Jim Davis is not as much as a household name as Stan Lee or Joe Shuster. Even then, every person on Earth has an inkling of who Garfield is.
Jim created the sassiest, most sarcastic cat in the entire world. For a while, people started calling every orange tabby Garfield. Decades into it, Jim is still at it.
We love Garfield because he’s all of us, and all of us are Garfield. Jim made us laugh, starting when our parents were still in their diapers.
Growing Up In Indiana
Jim Davis was born James Robert Davis on July 28, 1945. Jim grew up in sleepy Fairmount, Indiana, which parallels what his character, Jon Arbuckle.
Like Jonathan, Jim lived on a quiet farm and shared the same birthday with his avatar. He was always the artist among his family and friends; much of his childhood centered around his art skills.
Creating An Icon
Before creating Garfield, he worked in an ad agency and helped with another comic strip, Tumbleweeds. He ran the predecessor strip to Garfield, Gnorm Gnat, between 1973 to 1975 in the Pendleton Times.
During this time, he tried to get national syndication for his comic strip. An editor discouraged him, saying that his subject matter was not something people relate to.
In an act of defiance, he looked for ways to incorporate animals. Davis believes animals can be funny, and Snoopy, the dog of Charlie Brown in Peanuts, was the proof.
He knew that the comic strip market had so many dogs in it at the time. He decided to go with a cat as his lead character.
In 1976, Davis created Jon, a story about a cat and Jon Arbuckle, a cartoonist. He eventually called the strip Garfield, as Garfield is the actual main character.
Creating Fun From The Lack Of It
The success of Garfield comes from the somewhat lifelike, dry, and cynical humor that the story has. Much of this comes from the genius of Jim Davis.
It’s hard to create gags and express its entirety in 2 to 4 panels. Jim does that magnificently and can communicate wit and sarcasm. Even Jim has sardonic humor to him.
The genesis of the strip was “a conscious effort to come up with a good, marketable character,” Davis told Walter Shapiro in a 1982 interview in the Washington Post. “And primarily an animal. …Snoopy is very popular in licensing. Charlie Brown is not.”
This is true for all comic books, but there’s something about Garfield that resonates in all of us. The humor doesn’t grow up with some people, but it is enough to make you still.
Garfield hates Mondays, loves lasagna, hates diet and exercise, and all sass. Jim may have created him as something marketable, but it worked. It’s hard to find people who don’t think Garfield is their spirit animal.
Jim Davis And His Cat
Jim Davis does not command awe and respect like Stan Lee or Jack Kirby in their heyday. Heck, not a lot of people know who is the genius behind the panels of Garfield.
Even then, Jim Davis brought us an icon. He gave life to the most recognizable cat in the world, we love Garfield, and sometimes, that’s enough.
Garfield – It’s still ongoing, ladies and gents. Find it on Facebook and Go Comics
Garfield’s Sunday Finest: 35 Years of My Best Sunday Funnies – Omnibus of the best strips of Garfield
Jim Davis Bio – premierespeakers.com
11 Things You Might Not Know About Cartoonist Jim Davis – Suzanne Raga, July 26, 2016, Mental Floss
Is Garfield Supposed To Be Funny? – Quora Contributors, March 26, 2013, Slate.com
20 Years & Still Kicking!: Garfield’s Twentieth Anniversary Collection – Jim Davis, Ballantine Books