History of Garfield: How He Became America's Most Iconic Cat

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Believe it or not, Garfield is the most widely syndicated comic strip in the world, and it has been given that honor by none other than the Guinness Book of World Records.

Garfield the Cat: The Origins

How did it make it to the top of the comics food chain? Well, that will take us back to the beloved creator of our widely-adored cat: Jim Davis.

Now regardless of Paws, Inc.'s prowess in the comics world, no one can deny that Garfield's heart and soul begins and ends with its creator. 

Jim Davis: The Boy

Jim Davis was born in Indiana to farmers who raised cows, and 25 cats!

He had some respiratory issues as a child, which led his mother to encourage "less physically strenuous" hobbies such as drawing.

As Jim took comfort in drawing, his skills started to grow. However, after college, he decided to pursue advertising and didn't think about drawing as a job until he interned with Tom K. Ryan, the "Tumbleweeds" cartoonist.

Eventually trying to break into the competitive cartoon market on his own, Davis' first comic strip was "Gnorm Gnat", a daily strip that ran in The Pendelton Times in Indiana from 1972 to 1977.  The comic failed to attract a wider audience in syndication to other newspapers. 

Scoping the market for new opportunities, Davis started considering people's love of dogs, and the commercial comic successes of characters such as Snoopy and Marmaduke. Which of course got Davis thinking about cats! 

Jim Davis: The Successful Cartoonist

The first Garfield comic strip hit the newspapers on June 19, 1978, in 41 newspapers.

Quickly, Garfield grew a strong fanbase. People were relating to this cranky, sassy, and overweight orange cat whose favorite activities included sleeping and eating.

The fanbase was so powerful in Chicago, that when a newspaper decided to drop Garfield for a different project, more than 1,000 readers complained until they brought it back.

Funnily enough, Jim Davis thought that Garfield had rather few redeeming qualities and that if Garfield was human, he would consider him "despicable." However, there's something irresistible about a cat that bullies its owner, Jon Arbuckle, regarding his non-existent love life. Not to mention the humorous relationship between Garfield, the lasagna-loving cat with an arsenal of sassy one-liners, and Odie, Jon Arbuckle's slobbering and silly pet dog. 

Garfield the Cat: Fun Facts

1. Jon Was Going to Be the Main Character

Yes, you read that correctly. Jim Davis told Mental Floss that his initial focus was going to be on Jon, and Garfield was going to be his cranky sidekick. 

But thankfully, Tom K. Ryan (the cartoonist for "Tumbleweeds") saved the day but pointing out that every time there was a punchline, Garfield's sassy colors shined through.

So he told Davis that the strip should focus on Garfield, and the rest is history.

2. Jon Is a Cartoonist

If you think that is a bit too meta, so does Jim Davis. This is why there hasn't been much focus on Jon's work.

Davis wanted him to have a job, and the easiest and most natural occupation that came to his mind was, well, to make Jon a cartoonist.

3. Garfield Is Set in Muncie, Indiana

Yes, that is Jim Davis' hometown. It's barely explored because Davis wanted Garfield's appeal to be universal.

He wanted people from all across the globe to relate to Garfield's life and adventures.

4. Jim Davis Is Still the Boss of the Show

While Davis still maintains ownership over Garfield's final product, he doesn't draw the actual daily comic strip anymore. According to Davis, it's more of a team effort nowadays. 

5. Garfield's Design Has Changed Significantly over the Years

There's no doubt about how different the original Garfield of 1978 looks to the Garfield of today. Check out this visual timeline to see how the "Fat Cat" has evolved over the character's 40 year career. 

 

6. Garfield Is Named "Garfield" All over the World...Except for in Three Countries

Blasphemy! Indeed, Garfield is called "Gustav" in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Garfield: Past, Present, and Future

Inside every one of us, there's a little bit of an orange, overweight, lasagna-loving cat named Garfield.

Make sure to check out our amazing Garfield t-shirts!

 

 

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