drop by before my dad gets back from playing golf and settles in to tidying up, the comics are still out among the rest of the pre-church clutter, under the lights in the kitchen someone forgot to turn off, not realizing they were the last one out of the house when they left.
Garfield is especially suited to the broad expanse of Sundays, appearing in most papers above the fold, stretching out to take up a full quarter or more of the page. The color palate used is nice and flat, which always looks cleaner and more crisp than other strips' attempts at depth and shading through gradients, which never seem to reproduce as intended in print. This is a personal preference-- I'm all for a Pantone scale freakout, if that's what a particular creator wants.
To me, even the most hilarious Garfield gag never measured up to the title panel, which changed every week. The best part was that it didn't need to do anything (start here, end there, etc) besides somehow figuring out how to get the word "GARFIELD" in there. So week after week, there was some weird, new context for the title, encompassing all sorts of settings and fonts unthinkable in the strip proper. I'm not proud of this, but it took me a few years before I realized that the title panel never really had anything to do with the strip, no matter how hard I looked for clues.
The reason there even is such a thing as a title panel has to do with the various configurations a multi-panel strip appears in different papers around the world. With every paper's layout differing slightly, there's a functionally infinite combination of strips, columns and puzzles on pages that could be oriented vertically or horizontally, Sunday comics need to have built-in "crumple zones" (not the actual term) to account for any nips or tucks necessary to fit them onto a given page alongside the rest of the stuff on there.
For instance, ever notice how Peanuts takes a panel or two to get going, even after the title panel? That's because those first few panels can be lopped off if needed without harming the integrity of that day's gag, and the remaining panels reconfigured into a new, streamlined format. Example? Example:
See? Lop off that first panel and the title, and you didn't miss a thing. Instead of a tall rectangle, you get a long one. Newspaper readers in markets with certain spacial configurations might never have the pleasure of seeing a title panel. Pity them.
Calvin and Hobbes is a little unique in this regard-- Bill Watterson chafed at the idea of constraining his ideas into little boxes, so he worked out an agreement that he'd fill up a box however he felt like it, then turn it in and have it run in papers without any tinkering. This isn't necessary for a lot of strips-- their scope doesn't call for such creative freedom. For anyone who remembers having their minds blown by seeing a T-Rex flying a jet in the newspaper one Sunday, you can see why it was such a smart idea to compromise on the side of the artist, instead of the format.
Click on any of these here word-pitchers for hugeness.
Earlier today, I happened to be rummaging around in the Garfield archives, renaming years and years' worth of strips translated into different languages to ensure they all adhered to the same naming conventions for future database searches. As my soul slowly died, I managed a saving throw, grasping on to the novelty of title panels. In order to ensure this flight of fancy counts as a work-related activity (thus remaining part of my billable hours), I've fluffed up some selections from 2006 for you to enjoy, since 2006 was where I stopped renaming things for this week. Now we both win, except in this case, you win a lot bigger than I do, since the only parts of you that have to do any work here are your eyes and whatever fingers you employ for scrolling down the page. In a way, we're also both losers for caring this much about these things, but only in the eyes of those incapable of joy. We win again! Have a nice weekend, y'all.
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post telling us why you love Garfield, and include your FIRST and LAST names. Limit one entry per person. This contest will end on Tues., June 3 at 10 a.m. CT. The winner will be announced that day on this blog.
This week's Staff Pick comes from our Permissions Administrator, Diana Neuwirth: I have always liked Garfield, ever since I was a little kid. Garfield has always made me laugh, whether it was in his comics or his movies. I just love his character and his attitude! I like this comic in particular, because it very much reminds me of my dog, who acts very much like a cat, and now that I see this comic, I realize that my dog acts very much like Garfield! Ha ha! He thinks that humans are here to serve him, and if I don’t pet him or do what he wants when he wants, he gives me that look, like, “What are you here for, then?” or he will even sigh like he is annoyed with me. I love this comic!
What a cat! A cat for all seasons. Sassy. Opinionated. This lasagna loving, mailman chasing, sarcastic cat is a classic that readers love. Garfield, Odie and Jon will leave you wanting a daily dose of this beloved bunch! Garfield’s crafty talent with words and sneaky preference for practical jokes often leave his owner, Jon - and us - speechless, and always wanting more.
It's no April Fool's Day joke: we have a giveaway that could be considered legendary (RIP Barney Stinson, HIMYM).
Today, a new comic strip documentary was released on iTunes - Stripped. The film focuses on the history and future of the comics industry and talks with many of the top cartoonists in the world. From the GoComics family, the credits reads like a "who's who" of comics. This includes:
Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) - his first recorded interview in at least two decades.
Take a look at the trailer:
The film was so highly regarded that the notoriously private Bill Watterson came out of retirement to draw the movie poster - his first public cartoon since retiring from Calvin and Hobbes.
To celebrate this day with you and our cartoonists, we've partnered with the film's directors on a giveaway. You will have a chance to win our grand prize (the Stripped movie poster with artwork drawn by Watterson) or one of three second-place prizes (a DVD copy of the film).
Enter the contest by commenting below and answering the following two-part question: What is your favorite newspaper comic strip AND what is your favorite webcomic?
The contest will end at noon CT on Wednesday, April 9. This contest is open worldwide to all comics fans. If you have won a GoComics prize in the past week, you are not eligible. By entering, you are open to your entry being used by Universal Uclick/GoComics and the Stripped filmmakers in promoting the film and its outreach.
Humor is rooted in truth, and truth, as I understand it, is rooted in fact. So when I tell you, "Hey, look at this video full of amazing facts about comic strips," I hope you don't knock a bunch of pictures off the wall behind your chair as you're blown backwards by the sheer force of hilarity.