The origin of Garfield

We’ve all heard of Garfield, the bright orange, overweight, talking cat who loves lasagna and hates Mondays. However, to the average person, that’s usually where their knowledge of Garfield ends. What many people don’t realize is that there is so much history behind the creation of the beloved comic series. From school newspapers to a comic about bugs, by the time you finish reading this article, you will know more about Garfield the cat than you ever thought you would.

The Garfield comics were created by illustrator Jim Davis. However, Garfield wasn’t his first comic series. Davis got his start creating comics for his high school newspaper in Fairmount, Indiana. Unfortunately, due to the collapse of a portion of the school building over a decade ago, these strips are extremely hard to come by. The fact that the physical copies of the paper were discontinued shortly after the end of World War II means that we have no physical evidence of this mystery comic whatsoever. 

After graduating from college, Davis had the opportunity to work on a comic series titled “Tumbleweeds” alongside popular illustrator T.K. Ryan. However, Davis was eager to begin working on a strip of his own and began submitting concepts to several newspapers across the state. Out of all the newspapers he submitted his work, only one was impressed enough with his work to hire Davis. When he began writing for The Pendleton Times in 1973, David published a weekly comic by the title of “Gnorm Gnat,” which only ran until 1975.

The following year is when we saw Davis’s vision truly begin to take shape. In January of 1976, Davis released the first strip of a short-lived comic called “Jon.” This series followed illustrator Jon Arbuckle and would occasionally feature his cat, Garfield. This comic featured early designs and concepts of all the characters that would later be seen in the Garfield series. While “Jon” only ran for about a year, it was such an important piece of Garfield’s history.

From 1977 to 1978, Davis’s final locally produced comic series was created. This comic was called “Garfield.” At last, on June 19, 1978, the Garfield series made its first nationwide debut in 41 newspapers across the United States. In the following years, “Garfield” rapidly grew in popularity, and by 1981, it was already worth around $15 million. By 2002, the franchise had become the most syndicated comic strip in the world, being featured in nearly 3,000 newspapers and over 260 million worldwide readers. In 2004, the franchise had sold $1 billion in merchandise in over 100 countries.

Now, the Garfield brand has gotten multiple television shows, movies, video games, and so much more. “Garfield” is also the second highest-grossing comic strip series in the world, second only to the “Peanuts” franchise. With another upcoming film starring Garfield voiced by actor Chris Pratt coming out sometime next year, it’s very likely that the series will have yet another spike in popularity following the release of the movie.

Overall, it’s fairly safe to say that both Jim Davis and his multiple comics deserve all of the love that they currently get, especially since “Garfield” was a masterpiece many years in the making. The fact that the series was a passion project turned mainstream success definitely adds to that level of charm surrounding the franchise. Hopefully, there will be many more projects and releases surrounding the Garfield series for a long time to come. Regardless of the age of the reader, there’s always something to relate to and enjoy about a comic about an orange cat who just can’t catch a break.