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Grayson Baker
Grayson Baker

The History and Impact of Garfield Comics in Newspapers

Garfield comics in newspapers: A history of the world's most famous feline

If you have ever read a newspaper or browsed a comic book store, chances are you have encountered Garfield, the orange tabby cat with a penchant for lasagna, sarcasm, and napping. For over four decades, Garfield has been entertaining millions of readers around the world with his humorous antics and witty observations. But how did this comic strip come to be? And what makes it so enduringly popular? In this article, we will explore the history, impact, and future of Garfield, one of the most successful comic strips of all time.

garfield comics in newspapers

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The origins of Garfield

The story of Garfield begins with its creator, Jim Davis, who was born and raised in Muncie, Indiana. As a child, Davis loved drawing cartoons and comics, inspired by his favorite artists such as Charles Schulz (Peanuts) and Walt Kelly (Pogo). He also grew up on a farm with 25 cats, which gave him plenty of material for his future work.

After graduating from college with a degree in art and business, Davis worked as an assistant for T.K. Ryan's Tumbleweeds, a comic strip about cowboys and Indians. He also created his own comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, which featured a bug as the protagonist. However, he had trouble finding a syndicate to distribute his strip, as most editors thought that nobody could relate to a bug.

Davis decided to switch to a more popular animal: a cat. He noticed that there were many comic strips about dogs, such as Snoopy and Marmaduke, but few about cats. He also realized that cats had more potential for humor, as they were more independent, aloof, and unpredictable than dogs. He named his new comic strip after his grandfather, James Garfield Davis, who was also a grumpy and stubborn person.

The rise of Garfield

Davis first published his comic strip locally as Jon in 1976, focusing on the life of Jon Arbuckle, a single and nerdy cartoonist who owned a cat named Garfield. The strip was later renamed Garfield and syndicated nationally in 1978 by United Feature Syndicate. It soon became a hit with readers, who loved Garfield's cynical and lazy attitude, as well as his interactions with Jon and Odie, a dim-witted and energetic dog that Jon adopted.

Garfield quickly expanded its reach and audience, appearing in more than 2,500 newspapers and journals in 95 languages by 2013. It also broke the Guinness World Record for being the world's most widely syndicated comic strip. According to Davis, the secret of Garfield's success is its universal appeal: "Garfield is very easy to read. He's very easy to identify with. You don't have to be a cat lover to love Garfield. You don't have to own a cat to relate to him."

The characteristics of Garfield

One of the main reasons why Garfield is so relatable is because he is based on Davis's own personality and experiences. Davis once said that he is "not a cat person" but rather "a person who happens to draw a cat." He also admitted that he shares many traits with Garfield, such as his love of food, coffee, and sleep, his dislike of Mondays and diets, and his sarcastic sense of humor.

Garfield's appearance and habits also reflect Davis's style and preferences. For instance, Garfield's distinctive round shape and striped fur were designed to make him easy to draw and recognize. His obsession with lasagna was inspired by Davis's favorite dish. His fondness for coffee was influenced by Davis's addiction to caffeine. His tendency to break the fourth wall and address the readers directly was derived from Davis's experience as a cartoonist.

The supporting cast of Garfield

Another reason why Garfield is so entertaining is because of its diverse and dynamic supporting cast, which adds humor and variety to the comic strip. The most prominent characters are Jon Arbuckle and Odie, who serve as foils and friends to Garfield.

Jon Arbuckle is Garfield's owner and roommate, who works as a cartoonist (a meta-reference to Davis himself). He is depicted as a clumsy, geeky, and unlucky bachelor who has trouble finding love and success. He often tries to impress women with his charm and wit, but usually fails miserably. He also suffers from Garfield's pranks and insults, but still cares for him deeply.

Odie is a yellow-furred dog with a long tongue and no brain. He was originally owned by Jon's friend Lyman, who disappeared from the strip after 1983 (a running gag in the fan community). Odie is cheerful, loyal, and naive, often wagging his tail and licking people's faces. He is frequently tormented by Garfield, who kicks him off the table or tricks him into doing stupid things. However, he occasionally gets back at Garfield or shows his intelligence.

Besides Jon and Odie, there are many other characters that appear in Garfield, such as:

  • Arlene: A pink-furred cat with long eyelashes and a gap between her teeth. She is Garfield's on-and-off girlfriend, who often flirts with him or teases him about his weight.

out of the window.

  • Pooky: A teddy bear that Garfield found in a drawer and adopted as his best friend. He often cuddles with Pooky or makes him talk to Jon.

  • Liz Wilson: A veterinarian who takes care of Garfield and Odie. She is Jon's love interest and later girlfriend. She is smart, sensible, and patient, but sometimes annoyed by Jon's awkwardness and Garfield's mischief.

The impact of Garfield

Garfield not only became a successful comic strip, but also a cultural phenomenon that influenced the society, media, and merchandise of the 1980s and beyond. Garfield became a symbol of consumerism, nostalgia, and pop culture, as well as a source of inspiration for other artists and fans.

The cultural phenomenon of Garfield

As Garfield grew in popularity, it also became a part of the American culture and identity. Many people identified with Garfield's attitude and lifestyle, especially his laziness, gluttony, and cynicism. Garfield also represented the values and trends of the 1980s, such as materialism, individualism, and hedonism. He was seen as a rebel and a critic of the status quo, often mocking authority figures, social norms, and political issues.

Garfield also appealed to people from different backgrounds and generations, as he was easy to understand and relate to. He was not bound by any specific race, nationality, gender, or age, making him accessible to a wide audience. He also had a timeless quality that made him relevant to different eras and contexts. As Davis said, "Garfield is very universal. By virtue of being a cat, really, he's not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old."

The merchandise of Garfield

One of the ways that Garfield became a cultural phenomenon was through its merchandise, which generated millions of dollars in revenue for Davis and his company, Paws, Inc. Garfield spawned a range of products, from plush toys to books to video games, that catered to different tastes and preferences. Some of the most popular items were:

  • Garfield plush toys: Soft and cuddly versions of Garfield that came in various sizes and poses. They were often sold with suction cups that allowed them to stick to windows or car dashboards.

  • Garfield books: Collections of Garfield comic strips that were published by Ballantine Books. They were numbered and titled according to different themes or occasions, such as Garfield at Large, Garfield Gains Weight, or Garfield's Halloween Adventure.

  • Garfield video games: Electronic games that featured Garfield as the main character or a playable character. They were released for various platforms, such as Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, or iOS.

The media adaptations of Garfield

and movies, reaching new audiences and platforms. Some of the most notable adaptations were:

  • Garfield animated specials: A series of 12 television specials that aired from 1982 to 1991 on CBS. They were based on the comic strip or original stories, and featured Lorenzo Music as the voice of Garfield. They won four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program.

  • Garfield and Friends: An animated TV show that ran from 1988 to 1994 on CBS. It consisted of two segments: one featuring Garfield and his friends, and another featuring U.S. Acres, a comic strip by Davis about farm animals. It also featured Lorenzo Music as the voice of Garfield.

  • Garfield: The Movie: A live-action/CGI film that was released in 2004 by 20th Century Fox. It starred Breckin Meyer as Jon Arbuckle, Jennifer Love Hewitt as Liz Wilson, and Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield. It was followed by a sequel, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, in 2006.

  • The Garfield Show: A CGI animated TV show that debuted in 2009 on Cartoon Network. It focused on Garfield's daily life and adventures with Jon, Odie, and other characters. It featured Frank Welker as the voice of Garfield.

The legacy of Garfield

Garfield not only entertained millions of people, but also inspired many other comic strips, artists, and fans. Garfield generated various spin-offs and parodies that paid tribute to or poked fun at the original comic strip. Garfield also attracted a loyal and diverse fan base, who expressed their admiration or criticism of the comic strip in different ways.

The spin-offs and parodies of Garfield

One of the ways that Garfield inspired other artists was through its spin-offs and parodies, which created new versions or interpretations of the comic strip. Some of the most popular ones were:

  • Garfield Minus Garfield: A webcomic by Dan Walsh that removes Garfield from his comic strips, leaving only Jon's dialogue and actions. The result is a darkly humorous and existential portrayal of Jon's loneliness and depression.

  • Garfield Randomizer: A web tool by Josh Millard that randomly shuffles the panels of three Garfield comic strips, creating new and absurd combinations.

  • Lasagna Cat: A web series by Fatal Farm that recreates Garfield comic strips in live-action, followed by a musical or cinematic parody related to the strip's punchline.

The fan community of Garfield

Another way that Garfield inspired other fans was through its fan community, which showed their appreciation or critique of the comic strip in different ways. Some of the examples were:

  • Garfield collectors: Fans who collect various Garfield-related items, such as plush toys, books, or video games. Some collectors have amassed thousands of items and displayed them in their homes or museums.

  • Garfield cosplayers: Fans who dress up as Garfield characters, such as Garfield himself, Jon Arbuckle, or Liz Wilson. Some cosplayers have participated in conventions or events related to Garfield.

  • Garfield critics: Fans who analyze or review Garfield comic strips, pointing out their flaws or merits. Some critics have written blogs or podcasts dedicated to Garfield.

The future of Garfield

Garfield, despite being over 40 years old, continues to evolve and entertain in the digital age. Garfield has undergone some changes and challenges in recent years, such as a change in ownership and a new animated series. However, Jim Davis still writes and draws the comic strip with his team, ensuring that Garfield remains true to his original vision and spirit.

The ownership change of Garfield

In 2019, a major event happened in the history of Garfield: Viacom, a media conglomerate that owns Nickelodeon, acquired Paws, Inc., the company that Davis founded in 1981 to manage the rights and licenses of Garfield. The deal gave Viacom the rights to produce new Garfield content for TV, film, and digital platforms, except for the comic strip and the upcoming animated movie by Sony Pictures. Davis explained that he sold his company because he wanted to focus on his creative work and ensure that Garfield would have a bright future with a new partner.

The new animated series of Garfield

One of the first projects that Viacom announced after acquiring Paws, Inc. was a new animated series based on Garfield, which will be produced by Nickelodeon. The series is expected to debut in 2022, and will feature new stories and characters, as well as the classic ones. Davis said that he is excited to work with Nickelodeon, as he believes that they share the same vision and passion for Garfield.

The upcoming animated movie of Garfield

Another project that is in the works is a new animated movie based on Garfield, which will be produced by Sony Pictures. The movie is scheduled for release in 2023, and will be directed by Mark Dindal, who previously worked on The Emperor's New Groove and Chicken Little. The movie will be the first fully animated feature film adaptation of Garfield, as opposed to the previous live-action/CGI films. Davis said that he is looking forward to seeing how Sony Pictures will bring Garfield to life on the big screen.

The creative process of Garfield

Despite the changes and challenges that Garfield has faced, Jim Davis still remains the main creator and driving force behind the comic strip. He still writes and draws the comic strip with his team of assistants, who help him with the coloring, lettering, and digital editing. He also oversees the production and quality of the other Garfield content and merchandise.

The challenges and rewards of Garfield

Davis has admitted that creating Garfield is not always easy, as he has to balance his artistic vision with his business decisions. He has also faced some criticism and controversy over his work, such as accusations of plagiarism, sexism, or laziness. However, Davis has also expressed his gratitude and satisfaction for his work, as he enjoys making people laugh and smile with his comic strip. He has also received many awards and honors for his work, such as being inducted into the Licensing Hall of Fame and the National Cartoonists Society Hall of Fame.

The tips and advice from Jim Davis

Davis has also shared his insights and experience with aspiring cartoonists, giving them tips and advice on how to create their own comic strips. Some of his tips are:

  • Find your own style: Davis said that he developed his own style by studying other cartoonists and learning from their techniques. He also said that he experimented with different styles until he found one that suited him.

  • Know your audience: Davis said that he always tries to think of what his readers want and expect from his comic strip. He also said that he listens to their feedback and suggestions, but ultimately follows his own instincts.

  • Be consistent: Davis said that he always strives to maintain a consistent quality and schedule for his comic strip. He also said that he plans ahead and works in advance, so that he can meet his deadlines and avoid stress.

  • Have fun: Davis said that he always has fun with his comic strip, as he loves drawing cartoons and making jokes. He also said that he hopes that his fun translates to his readers, who can enjoy his comic strip as much as he does.

Conclusion: Why Garfield comics in newspapers matter

and media of his time and beyond. They are also a legacy of a comic legend, who has inspired many other artists and fans with his work and wisdom.

Garfield comics in newspapers matter because they show us that humor and creativity can transcend boundaries and limitations, and that a simple idea can become a global sensation. They also remind us that sometimes, all we need is a good laugh and a slice of lasagna to make our day better.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Garfield comics in newspapers:

  • When did Garfield comics start? Garfield comics started on June 19, 1978, when Jim Davis published his first comic strip featuring Garfield, Jon, and Odie.

  • Where can I read Garfield comics online? You can read Garfield comics online on the official website,, or on the GoComics website,

  • How many Garfield books are there? There are over 70 Garfield books published by Ballantine Books, containing collections of comic strips or original stories. The latest one is Garfield Feeds His Face: His 64th Book, which was released in 2019.

  • Who voices Garfield in the animated shows and movies? Garfield has been voiced by several actors in different animated shows and movies. The most notable ones are Lorenzo Music (1982-2001), Bill Murray (2004-2006), Frank Welker (2007-present), and Chris Pratt (upcoming).

  • What is Garfield's favorite food? Garfield's favorite food is lasagna, a baked pasta dish with cheese, tomato sauce, and meat. He also loves coffee, pizza, donuts, and other junk food.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article about Garfield comics in newspapers. Thank you for your attention and interest. 71b2f0854b


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