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.*
*Cake must be provided by you.
Garfield-related miscellany, Blog Post Division:
And yet another time, about a year ago, I posted a bunch of my favorite Garfield strips and out-of-context images, which you can click on and save and then have as a thing on your computer, if you want.
Garfield-related miscellany, Birthday-Themed Comic Strips Division:
Our favorite lasagna-loving, Monday-hating cat is turning 36! In celebration of his birthday, Garfield will be live-tweeting with fans tomorrow (June 18) during his birthday party from 1-2 p.m. EST.
Be sure to wish Garfield a happy birthday, ask him your most pressing questions or tune in for updates about the birthday-related fun! Use the hashtag #LiveTweetGarf to join the conversation.
If you’re feeling nostalgic, click here to read Garfield from the very beginning.
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.
As someone who's glimpsed a few Cintiqs but never really seen one in action, I was intrigued to come upon this video of Garfield creator Jim Davis:
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:
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.
Visit the Stripped website, follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook. Also, support their efforts by buying a digital copy of the film here. Also, co-director Dave Kellett will be on a live tweet session with @gocomics on Friday at 1:30PM CT! Write in to ask him about the film, working with Bill Watterson and other great cartoonists and more, by tweeting to us using the hashtag #strippedfilm.
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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.
It's a spiffy li'l rundown of all sorts of miscellany, though we've covered some of it before. The internet's not so bad, after all.
Hold onto your butts:
My job is tricky to explain in casual conversation. When asked, I usually say something along the lines of, "I work with comics," before muttering something witty about Marmaduke. There's more to my job, of course, but I've learned that illuminating my role in bringing a puzzle-hungry nation their daily Sudoku infusion is a conversational dead-end with anyone whom I'd like to continue speaking.
My hilarious quips about Marmaduke do double duty to disarm the listener with my insight and to vaguely establish that I don't mean comic books, I mean syndicated strips. I take a silly amount of pride in my association with them. More often than not, this is met with, "Comics? Cool, I love ______!!" (fill in Calvin and Hobbes, Pooch Cafe, The Far Side, Dilbert, Frazz, etc), which is always nice to hear, though the only credit I can take for a given strip's success is not betraying the trust instilled in me by adding mustaches to all the characters as a funny prank. But peoples' word choice is always the same: "love" instead of "like," even if they're not still active readers. The effort that goes into getting a strip in front of an audience is an exercise in passion, which is a gritty sort of love-- for the fun of drawing, the precision of language, the grind of working out all the myriad details along the way so that someone in a kitchen somewhere can chuckle softly to himself before moving on with his day. Obviously, silly characters doing funny things is going to be inherently appealing, but there's more to them that makes them stick firmly and fondly in the mind of readers.
Ponderously articulated or not, something about the medium connects with lots of people on a really deep level, and the feeling stays put, resistant to eroding over the years into one of those youthful pastimes that, in hindsight, goes from character-defining to a deeply regrettable stage in learning how to have good taste. Maybe it's because there's no risk in enjoying a given comic, no cultural cache to be gained by affiliating oneself with, say, F Minus instead of Betty. They're all great if you're a fan. Comics are around for you to enjoy, and require as much or as little attention as you care to give them. Take a break for as long as you want-- they'll still be there for you whenever you return, and they'll still be great.
Seeing as it's Valentine's Day, and I clearly spend a lot of much time thinking about how people relate to comics, I thought it might be worth exploring the way the comics relate to each other. Sound like a stretch? Wait until you see the nonsense I have planned for St. Patrick's Day.
Manifestation: The most conventional type of relationship on our spectrum, but only because most people didn't realize how broad the boundaries of love could be until the advent of the Color Internet opened our eyes to the elasticity of amour. Deep into their marriage, with no kids in the house to distract them, Jimmy Johnson's Arlo & Janis have built a lasting love on a foundation of attraction, respect, and mutual bemusement with those dang smartphones.
Notable for: The gentle, profound sense of purpose that comes with finding someone with whom to share your life; spooning.
Preferable to: Escaping through the bayou handcuffed to a fellow member of your chain-gang, blood feuds and foreign game shows where you have to sing karaoke while being lowered into a vat of frogs and snakes.
Manifestation: Unshakable, innate and as evolutionarily beneficial to our species' continued propagation as thumbs, tool use and the absence of velociraptors. In Robb Armstrong's Jump Start, that broad, unconditional bond stretches across generations, social strata and the vicissitudes of occasions where use of the word "vicissitudes" is appropriate. Also, one of the grade school-aged kids is a doctor, somehow!
Notable for: A sense of belonging, security and comfort; people who will store all your old action figures when you move into your own place.
Preferable to: Being a wooden boy brought to life by a fairy; Dickensian orphanhood.
Boy & Dog:
Manifestation: In Red & Rover by Brian Basset, Red (boy) and Rover (dog) spend all day playing, cuddling, and nurturing each other through a big, soft world that seems to exist on the dateline between a post-WWII midwestern idyll and our modern world. The simplicity of a place where all the toy shops sell model planes and the televisions are gigantic and sit on the floor allow Red and Rover to constantly share the same purity of excited affection usually only witnessed briefly in your dog's frenzy when you first get home from work.
Notable for: Being so good and cute, oh yes it is, oh yeah, such a good strip, such a good-- you wanna go outside, strip? C'mon, comic strip, let's go to the park! [pat pat pat]
Preferable to: Boy and Cat. There'd be no strip if Rover was a cat, unless every plot revolved around Red walking around the house calling for Rover to come out, while Rover hunched under a bed, listlessly cleaning himself and occasionally yawning.
Boy & Squid:
Manifestation: In Mark Tatulli's Lio --whose tone is sort of like The Wonder Years mixed with the episode of The Twilight Zone where the telekinetic kid keeps sending people to a cornfield with his mind-- there is occasionally a giant squid. I'm not sure if the squid has much of a backstory, but he seems to hold Lio in whatever the squid equivalent of "buddy" is. They have adventures that span a spirited mix of science, spite, shenanigans and sweetness, and the squid is gentle enough with Lio not to squish him when they hug. Yet.
Notable for: The fact that there's a giant squid just hanging around in the yard, and no one raises a stink. We've come a long way, America.
Preferable to: Squid and Boy. In most instances, a squid would find it pretty tricky to even get a kid's attention, since it would have to swim dangerously close to shore to be visible from land. Even then, it would have to gauge its timing perfectly to ensure that anyone was present when it appeared, that the shore-based prospective friend wasn't a predator, would be intuitive enough to understand the squid's appeals for companionship, and had an apparatus on hand to keep the squid's skin supple in the open air. Assuming the squid could find friendship before the seagulls spotted him, he would have to be emotionally prepared to never again return to the ocean, since there's a lot more potential for excitement in the variety of environments offered on land. Expecting the human to prefer seeking adventure while the two of them paddled around on the ocean's surface would put a lot of strain on the relationship, and the only excitement they'd be likely to find would be sunburns and jellyfish. Plus, the mindset of ocean life is a lot more old-fashioned than we forward-thinking mammals, and they would likely shun the both of them by retreating scornfully into coral. So sad.
Boy & Stuffed Tiger:
Manifestation: There is no artistic medium more suited to depicting the daily exploits of a child's imagination than comics, and no example of comics as an art form than Calvin and Hobbes-- but you know that already. Calvin's a kid, Hobbes is his stuffed buddy, and you should probably stop reading this right now and go read today's strip, instead. Hobbes is a great listener, coconspirator and foil, but he's also a crucial voice of reason to rein in Calvin's rampaging id. It's a bit like Fight Club, except, it's about a kid and a stuffed tiger being wonderful, instead of grown men hitting each other and crying about Ikea. Other than that, it's exactly like Fight Club.
Notable for: Being a perfect object that will stand the test of time, as well as any and all hyperbole I keep shoveling onto it.
Preferable to: I dunno, Life of Pi?
Cat & Lasagna:
Manifestation: Garfield's enlarged heart is limited to tough love for nearly all the players in his life, as exemplified by how often he breaks into his customary half-lidded smirk, which is a pretty efficient way to synthesize the inscrutable smugness through which most real cats relate to the world. Garfield's broad, guileless grins are reserved for those specific things which benefit him directly: Jon or Odie being injured due as a result of his actions or due to his conscious inaction at a crucial moment, napping-related miscellany and food either intended for him or unguarded enough for him to steal. Lasagna's rich, textured layers are the ideal indulgence for his appetites, and as he's pondered whilst gazing longingly into his own reflection 'pon many an emptied plate over the years, a delight with more secrets than he has lives. Which is to say, at least ten, but probably more. Maybe twelve!
Notable for: Personally, I've always derived a great deal of enjoyment imagining the sound of a kitty furtively snacking on a dish of lasagna in an otherwise quiet room. They have such teensy mouths!
Preferable to: Mondays. AM I RIGHT?!
Dog & Bone:
Manifestation: Pretty much any cartoon that has ever featured a dog as a cameo or reoccurring character. Chiefly, Marmaduke, who is never specific about his intent after finding a bone, be it gifted to him or pilfered from a plate, but is very, very serious about obtaining as many bones as he can, as frequently as possible, even if he has to chew through some healthy flesh to get to them.
Notable for: The observation that dogs liking bones is a relatable occurrence from many peoples' experience with real dogs.
Preferable to: Dogs eating steaks all the time. Besides it being unhealthy for the dog in the long-term, they'd probably start acting like they thought they were better than us because of their high-class diet. If we are to retain any semblance of social order in these troubled times, we must restrict dog-steaks to "treat" status. The last group to permit their canines to dictate their own diets were the Romans, and one of the only things that remains of their legacy are totems of Romulus and Remus, which stand as a chilling portrait of beastly subversion of Man's supremacy. If we are to remain on the right side of the leash, we must not waver.
Boy & No One:
Manifestation: The brutal, crushing saga of Charlie Brown's annual Valentine's Day heartbreak at the hollow, laughing mouth of his mailbox. Spending time alone when you're a kid isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it provides a space for introspection and nurturing personal interests, but the isolation forced upon ol' Chuck thanks to the world's utter derision for him can't be healthy. It's a credit to the mastery of the medium exhibited by Charles Schulz that we think of Peanuts as warm and largely innocent-- it certainly can be, but reading year after year of Valentine's Day strips in a single sitting makes it clear that a huge portion of the run was devoted to different ways to humiliate, belittle and reject Charlie Brown. It's stated repeatedly that the reason he never gets Valentines isn't because he forgot to file proper change-of-address forms or Woodstock used them for nesting material, it's because literally no one likes him. To his credit, he takes this in stride and remains steadfast in his hope, but his posture slumps a little more every year when propped up against the mailbox's post. Poor kid. Why won't his parents put down their trumpets and hug him?
Notable for: The fact that this emotional hellscape never, ever relents, except for a few weeks in the 70s where Charlie developed a rash, had to wear a bag over his head, and was mistakenly popular at camp because no one could see his face.
Preferable to: Uh, I guess being uniformly and cruelly ignored is slightly better than the opposite, where you're a household name for starting a plague. It's also better than being chased into a cave by a mob of villagers. At least the neglect is largely benign and consistently frosty enough that it stops being much of a surprise after a few years. If I may say so, I think you're a good man, Charlie Brown.
After a sobering look at my word count, I think we can probably conclude our survey for this year. If anyone needs me, I'll be at my desk, putting makeup on my stuffed Garfield doll so we don't look out of place when we go out for our Valentine's dinner this evening. Please don't judge me.
Want to laugh your way through 2014? We’re here to help!
We’re giving away two 2014 calendar sets!
- 2014 “Regular Show” Wall Calendar
- 2014 “Learn Something Every Day” Day-to-Day Calendar
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your FIRST and LAST name. Limit one entry per person. This contest will end on Wed., Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. CDT. The winners will be announced that afternoon on this blog. This contest is open to all readers worldwide.
To browse more 2014 calendars, go here.
©Peanuts Worldwide, LLC
Treats! Treats for the taking! For those bold or cunning enough to pry them loose from the hands of their bearers, the spoils are endless. There is no sound like that made when rummaging through a full bag of pilfered, miscellaneous candy. It sounds like electric rain.
The pillow sheds its skin like a fluffy, soiled snake, and spins off the balcony and into the night, making no sound as it falls to earth in an Arby's parking lot. The pillowcase is no longer a stage on which dreams play, but a bag into which dreams are deposited. There will be no sleeping tonight. The morning light seems impossible from this vantage, as far away as the rumored estate across town where they hand out King-Size Kit-Kats. Inside my mask, my hot, recycled breath gives my lungs a fullness that feels like courage, and the only sound I can hear is that of my own pounding heart, thrumming the words "free treats" over and over, faster and faster.
Halloween is a miracle. A MIRACLE. However, as it was forged by the hand of man rather than that of the divine, it is technically a conditional miracle: you'll need a costume. If you're anything like me, the idea of spending any amount of money or effort acquiring one of these feels foolish and wasteful, as there's very little utility to a "Sexy Frankenstein" costume for the rest of the year, unless you get invited to a lot of baptisms. So you find yourself pressed against your window, watching the rain deflate your pillow in the yellow light of the parking lot, concluding yet again that your enthusiasm for treats has led you to act in haste. As a possum toddles over to your pillow and begins yanking towards the sewer, you know there's no turning back now, and it's time to turn your attention towards this year's options for a Last-Minute Costume.
Initially, the bed seems like the ripest tree: with the pillow now appropriated as a marsupial's birthing chamber, the sheets could be harvested for ghost-skin, the comforter for, uh, maybe some kind of fat ghost costume? No, no. Think harder! The window for free candy is only open for so long, and it's already sliding closed. If you miss it, you'll need those sheets to make a noose for yourself!
I've managed to survive over 30 Halloweens through a mixture of panic and luck. This year, I decided to figure out my costume early, meaning during the mid-morning of October 31st instead of waiting until 7:30 tonight. As I'd already left my bedroom for the day, I had to scan my current surroundings for ideas. Thankfully, in my line of work, ideas are what keep the lights on (our standard contract with creators allows us to use any and all lightbulbs that appear over their heads in moments of inspiration).
And so, dear reader, here are some options for you to explore to make your own comics-themed Last Minute Costume. Just be sure to brand yourself with a copyright symbol on an area of exposed skin to ensure you stay on the right side of the law. I suggest using a heated, bent coat hanger on the top of whichever hand you don't use to write.
© PAWS, Inc.
Concept: Maybe you've heard of him? He's a fat cat with fattitude and cattitude and a rad badness that makes even Heathcliff swoon. His milkshake brings all the boys to the yard!
What You'll Need: Spray-on tanner, black magic marker, coffee mug and a defined ranking order for days of the week.
How to Assemble: Throw on a white undershirt and light-colored boxers, hop in the shower, slather yourself in the cheapest spray-tanner you can find for maximum orangeness, then add Garfield's signature markings with as permanent a black felt-tip marker as you can acquire legally. If you keep your bathroom door closed, the fumes of the tanner and marker might also lead you to believe you are in fact literally a cat. Bring the mug along for verisimilitude.
Concept: The lighter side of the proletariat.
What You'll Need: Day job, glasses, white short-sleeve button-down shirt, red and black striped tie, oversized black sweatpants and black shoes.
How to Assemble: Put on clothes. Go to work. Search workplace for candy dishes on coworkers' desks, empty into oversized pants (cuffed at bottom with elastic to contain the added weight). Remain droll throughout to minimize suspicion.
© Bill Watterson
Concept: Your favorite comic.
What You'll Need: Bleach, hair gel, red and black striped shirt, khaki board shorts, bengal tiger.
How to Assemble: Bleach and style hair in the classic "forward spiked" style, then dress as usual, careful to let hair dry sufficiently before putting on shirt to keep it safe from accidental bleaching. Once in costume, gently coax bengal tiger out of the back of your car, where you've kept it pinned since smashing through the retaining wall of your local zoo's jungle habitat. If you've tranquilized the tiger prior to transport, you may find him sluggish and difficult to move, in which case you should rebrand your costume to accommodate this "real life Hobbes" aspect, when Hobbes appears as a mere stuffed animal. The tiger will likely come around in a few hours, whereupon you can transition into the "Calvin returning home from school" costume, when Hobbes tackles the crap out of him and begins to violently maul his face and neck (see below).
© Bill Watterson
© Ziggy and Friends, Inc.
Concept: A simple, gentle strip about a man without pants.
What You'll Need: Solid-colored T-shirt, jar of bees, disposable razor.
How to Assemble: After slipping into the T-shirt (the color is up to you, but it should be tailored for modesty, as it will be the only article of clothing you'll wear), shave off all body hair with disposable razor, then violently shake jar of bees for one minute. Unscrew the jar's cap, place nose into jar's opening, then think about delicious candy while the bees do their work on your nose. With any luck, you're not deathly allergic to bee stings, but are just allergic enough for hilarious swelling to ensue!
Concept: A big dog who thinks he's people and the people who somehow accept this with affable resignation rather than mounting fury.
What You'll Need: Sugar cubes, goggles, giant femur bone, red nylon leash, brown spraypaint, quarter horse.
How to Assemble: Go to your barn and fetch your horse. If you do not have a barn, simply unhitch your horse from whichever tree to which you've lashed him for overnight grazing. Feed your horse a handful of sugar cubes to distract him, gently place goggles over his eyes (horse goggles can be found at most gas stations), then thoroughly coat him with brown spraypaint (the preferred shade is Krylon's "Big Huge Dog Brown"). Once completed, remove goggles and replace bridle with red nylon leash, then head out for a great night, leading him along. Carry the giant femur bone because Marmaduke loves bones, and your horse might need some correction if he's spooked by the red packaging of a Fun-Sized Skittles bag.
© Darby Conley
Concept: A dog and a cat do some stuff with this guy they know.
What You'll Need: A dog and a cat, this guy you know, a calendar.
How to Assemble: Group the dog, cat and guy into a room, then wait seven weeks. Your friends with candy from 2011 will cover for you. Once you're well past deadline, do a lap around your block, then return home and wait for next year.
© M Fry & T Lewis
Concept: Woodland creatures crack wise and ponder the big questions in the shadow of suburbia.
What You'll Need: A raccoon, a squirrel, a turtle, a burlap sack, bait, rubber gloves.
How to Assemble: Trick raccoon and squirrel into burlap sack (Important: SEPARATELY) with bait. Pick up turtle by side of highway, greeting him with "Hey, little guy!" because turtles don't mean any harm, and you're glad to see him. Gather animals in apartment, placing raccoon in bathtub, squirrel in kitchen cabinet, and the turtle wherever you wish, as he's not going anywhere. Begin negotiations with raccoon in order to establish trust, and see if he'll lend a hand getting the squirrel to agree to your inter-species pact in exchange for some yummy garbage. Once pact is forged, seal the deal with a handshake, after putting rubber gloves on both yourself and the raccoon to protect each party from germs. Let raccoon have some time alone with the squirrel in the cabinet, establishing beforehand that he'll give the cabinet door two quick knocks when they're ready to come out for trick-or-treating. Go find your turtle buddy, fill him in on what he's missed, then sit and enjoy his company. If everything goes well, the animals will gather candy from your neighbors on their own throughtout the year, even if your neighbors aren't home or lock their doors to keep the animals out!
Note: this process may take some time, so try and capture animals in mid-September.
I hope you've found something appealing among these suggestions, or if not, some inspiration. If you've found neither, we've nothing left to say to one another. See you out there, everyone! Boo!
Lots of things happened in the 1980s: Crayons grew more colorful and less delicious, Robocop was released in theaters and later, on home video, and positively everyone was talking about SeaWorld. I suspect other things happened, but I rarely visited sections of the newspaper besides the comics pages, so I'll have to rely on the last third of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" to fill me in. Otherwise, I'm fairly sure my frame of reference covers most of it. Those slap-bracelets were popular for a few months somewhere in there, I seem to recall.
Things were especially poppin' off for Garfield's creator Jim Davis, who managed to parlay the enormous success of his comic into a licensing bonanza equivalent to Garfield's mythical bottomless pan of lasagna, except the lasagna was money and the pan was also money. This was largely manifested by a nation of Volvo owners affixing suction cup-mounted stuffed cats in their back windows, though there was an array of t-shirts and mugs available to those on foot.
In the thick of this golden age, Jim Davis decided not to cozy up in a sunbeam and dream of waking up covered under a thick pile of profits, but to try his hand at something decidedly different. How different? Well, what if Jim Davis made a comic strip, and it wasn't really, really successful? See? Different!
U.S. Acres debuted in a monstrous 505 newspapers, and ran from 1986 to 1989, chronicling the lives of Orson the Pig, Roy the Rooster, Wade the Duck, Sheldon the… look, it doesn't matter. Barnyard animals who talk. There.
Here's a sampling of some reader reactions:
1) "Kind of impressive that a man who has unquestionably conquered the comics page like no other human ever has or will again would do anything besides spend a fraction of his fortune to outfit himself with a robot body in order to cheat fate and be rich and famous long after the heat-death of the universe. For that reason alone it is a creative victory."
2) "I like… I like the, uh, the way these characters are drawn. They look like the things they say they are." [Suddenly becomes very interested in attending to a hangnail, mutters something about needing to go find some scissors, slips out the back door without further comment]
3) "Hey, yeah. That sure is a thing, all right. Have you seen my friend? He took my scissors."
4) "Fascinating to note that the thing from the Garfield animated series that wasn't Garfield actually began life as a thing that wasn't Garfield-- but in comic strip form! Now, if you'll please excuse me, I need to go update my list of 'Things That Aren't Garfield.'"
5) "I don't like this because it's bad."
6) "My friend Number 5 is going through some stuff right now, so don't mind him. I just brought him to this list to get him out of his house for a while. Personally, I think the strip is the very definition of 'Not that bad, really.'"
And so on.
It's hard to pinpoint why U.S. Acres wasn't a creative success, but the strip overall has a rhythm that makes it come off as more designed than nurtured. It's an open-ended concept, but there's not much in the way of hook. Nothing really happens; everyone is nice enough to everyone else, and the barnyard itself is relatively calm and harmonious, so there isn't much for the cast to do with their assigned character traits. There's a distinct listlessness to the world, and it isn't until nearly the end of the strip's run that the last panels have anything approaching a satisfying punchline-- and even then, the setups don't offer many stakes. Orson, the hero, never needs to be heroic, and the villain, who I guess is Roy, has only a mildly irritating trumpet to bedevil his targets. This is what I concluded over my lunch hour today.
It is pretty neat to watch the character designs evolve so quickly as the strip progresses-- for the first year or so, everyone seems really stiff and unexpressive, almost rubber-stamped into the smooth, barren premise. Davis worked on the strip with Brett Koth, whose input after the first year of strips helped inject a lot of life into the characters, making things bouncy and surreal. Writing-wise, it brought things more into line with Garfield's style of humor without much overlap, and loosened things up enough that further improvement began to at least seem possible. And to their credit, they did manage to wrap things up in an artfully bleak, meta way:
Of course, the strip's demise worked out fine for all involved, as the property was snuggled nicely into the "and Friends" portion of the popular Garfield and Friends television show, where the characters could take far more advantage of their barnyard setting and evolve beyond incremental three-panels-a-day bursts of plot advancement. Personally, I remember savoring the little tiny version of Wade the Duck's head that popped out of the front of his inner tube, and how its expression would change along with Wade's. Turns out, the comic offers this in every Wade appearance, so I've come away from this whole experience feeling oddly wistful.
Some satisfaction comes from finally getting an answer to a question that plagued me throughout my formative years: Is Garfield friends with these other animals? Now I know the title was worded in such a way as to gently obfuscate the truth: Garfield is indeed the star, and also, here are some unrelated animals who could be considered "friends," insofar as none of them prey on the others. The term "brand synergy" would've robbed me of my childhood had it been coined when I was that young, so I'm glad the reasons remained murky until I was in my early 30s.
Davis, either running towards or away from brand synergy, was still restless. Following U.S. Acres, he launched a strip based on Mr. Potato Head in July, 2001. This actually happened, and you can take a look at some of them here. We syndicated it, apparently. It was retired either when client newspapers failed to buy it in numbers great enough to make it profitable, or when everyone involved in its creation took a moment to consider what sort of world they were leaving behind for their children.
Next week: Something else entirely.
So here we are. Having utterly exhausted most of the usable Garfield strips in the archive, as well as having wrung the last drops of joy from what we can all agree was a hazy premise in the first place, this is likely the last batch of "Garfield vs Garfield" for a long while. We had some fun, though, right? Maybe learned a few things?
I learned that classic Garfield (meaning, "Garfield vs Garfield" minus Garfield, but not "Garfield Minus Garfield,") somehow continues to have terrifically funny gags on a regular basis, long, long after it should've become a shell of its former self. I also learned that the portrait of former president James A. Garfield I used is much funnier when facing left. Finally, I learned that this premise can yield roughly 31 different strips, which is 29 more than my last great idea for a comic (the late, lamented "Odie vs. Agnew"). I can't wait to tell my diary everything!
In case you missed/ miss them, here are the first and second installments of this to eat up a few moments of the brutal last hours before your holiday break. Thanks for your time, attention and patience, everyone.
Thanks to all who entered to win an autographed Sunday from Garfield's 35th Birthday Giveaway! We are excited to announced that we have randomly picked three winners. Congratulations to...
• Brian McCarty
• Carrie Reich
• Maureen Pennels
Do you see your name above? If so, please send your shipping info to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can send your prize! Please note, winners have one week to send their shipping address before the prize is forfeited. Thanks again to everyone who entered to win. More giveaways to come!
Ahoy, True Believers! The catfight continues into another week, a-scrappin' and a-yowlin' all the way into its regular* Wednesday slot! Teen heartthrob/ editor Reed suggested titling this edition "Garfield vs Garfield: The Second Term," to keep with the presidential vibe, but I worried that we'd then have to continue the theme in the titles of future installments. I guess I could append subsequent headlines with notes about fantastical constitutional amendments allowing fictional, sassy cats and/or long-deceased former presidents to serve more than two terms, but why complicate such a pure concept as whatever the concept is for this? I'm not above doing such a thing**, but I'm partial to my title's slight nod to "Highlander II," for reasons far too complex to explain here. Thank you for your understanding.
Let's disperse with the formalities and shoo the ring card girls back to their folding chairs. Get 'em, Garfields!
(Enjoy pointlessly high-res versions of these by clicking on them.)
Next week: Garfield vs Garfield vs Cloverfield?! I dunno, probably.
Sees youse thens! Stay frosty!
*Occasional, at best.
**As demonstrated by my adolescent dalliances with congressional fan fiction.
Surely, you've enjoyed the robust Garfield buffet on offer this week as much as we enjoyed having you, but we can't leave you to face the weekend without insisting you make a basket out of your shirt so you can take some of these leftovers home to tide you over until Monday.
Fan-favorite editor Reed Jackson mentioned the idea of adding President James A. Garfield into the world of Garfield to me the other day, eyes twinkling. Intrigued, I got down to some quick Photoshoppery and extesnive focus-grouping among myself and the stuffed Opus that sits on top of my scanner. I interpreted his silence as passive acceptance!
Here's the first batch of "Garfield vs Garfield," which nods solemnly at Garfield Minus Garfield, then quickens its pace in the opposite creative direction. That's right: we're doubling down by adding yet another Garfield, bringing the grand total of Garfields in a given strip to at least two. Most other comic strips don't even offer one Garfield!
As you'll see, I'm still trying to figure out a consistent tone for these things, but depending on the reaction to this batch, future editions will deliver on the promise of the two Garfields facing off, proper-like. The smart money is on Garfield.
So, uh, enjoy?
Protip: if you don't feel like leaning towards your monitor, clicking on photos makes them bigger!
Reed wisely advised me to hold on to the other strips I made for this, lest I break the internet with too much Garfield all at once, so you can expect another round of these next week.
While you wait, have you entered our Garfield giveaway contest? It's the closest physical manifestation we can muster of the value offered by "Garfield vs Garfield," in terms of Garfield-bang for your Garfield-buck (meaning tons of it for zero dollars)! If anything, we're being too generous.
The Garfield party train keeps chuggin'! This pair of strips from 2006 draws out a punchline over two full days, without any explanation for readers who missed (or forgot) the previous day's gag. When I happened across it, I landed on the second strip first, and spent a minute or so squinting at every detail to try and figure out why the joke so entirely eluded me. At the time, I wondered if I'd aged out of the demographic to whom this joke would resonate, and if Garfield now occupied for me the same category as that one high-pitched frequency that's apparently inaudible to anyone over 30.
Feeling adrift, I took a long walk in the rain, so no one could tell I was crying. The next day, I came into work and pressed the "up" arrow key on my keyboard, saw the first strip, and immediately realized my misunderstanding. What an emotional roller coaster!
Even though you're nearly done reading this post, I hope you saved room for super sweet contests and/ or giveaways, because brudder, we're doing just that. Win a signed Garfield print, why don't you?
HOLY SMOKES! Today is Garfield's 35th birthday! Thanks for all the laughs, laziness and lasagna over the years. By the way, the gang is lookin' better than ever these days! Now, howza bouta a special birthday giveaway? Let's do it!
Enter to win an autographed Garfield Sunday from creator Jim Davis (pictured above)! How to enter: Leave a comment on this blog post wishing The Fat Cat a happy birthday, and answer the following queston: How many days straight do you think you could eat lasagna? Please note: You must include your first and last name when commenting to be counted.
This contest will end on July 1 at 10:00 A.M. CDT. Three winners will be randomly selected and announced on the blog later that day.
Happy commenting, and good luck!
*This giveaway is open to international fans! Yippee!