Sunday 6 April 2014

Fat Cat

‘Party ‘til the cows come home
Then party with the cows.’
Who else but Garfield could have come up with such lines. I make no bones about the fact that I am an unabashed fan of this fat furry cat whose comic strip is amongst the world’s most widely circulated syndicated comic strips. It appears in more than 2500 newspapers around the world (including The Times of India) and is read by more than 250 million readers in more than a 100 countries. The first strip appeared in June 1978 and even after 35 years, it is still going strong. Garfield related merchandise, books, animated series on television and a couple of Hollywood movies have further strengthened his popularity which cuts across all age barriers.
Garfield's earlier avtaar
Jim Davis (the creator) grew up on a small farm in Indiana (USA) which had around 25 cats of different varieties. Hence, he was well exposed to cat behaviour from an early age and it also helped that his mother was an artist and helped inculcate a desire for drawing from an early age. Jim studied Art in college (he graduated with one of the lowest grades in the history of the university!!) and in his initial years worked for an advertising agency. After two years, he became an assistant to an established cartoonist, Tom Ryan, and picked up valuable tips on producing a daily cartoon strip. During his spare time, he worked on developing his own strip and his first one was based on an assortment of weird insects. Since this found no buyers, Jim decided to try his luck again with a fat, arrogant orange cat called Garfield (named after his grandfather James A.Garfield). Initially it was turned down by newspaper syndicates but then United Media decided to accept it and the rest, as they say, is history. Davis then decided to expand the characters (Jon, the muddle headed owner was obviously there from the beginning) and Odie the dog was the first to be added. Spooky (Garfield’s teddy bear) was next. There was also Jon’s roommate called Lyman but he was dropped in 1983 and has since not been brought back. The look of the characters itself also underwent a change as Jim polished his craft (see photograph above).The last character to be added to the strip was Arlene, Jon’s gap-toothed girlfriend.

Garfield and Family
I am fond of cats and since we had a cat as a pet, while in school, I can see that there are certain characteristics that Jim has caught spot on about their characteristics-arrogance, lazy, greedy and self-centred top the list. Jim has added more zing  by adding some characteristics on his own to the character which have made Garfield so popular – like lasagne –loving, party hopping, exercise hating, coffee guzzling, spider whacking, mouse loving , postman chasing , TV loving and obviously dog  hating   (poor Odie, who is mostly at the receiving end). Apart from the strip in the TOI a large collection of the strips has been brought out in book form by Wisdom tree  in India, However my favourite  is 30 Years of Laughs and Lasagna – The life and times of a fat, furry legend (published on Garfields’30th birthday by Ballantine books   and distributed by Random House in India). Apart from presenting the best strips from each decade it also features 30 favourite strips of Jim Davis, each accompanied by a brief commentary by Jim which gives an insight into what goes in his mind while he is writing /sketching a new strip. Now let me end with another piece of wisdom from our fat friend
‘Eat and sleep...there must be more to life than that-but I hope not!’

Garfield at his philosophical best

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