‘Garfield’ celebrates 45th birthday

Frame+from+1988+TV+series+Garfield+and+Friends

Courtesy of IMDb

Frame from 1988 TV series “Garfield and Friends”

By Maaike Niekerk, Summer Editor

Exactly 45 years ago today, cartoonist Jim Davis published his first ever comic of the iconic orange cat “Garfield” in 41 newspapers across the United States.

The three-panel comic strip shows a man in a blue shirt with brown hair introducing himself as Jon Arbuckle, a cartoonist, with his cat Garfield.

Jon’s final quote in the strip is that “our only thought is to entertain you,” while Garfield cracks his first ever joke: “feed me.”

“Garfield” would go on to inspire the hit cartoon show “Garfield and Friends” from the late 1980s and early 1990s, along with two animated “Garfield” movies from the early 2000s.

An additional animated short series titled “Garfield Originals” aired in 2019 and 2020, consisting of 120 short “Garfield” clips, each running for about 30 seconds.

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    These animated attempts at moving “Garfield” to the screen have been a way of keeping the cartoon a topic of interest over the years.

    However, Garfield and Jon clearly don’t need much help when it comes to keeping readers. In 2013, 35 years after the initial release of the comic, “Garfield” was awarded the Guinness World Record for the most widely syndicated comic strip of all time.

    Appearing in over 2500 newspapers all over the world at the height of its popularity, “Garfield” continues to hold the record to this day.

    An upcoming “Garfield” film is set to hit the big screen in 2024; an animated project featuring voices of top actors such as Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson and Cecily Strong.

    After so many years, the original comic from the late 1970s remains iconic, marking the beginning of “Garfield’s” character.

    The strip did not originally focus on the famous orange feline, as Davis first published his comic under the title “Jon” for the Pendleton Times newspaper in Pendleton, Indiana. 

    Davis said in a 2000 interview with CNN that he studied comics closely and realized that pet dogs had a history of performing well with audiences, citing examples such as Snoopy from “Peanuts” and Marmaduke from “Marmaduke.”

    Davis also said in the interview that he named the cat after his large grandfather, James A. Garfield Davis. Additionally, Jon Arbuckle was an inside joke he came up with from “an old coffee commercial in the ‘50s.”

    Anyone who has been reading the strip for a while will notice that Garfield and Jon don’t look the same as they did closer to the comic’s inception.

    Davis said in an interview with The Guardian for “Garfield’s” 40th birthday that the cat has had “almost a Darwinian evolution.” The cat now generally stands on two legs, with larger eyes and a slightly smaller body.

    The creator of popular comic strip “Peanuts,” Charles Schulz, actually helped Davis to develop Garfield’s look, evolving him to look more like Snoopy by making him bipedal.

    The beloved comic is widely available to this day — both in paper form across the world as well as online — every single day.

    Currently 77 years old, Davis still writes a daily “Garfield” strip, with this year’s birthday comic featuring the cat tap-dancing across a table to a big birthday gift wrapped by his owner.

     

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